Jeremy Irons Leads House Renovation in Watlington

Source

Actor leads house renovation for refugees

Brian Hope and Jeremy Irons at 33 High Street, Watlington, OXON

ACTOR Jeremy Irons is helping to renovate a property in Watlington so that a refugee family can live in it.

The film star, who lives in the town, is among the group of people known as the Watlington Welcome who have been fixing up the building in High Street to make it fit for a family of four to live in.

The team has refurbished the kitchen and bathroom, insulated the walls of the former shop unit and fitted new doors. The work is due to be completed within weeks.

The property and the neighbouring library was left by Charlotte Coxe to Oxfordshire County Council for the benefit of the people of Watlington in her will in 1949. The building has been unused since the charity Age Concern moved out in 2009 and was badly in need of repairs.

A year ago, Irons called for it to be used to house a refugee family, stating he would be prepared to help raise enough money to pay to make the property habitable for a family of four and to underwrite some of the cost himself. Watlington Parish Council had been trying to negotiate the transfer of the ownership of No 33, which it wanted to use to fulfil Mrs Coxe’s wishes, since 2017.

In 2018 it agreed to become the sole trustee of the property and in November last year the deal with the county council was finally secured.

Irons said he first acted on his desire to transform the house in 2021.

He said: “A few days after Christmas, I interrupted my evening dog walk by calling on our Catholic priest, Father Andrew Foster in Watcombe Road, for a cup of tea.

“During our chat, I posited the idea that we in Watlington should do our bit in the refugee crisis.

“I knew that 33 High Street had been inexplicably and disgracefully empty for around 12 years. Surely we could house a family there?

“He was immediately enthusiastic and suggested I contact the chairman of the parish council, Matt Reid.

“Matt agreed to meet and the next evening I found myself seated opposite this dynamo of a man drinking tea in my sitting room.

“Matt was also immediately enthusiastic as he recognised both something we as a community should be doing and also a possible route out of the stasis which has surrounded 33 High Street for too long.

“He arranged for me to join the next parish council meeting by Zoom. On screen, I listened as the councillors listed the problems and outlined the history of the building.

“I underlined the immediacy of the need and the waste of potential to the town of this building being unused.

“The councillors listened politely and one then summed up her view: ‘This is a wonderful idea but it will never happen.’

“I have lived in Watlington for 35 years and on my father’s advice, always avoided local politics.

“I knew most of the councillors by sight but apart from my screen persona, few of them knew me. Had they done so, they would have known that that remark was like a red rag to a bull.

“I could not waste the time needed to set up a charity but instead decided that our initiative should be called Watlington Welcome and I approached like-minded professionals to join Matt and I as its committee.

“Stefanie O’Bryen, the Watlington solicitor, agreed to cover the legal side; Brian Hope, the man who helped me rebuild a castle in Ireland, took on the role of building manager; and Gillian Powell, recently retired as PA to the principal of St Edmund Hall, Oxford University, our secretary.

“Matt — a man who understands the intricacies of local and county politics — and I met again for a war council.

“‘Where do we go from here?’ I asked, ‘Who are the players, who do we have to convince to allow us to get this moving?’

“I knew what little power I had was in threatening to raise the profile of the woeful situation that for 12 years had been allowed to occur. By suggesting the cottage’s use as a temporary home for refugees I was able to tap into the community’s desire to help and I made it plain I was happy to embarrass any elective representative who apparently stood in our way.

“Matt went to work and got Watlington’s county councillor Freddie Van Mierlo on board. He is a Liberal Democrat member still in his first term but has already proven himself to be a mover and a shaker in working across a range of departments at County Hall.

“His subsequent negotiations to get the Charlotte Coxe Charitable Trust untangled from the county council and allow Watlington Welcome to prepare the cottage for occupation has certainly earned my vote for the rest of his political career.

“On Matt’s suggestion, I arranged a call to the leader of the county council, Councillor Liz Leffman, and got her onside, promising to do all in her power to bring this matter from the bottom to the top of the pile of the myriad of problems facing any county council.

“Soon, we got permission to clear the garden of 12 years of brambles, nettles and detritus. Brian set to with a digger to clear the matted roots. I cleared the guttering and downpipes from blockages which had been exacerbating the damp in the building.

“Trying to clear the main drain, we discovered it had been broken by the ‘mole’ laying the gas main down the high street. Fortunately, this was soon repaired.

“In February 2022, we initially engaged with Thames Water to book our new water connection. As I speak, they have not yet been able to do this, but we have now been promised a connection date of early March, 13 months after our initial request. ‘The wheels of God grind slow…’

“While waiting for permission to start interior work on the cottage, Stefanie located the house contents of a cottage that could be ours if we emptied it immediately. We did, with the help of friends and my horsebox, storing almost everything we might need in my garage.

“Meanwhile, Gill surfed the net, finding people who were happy to donate kitchens, shower screens, beds and bedding. We were ready, just waiting for permission to start our refurbishment.”

Having worked on the interior almost every day this month, Irons says the house is almost ready.

He said: “Of course, when that permission eventually came, we were all occupied in other ways but eventually we got started.

“The exterior window decoration has been delayed by the frosts but we are plumbed, with a refurbished kitchen and bathroom, the electrics almost completed and with carpets going down within weeks. As soon as they are, we will move in the furniture and be ready to welcome our guests.

“Watlington Welcome will continue by offering whatever support is needed during their time in our community, whether they decide to join our society or return to their country.

“We have generously been offered the cottage for 12 months rent-free and in that time, much can change and peace could come.

“Meanwhile, through the generosity of Chris Kemp, from Stoke Talmage, bandleader of the OMJ Big Band David Batchelor and Rev Daniel Thompson and his choir, we’re having a fundraising concert at St Leonard’s Church next Friday. It sold out in days.

“We could have filled the church twice over but it’s a wonderful example of a community coming together, not just to hear great jazz, but to support a local initiative which is designed to support a family whose recent history makes our privileged lives here seem as a dream.

“The people who have facilitated this project — local politicians, donors, tradespeople and volunteers — are to be thanked, particularly Matt Reid, without whose savvy and hard work this would never have happened.

“In many ways, this country is not working very well at the moment but when people move out of their comfort zone and pitch in, it’s wonderful to see what can be achieved.”

To help the project, donations can be made to: Watlington Welcome, attn. Gillian Powell, 1 Norton Cottages, Brightwell Baldwin, OX495NX or via bank transfer to Coutts Bank. Sort code 18-00-02, account number 00665436, account name J J Irons Watlington Welcome.

Irons added: “And we’re looking for a garden shed if you’re throwing one out.”

Jeremy Irons Joins Cast of ‘The Beekeeper’

SOURCE: deadline.com

EXCLUSIVE: Oscar winner Jeremy Irons(Watchmen), Emmy Raver-Lampman (The Umbrella Academy), Bobby Naderi (Under the Shadow) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) have joined Jason Statham (The Expendables) in action-thriller The Beekeeper, we can reveal.

Filming is underway in the UK on the movie which David Ayer (Suicide Squad) is directing from a script by Kurt Wimmer (Salt).

The film will chart the story of how one man’s brutal campaign for vengeance takes on national stakes after he is revealed to be a former operative of a powerful and clandestine organization known as the ‘Beekeepers’. 

As we previously reported, MGM acquired the Miramax film for U.S distribution following its debut as a sales title in Cannes earlier this year.

Producers are Bill Block (Wrath Of Man) for Miramax, Chris Long for Cedar Park Studios, Statham and Wimmer.  

Vet Irons most recently starred in House Of Gucci and Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Raver-Lampman is best known for her turns as Allison Hargreeves in The Umbrella Academy and for playing Angelica in stage play smash HamiltonThe Hunger Games star Hutcherson has most recently voiced Netflix animation Ultraman. Naderi is best known for BAFTA-winning horror film Under The Shadow.

Raver-Lampman is repped by CAA, Authentic Talent & Literary Management, and The Nord Group. Naderi is repped by Grandview and The Characters Talent Agency. Hutcherson is repped by The Gersh Agency, The Beddingfield Company, and Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush, Kaller, Gellman, Meigs & Fox. Irons is repped by CAA and Sally Fischer PR.

Jeremy Irons Attends Dublin Launch of Flares Up: A Story Bigger Than the Atlantic

Jeremy Irons was at Hodges Figgis bookstore in Dublin, Ireland, on 8 September 2022, for the launch of Niamh McAnally’s new book Flares Up; A Story Bigger Than the Atlantic.

Jeremy Irons at the Josephine Hart Poetry Hour – 6 September 2022 – W.B. Yeats

The Poetry Hour – Event Page

The Josephine Hart Poetry Foundation celebrated the unveiling of the W.B. Yeats Bedford Park Artwork, Enwrought Light by Conrad Shawcross, with great actors Jeremy Irons, Sinéad Cusack, Ciarán Hinds, and Ruth Negga, on 6 September 2022, at St. Michael’s & All Angels Church in Chiswick, London.

Jeremy Irons in Derbyshire Life Magazine – August 2022

Jeremy Irons – Express.co.uk Interview

Jeremy Irons: ‘My wife makes me almost as happy as my pets!’

Gabrielle Donnelly – Sat, Jul 23, 2022


Jeremy Irons

Jeremy Irons (Image: GETTY)

IT’S EASY to forget Jeremy Irons is one of our biggest stars. His breakout role as Charles Ryder in the BBC’s acclaimed 1981 adaptation of Brideshead Revisited might have come some ten years into his career but it opened doors – lots of them.

Later that year he starred opposite Meryl Streep on the big screen in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and he hasn’t been out of work since. He is one of a handful of stars to achieve America’s “triple crown of acting”, winning an Oscar for Reversal Of Fortune with Glenn Close, an Emmy for TV period drama Elizabeth I with Helen Mirren, and a Tony for the Tom Stoppard play The Real Thing. Later he enjoyed huge success in the long-running TV series The Borgias and, more recently, has played opposite Lady Gaga in House Of Gucci and starred as wartime British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in the Robert Harris adaptation Munich: The Edge of War.

Yet away from the stage or screen, he shuns showbusiness circles and is happiest, he declares, at Kilcoe Castle in County Cork, southern Ireland, a 15th-century doer upper he bought a few years ago and has enjoyed renovating.

It is where he likes to huddle away from the bright lights of London, tinker with broken furniture and occasionally even take out his fiddle to join in musical evenings in the local pub.

He is so low-key in his private life, those around him can forget that he is, well, really rather famous. He chuckles as he recalls one time when his two sons were small and their then nanny took a work call.

“She answered the phone and came running into the kitchen,” he smiles. “She said, ‘Clint Eastwood is on the phone for you!’ Then she dropped to the floor in a faint.”

He shuns show business circles deliberately. “I don’t spend time with actors when I’m not working,” he insists.

Although he makes an exception for his actress wife Sinéad Cusack and their son Max, 37, who followed in his parents’ footsteps, unlike his elder brother Sam, 43, a successful photographer.

LASTING LOVE: Irons has been married to actress Sinéad Cusack for nearly 45 years

LASTING LOVE: Irons has been married to actress Sinéad Cusack for nearly 45 years (Image: GETTY)

Perhaps it is no surprise to learn Jeremy, 73, never planned to be an actor. The son of an accountant and a housewife, brought up in middle-class comfort in Cowes on the far-from-edgy Isle of Wight, he always wanted to be a vet.

“I wanted the sort of life that meant working with animals and being in the country, but I found out that my brain isn’t very good for sciences, so that wasn’t an option for me,” he admits. What his brain was good for, he discovered, was drama.

Playreading classes were the only ones that interested him at Sherborne, the public school he attended, and when he left, the obvious next step for him was to take a quick jaunt across the West Country to Bristol Old Vic.

“I wanted to be a gypsy. I wanted to travel around and stay outside of life and comment on it with a group of friends telling stories around the campfire,” he says.

“I wanted to be able to move outside the structure of life’s society, which I’d been educated in and didn’t like. I wanted to be a rogue and a vagabond, I was very romantic about it.”

What he found, when he left drama school, was a life of hard slog with more than a few knockbacks along the way.

He is reputed to have spent a few months busking around the streets of Bristol before he began to land small parts in plays, which led to larger parts in plays.

That included a stint in the 1970s with the Royal Shakespeare Company where, he recalls: “I might be rehearsing character A in the morning, doing a matinée as character B in the afternoon and playing character C in the evening.”

“I think I’m incredibly privileged,” he says today. “I work in a profession I love with some of the most wonderful people in any profession.

“OK, actors aren’t always the most wonderful community to be part of, but when it’s working, and we have a situation where the director has got the mix right, and the crew are all doing their job, and we have actors who are all telling the right story – and the same story, by the way – and are all adding their knowledge of life to it, and all going in the same direction, then that is the most wonderful feeling in the world.”

“It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s like being part of a great orchestra playing a great piece of music. I get back from life one thousand per cent more than I put into it, and I think I’m very lucky because there are very few people who can say that.”

He is quietly proud of the acting success of Max, currently starring in the tense TV miniseries Flowers In The Attic, while taking another starring role in the long-running television spy thriller series Condor.

“He’s a wonderful actor,” Jeremy says. “He’s much better than I was at the age he is, and has been since he started. “He has difficulties at the moment because these big series like Condor, they keep you trapped.

“They sign you up for five series and it’s very hard to find other work that can fit in because they’re never sure when they’re going to start.

“So he’s been hanging around for longer than he should, waiting to film the third series. I keep telling him to do theatre, but he’s very much his own man. Although he did say the other day that he’d love to make a film with me, so who knows?”

Ask Jeremy what advice he would give to young people wanting to enter the profession, and he looks grave: fortunate as he admits he was himself, he is under no illusions about the difficulties.

“I would say to them – ‘Do anything else that you can!’ If there’s anything else that you’re good at, do it. If you have to act, act with amateur dramatics. If you really can’t do anything else, then learn how to do it, and practice, practice, practice.

“And know, going in, that the quality of work around is worse and less than it used to be. I’m incredibly lucky – which is why I’m talking to you here – but there are thousands around who aren’t.

“So make sure your life doesn’t hang on being able to work as an actor, because it probably won’t happen. But if you’re really determined, then push on through and maybe you’ll have a chance – if you’re lucky.”

Even if a young thespian does make it professionally, he adds, they should prepare themselves for a rough ride.

“It’s a very tough life for actors, certainly on their personalities. You have to put up with constant rejection. You have to put up with people thinking you’re more interesting than you are, which is not good for people.

“And above all, don’t do it because you want to be famous, which is what so many kids now seem to be doing in this world which we’ve created. Really, don’t do it for that reason because fame – apart from getting the odd table at a restaurant – is not what it is cracked up to be.”

True to his early veterinary ambitions, he remains an enthusiastic animal lover. His pet Smudge, a rescue from Battersea Dogs Home, goes everywhere with him, including the red carpet.

“Animals tend to make me happier,” he says. “I have very happy times when I’m with my dog and my horse.”

Then he smiles, thinking of Sinéad, the beautiful blonde to whom he has been married for nearly 45 years.

He rarely talks about their relationship; but right now just cannot resist making a small Irons-style joke, adding: “And with my wife, too. Believe it or not, she comes pretty close to my horse and my dog.”

Jeremy Irons Attends SCAD Lacoste Film Festival

Jeremy Irons was at the 2022 SCAD Lacoste Film Festival where he received the SCAD Etoile for Lifetime Achievement in Cinema.

The Festival took place from July 1-4, in Lacoste, France.

Press coverage:

Screen Daily

moviemaker.com

Filmmaker Magazine

https://fb.watch/fm8ZK5DptN/

Jeremy Irons Attends Allora Fest

Jeremy Irons attended the Allora International Festival of Cinema Art and Music, in Ostuni, Italy, from June 21-26, 2022.

Allora Fest Website

Jeremy Irons Leads 40th Birthday Celebration for The Archway Foundation

Jeremy Irons, a patron of The Archway Foundation, was on hand on 20th June, to lead their 40th birthday celebration.

http://archwayfoundation.org.uk

Photo via The Archway Foundation, UK
Photo via Merton College Choir

Jeremy Irons at Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas

Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack attended the 2022 Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas in Co Carlow, Ireland. The festival took place from 10-12 June 2022.

Jeremy and Sinead read The Wasteland by TS Eliot, to mark the centenary of its publication. Jeremy and David Puttnam also had an ‘In Conversation’ session. Sinead Cusack read work by Seamus Heaney, during a discussion with Roy Foster and Catherine Heaney.

Jeremy and Sinead were also part of the Voices in Support of Ukraine, on the morning of Sunday 12 June.

Event Programme

Irish Examiner coverage