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When Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons auditioned for theater school in the 1960s, he wasn’t the shoo-in many would now suspect, given his subsequent accolades. “I just told the admissions panel, ‘Well, I think I might quite like the life of being an actor.’ That’s apparently not what they wanted to hear.” Of the four English schools he applied to, only the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School took the bite. Last Tuesday, New School for Drama students and faculty had a rare opportunity to hear such stories not often told, as Irons peppered anecdotes like this throughout his Q and A session with faculty member and actress Karen Ludwig.
In front of a tightly packed audience at the Drama Theatre, Irons and Ludwig’s hour-long conversation covered quite a range. From love scenes with Meryl Streep (an experience both share actors share: Irons’ A French Lieutenant’s Woman and Ludwig’s Manhattan) speculations on his true calling (“I always thought I’d end up an antique dealer”), and the makings of a good director (“He’s like a great chef; ingredients have to simmer”), the actor’s responses drew in many laughs and, more than once, applause. When asked why he initially pursued acting as a career, Irons said that he “loved the smell, the theatre house, and the idea that everyone involved was working their own life.”
With notable awards such as a “Best Actor” Oscar for Reversal of Fortune, two Golden Globes, and an Emmy, Irons’ work transcends both film and theater. He is commended for his virtuosity in portraying some of literature’s more difficult roles, such as Humbert Humbert from Lolita.