Jeremy Irons Has a Dark Horse for Your Oscar Pool – Vanity Fair

Jeremy Irons Has a Dark Horse for your Oscar Pool

A freewheeling conversation with a refreshingly honest industry vet, who wishes more people were talking about The Man Who Knew Infinity.

December 23, 2016

Awards season is in mid-stride, loping toward our eventual exhaustion with the same six movies. But one man with a mild, mellifluous voice says “not so fast.” Jeremy Irons (whose shelf already holds one Oscar, one Tony, two Golden Globes, three Emmys, and a nomination from the Central Ohio Film Critics Association) feels a sense of urgency about a film released earlier this year, The Man Who Knew Infinity—and if it takes tongues-wagging about a possible best-supporting nod for himself to get people to notice this lower-budget film, then that’s what it’s going to take.

The Man Who Knew Infinity stars Dev Patel as Srinivasa Ramanujan, a largely self-taught mathematical genius who emerged from India in the early 20th century. He eventually made his way to England’s Cambridge University by sending his theorems to professor G.H. Hardy (played by Irons), who originally thought they were a prank. The film is a celebration of learning, of friendship, of cultural exchange, and concludes with a title card explaining how Ramanujan’s “lost notebook” is still being used to study black holes—a concept that didn’t even exist when Ramanujan was still alive.

Vanity Fair was scheduled to speak to Mr. Irons for 20 or 30 minutes, but we ended up chatting for an hour. His voice is just so rich and lovely that you don’t want to hang up.

Vanity Fair: You are a man with many projects, but I appreciate pumping the brakes to say, “Wait, I made a film worth reflecting on.” Do you feel an obligation to do this sometimes?

Jeremy Irons: I do, and especially with this film. It has a great effect on people who see it. I find it a very interesting story, very emotionally told. I’m always saddened because of the economics of the business. I have just been publicizing Assassin’s Creed, which has a great budget to make it and a great budget to sell it. So it’s going to be seen by millions, if not billions. These smaller films, it’s very hard to make them now. I feel justified in giving up time and talking about it again.

Irons, left, on set with director Matthew Brown.

Courtesy of IFC Films.

Do you have a relationship with mathematics?

I started it with this film. I mean, we all had a relationship at school, but I was pathetic. I wanted to be a veterinarian, and if I had a scientific mind I would have been one.

I read G.H. Hardy’s Mathematician’s Apology, which is a slim volume. It’s some of his letters, but also some of his thoughts about pure mathematics. And when I read it I thought, “Aha!” What it is for him, it’s like what poetry is for me, like space exploration, like painting! He discusses how all these equations and theories are out there, waiting to be discovered!

An artist can comprehend this and get inside the head of this man that, one has to say, was probably fairly high on the Asperger’s list. His social skills were appalling. He found it very difficult to look into someone’s eyes, even his own. It is said that if he traveled, to do a lecture, he would hang towels over the mirrors of the hotel room. But he’d been a brilliant student since he was seven. Kids who are geniuses often have social inadequacies. Their minds work differently.

Perhaps that’s why he wasn’t hung up on race or class, and when he met Ramanujan, he just recognized him for his mathematical mind.

The heart of the story is how that admiration and wonder at Ramanujan’s intellect crept into his emotions. When the boy got ill, he was surprised how he felt about another human being, the grief he felt when he went back to India. Hardy writes, “It was the only romantic episode of my life.”

The film makes you think that maybe there are more geniuses out there, and we maybe aren’t developing their minds.

It’s one of the problems of tick-box education. There isn’t a lot of money in it. Geniuses come from all parts of society, some rich, some poor. I wish we had an education system that smelled out those people.

Did you ever have a great mentor?

I don’t think he would have realized it, but Harold Pinter. One time we were having a conversation at lunch, early on in my career. I’d been doing a couple of plays and a film he had written [Betrayal], and I said, “I think I’m going to choose really carefully the work I do in my career, and not chase the money. Just do interesting projects.”

And he gave me a look that said, “Join the club. Go for excellence.” And I’ve retained that look.

You’ve worked in some amazing locations. What’s been the most striking?

Landing in Cartagena [for The Mission] when I was 36 or so, knowing I was going to work with indigenous Indians and the great film star Robert De Niro, and taking my shoes off on the plane. I knew that the Indians weren’t going to be wearing shoes and since I was going to be playing their friend—a Jesuit priest—I took my shoes off and I didn’t put them back on again for five months.

I have a big bit of Boy Scout in me. There was a scene where my character climbed up the Iguazu Falls. [Director Roland Joffé wanted] to do it with stunts, insurance, and all of that. I said, “Where is our producer?,” knowing that David Puttnam had flown to London the day before. I said, “There we are, he won’t know.” So I climbed up the extraordinary waterfall, of course supported by climbers well out of sight. I was very proud of that.

Jesuits are hot in Hollywood right now! Have you seen Silence?

I have not seen Silence yet, but I’ve read a bit about it. But the Jesuits—the thorn in the side of the Pope, is how they are described. The Jesuits are extraordinary people.

My mentor on The Mission was the late Daniel Berrigan. He described his job as “inflating a leaky balloon with faith.” I was the leaky balloon. If I had a difficult scene coming up, I would fast the day before. It really clears the mind.

And I would have a direct communication with God. I would talk to him just like I’m talking with you. I remember before one scene I said to him, “You’ve got to help me, because if I fuck up it will reflect very badly on you!”

Clearly you do a lot of research, but that isn’t always available for some films.

You talk to people. When I played Claus von Bulow [in 1990’s Reversal of Fortune], I talked to experts, read round it, tried to get to the truth of it. I mean, I don’t think I’m particularly Aspergic, but I think all men are, actually, all men have a level of that over women. My wife is always complaining. She says, “When you go to work the rest of the world could disappear as far as you are concerned.” She’s referring to the fact that I don’t call home every day.

You think men are more into that level of research as actors than women are?

No I don’t think as actors, I think men as a breed, as a sex, tend to have the ability to focus in on their work. I mean, after all, traditionally, we’d leave the house at 7 in the morning and get back at 5 or 6 doing something completely different from the family. Whereas women, you know, if they go to work they are forever on the phone to their children, they’re forever on the phone to work out what they are going to eat. They are able to multitask in a way that men can’t. So I think we may be very low on the level, but we’re there.

So you are an actor who prepares, but some don’t do anything. They show up, say their lines, and leave. Does this annoy you?

Not at all. I judge people by results. If they get there, that’s great. The only actors who get up my nose are the ones who don’t realize how high the bar is, how good it would be possible to make a particular scene. And there are many who don’t, and I just want to kick them up the bum and say, “Go off and do something else.”

So how do these people end up sharing a scene with you?

Oh, maybe they look right, maybe the person that casting wanted wasn’t available. Maybe they have a notoriety which is helpful to the film. It doesn’t often happen, but sometimes it’s someone with a great name but not a lot of experience.

There was a stretch in the 1990s where if a movie featured frank depictions of unorthodox sexuality, the role would go to you. Did you ever ask yourself why?

I don’t know. I don’t know. Damage? [Playwright] Josephine [Hart] wanted me to do it. Lolita? [Director] Adrian [Lyne] said he wouldn’t make it without me. David Cronenberg? I guess he thought I could do the twins [1991’s Dead Ringers], and then we got on so well we went on to do the Chinese film [1993’s M. Butterfly] with John Lone.

I think the portrayal of the sexual life was as important as any other life. Our sexual lives are surely 70 percent of what makes us what we are. I remember [making Damage], Louis Malle saying, “How are we going to do this?,” and I said, “We have to do it as accurately as we can as Josephine wrote it.” So . . . I’ll do anything.

I just finished a comedy called An Actor Prepares, where I have to walk out of a shower stark naked and play a scene with my son (Jack Huston) waving my family jewels around. They said, “How will we do that?,” and I said, “We’re gonna do it, that’s the scene!” It’s about a man who doesn’t give a monkey about anything. “For Christ’s sake, I’ll just be naked.”

I’m going to name someone you’ve worked with, and you are going to tell me the first thing that pops in your head that I don’t know about them. First, since we mentioned him already: David Cronenberg [director of Dead Ringers and M. Butterfly].

He looks forward to the end of the day when he drives home from the studio in a very tasty sports car, a Morgan or a Ferrari, often with me, and we have a hell of a drive back home, and we love that.

Toby Jones [co-star in The Man Who Knew Infinity].

Ahhhh, Toby. Toby is like me—he’s a wonderful actor, but spends the last half hour before the shoot panicking that he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be saying. I’m glad to work with another actor like that because I’m always in a froth. Then the camera turns on and, of course, it’s magical.

Bernardo Bertolucci [director of Stealing Beauty].

Bernardo, the master of the developing shot. We would rehearse them for half a day and then perform them with the cameraman, like a ballet. I was just talking to his wife the other night. I’m not sure he’ll make another film.

Meryl Streep [co-star in The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The House of the Spirits]

She explained to me that the people driving you to work and being kind to you and making sure you have a nice hotel . . . that’s all designed so when the camera turns, you will be A-plus. And you should not be sidelined into thinking it has anything to do with your importance as a person.

Sir Laurence Olivier [co-star in Brideshead Revisited].

He never gave me any advice. Blokes are funny like that. But I remember sitting by the bed when we’re waiting for him to die, and for him to cross himself to show that he’s still a Catholic, which was a very important scene. I remember him lying there, and looking at me to see what I was going to be doing. And I saw the look in his eyes. And I thought, “Yep! It NEVER leaves you! You may be a knight. You may have run the National Theater. You may be our greatest living actor. But inside . . .you are still a lion! And you are looking to make sure this young buck is not going to do anything that will steal the scene from you!!”

Speaking of young bucks: Alden Ehrenreich, whom you worked with in Beautiful Creatures, is on the up right now.

I know, he’s in the Howard Hughes movie!

He’s also going to be young Han Solo.

Well, well, well. I think that’s fantastic. I was really very impressed with Alden. I wasn’t very impressed with the movie, but impressed with Alden. An easy talent. He is primed to have an interesting career. God bless him.

Tom Hiddleston [co-star in High-Rise and The Hollow Crown].

I think he has a fine career ahead of him. A tremendously nice guy with a lot physically going for him. The longer he lives life, the deeper he’ll become as an actor. He’s had quite an easy life ’til now, and as life hits him with its stones and arrows, he’ll deepen as an actor.

Why do you say he’s had an easy life?

Well . . . he went to a great school, and success hit him quite young.

How do you do a scene with him? Don’t you just fall into his eyes?

The thing about working with good actors that the camera likes is that it’s very easy. Working with bad actors is difficult, to stay in the belief system of the scene, when you see someone making wrong decisions. With Tom, it’s a joy.

Lastly, Glenn Close [co-star in Reversal of Fortune, House of the Spirits and the Tony Award–winning play The Real Thing].

Ohhhhhhh. Glenn is a pioneer, a real descendant of those brave people who got into boats and wagons and traveled across the country. A real American woman of the best sort. I love her. I love her toughness, but also her softness. My son just finished two films with her, actually, here in England, so I’ve seen a lot of her lately. And she gets no worse.

When I mentioned Beautiful Creatures, you said you weren’t too impressed with that movie. Actors never say that!

To my detriment, I am too honest about the movies I make. People have a lot of money invested, and you want to be helpful. And my opinions may not be valid. What doesn’t work for me may work for others. I don’t really seek out reviews, but I read them if I come across them. But more than reviews I feel the atmosphere. Assassin’s Creed, which I saw the other day, I think is a fantastic film.

I remember going on about Damage, how it wasn’t the film that I would have made. I love honesty. I am surrounded by people who say, “That was great,” but it wasn’t always great. It was all right.

Jeremy Irons at the Savannah Film Festival

Jeremy Irons received a Lifetime Achievement Award at 16th Annual Savannah Film Festival

SAVANNAH, Georgia—Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons received a Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday, Oct. 28, at the 16th annual Savannah Film Festival, hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design and running Oct. 26–Nov. 2.

Irons also participated in a Q-and-A after a special screening of Adrian Lyne’s 1997 adaptation of Vladimir Navokov’s novel, “Lolita,” in which he starred alongside Melanie Griffith and Frank Langella.

Listen to a 31 minute audio clip of the Q&A after the screening of Lolita:

Audio Source

Jeremy participated in a Q-and-A after a screening of his environmental docmentary Trashed.

Jeremy also led a discussion at the Clarence Thomas Center Chapel for the Historic Preservation Society, at 11:00am on Tuesday 29 October 2013, to discuss restoring Kilcoe Castle.

Savannah Film Fest: Jeremy Irons Talks His Career, State Of The Industry, Which Film Deserves More Appreciation & More – from Indiewire

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Jeremy Irons Interviewed by Scott Feinberg with Audio

From The Hollywood Reporter and Scott Feinberg’s Blog “The Race”

[Follow Scott Feinberg on Twitter @ScottFeinberg and @THR_TheRace]

  • jeremy_irons_interview_podcast.mp3
 photo from Roadside Attractions

On Thursday morning, I had the privilege of speaking for about 30 minutes with the great London-based stage and screen actor Jeremy Irons, just minutes after his name was announced as a best actor (in a TV drama) Golden Globe nominee for his work on the critically-acclaimed Showtime series The Borgias.

Irons, 63, has already won just about every acting award that exists: an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, an Emmy, a Tony, an Annie, and prizes from all of the major critics groups, including the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Circle, and National Society of Film Critics. He mentions during our chat that he recently loaned his inimitable voice to a recorded reading of T.S. Eliot‘s The Waste Land, which could, hypothetically, earn him a Grammy, as well, which would make him just the 11th member of the elite EGOT club!

But, as Irons notes during our conversation, it is neither a desire for awards, nor a fondness for fame, nor even a particular passion for acting (he’s appeared in only 40 movies since his big screen debut 30 years ago) that keeps him in the game at this point in his life. Instead, it is a deep connection that he feels to certain characters that he reads, as well as a need for the creative companionship of other actors, that periodically draws him away from his various homes and hobbies and back into the fray.

The most memorable of his film roles include a lovestruck victorian in Karel Reisz‘s The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981); a Jesuit missionary in Roland Joffe‘s The Mission (1986); a pair of twisted twins in David Cronenberg‘s Dead Ringers (1988); a murder suspect in Steven Soderbergh‘s Kafka (1991); a shady spouse in Barbet Schroeder‘s Reversal of Fortune (1991); a Machiavellian lion in Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff‘s The Lion King (1994); a child predator in Adrian Lyne‘s Lolita (1997); a cheating/cheated-upon husband in Istvan Szabo‘s Being Julia (2004); and a debtor in Michael Radford‘s The Merchant of Venice (2004).

And now comes another: the slithery corporate titan John Tuld — which sounds to me a lot like Dick Fuld, the disgraced former chair of Lehman Brothers — in first-time filmmaker J.C. Chandor‘s timely Wall Street drama Margin Call. The star-studded indie that debuted at Sundance in Jan. was released on Oct. 21 and has been very warmly received by critics and VOD consumers. Irons only enters the film in its third act, but he absolutely dominates it during every subsequent moment in which he appears onscreen. Consequently, he is receiving his loudest awards buzz in years and could — despite being passed over by the BFCA, SAG, and HFPA last week (probably because he’s part of such a large and impressive ensemble from which it is hard to single out only one or two individuals) — earn his first invitation to the Academy Awards since he won the best actor Oscar 21 years ago.

Irons and I discussed all of the above — and more — during our time together, and I hope that you’ll tune in to our conversation at the top of this post.

Jeremy Irons Talks About Law and Order: SVU

From Daemon’s TV:

LAW & ORDER: SVU is known for attracting high profile and talented guest stars, and that streak continues with the “Mask” episode, airing on NBC January 12, when Oscar winning actor Jeremy Irons makes his American network television debut.

Irons plays Captain Jackson, the estranged father of a woman attacked by a man wearing a haunting mask. Jackson’s work as a sex therapist becomes an obstacle to Detectives Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Stabler (Chris Meloni) as they try to gather evidence in their investigation into his daughter’s attack. A. J. Cook (Criminal Minds) is also guest starring as the victim’s girlfriend.

A Best Actor Oscar winner for his role as Claus Von Bulow in ‘Reversal of Fortune,’ Irons has acted in films ranging from ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ and the uber- creepy ‘Dead Ringers’ to ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ and ‘Being Julia.’ He also voiced the villainous Scar in Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ and has appeared in British and American cable television movies and miniseries like ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and ‘Elizabeth I.’ He will be seen later this year as Rodrigo Borgia in Showtime’s new drama series The Borgias.

Daemon’s TV was there when Irons and Law & Order: SVU executive producer Neal Baer talked about how this guest appearance came about, what we can expect from Captain Jackson, and which role has been Irons’ favorite.

On how this SVU appearance came about:

According to Baer, “We go and ask actors whom I’ve loved watching on television and in the movies. All they can say is no and if they say yes then we work as hard as we can to give them a part they will they enjoy.” He added, “I know that is what keeps the show fresh–that you get these unexpected actors who can deliver these soulful performances.”

For his part, Irons was intrigued by the offer of a guest spot on SVU because he had never done network television before and several of his friends are big fans of the show, so he watched some episodes. “I thought it had great style and reminded me of those paperback crime novels which move very fast,” he said. “I like the way they tell the stories. I like the way they were done.”

As for the character of Captain Jackson, Irons teased, “I like playing characters who are not necessarily what they seem. I like playing enigmas. I like playing people who live outside our normal life experience. To play characters that have or live experiences on the edge–possibly good, possibly not, I find very interesting.”

Irons also likes taking roles that might surprise people. He explained, “One has to work within the parameters of what one is offered as an actor, but I always try to put my foot, so to speak, in a place where it is not expected as I walk in my career.”

On Captain Jackson:

The role of Captain Jackson was written specifically for Irons. Baer said, “When there are actors we really want to work with, like Jeremy, we go to them and see if there’s any interest and then we develop a story specifically for them. We go after various folks and design stories that we think they’ll be interested in and will challenge them and raise some important questions in the minds of viewers. I think [“Mask”] does that. It’s not just a straightforward mystery, by any means. ”

Captain Jackson is a recovering sex addict and alcoholic seeking amends for his past behavior who is now one of the country’s foremost sex therapists. When his daughter, estranged from him due to a past incident, is attacked by a rapist, a link emerges between Jackson, his daughter, and the investigation. Jackson is apparently quite the divisive character because Baer said that the “Mask” episode “pits our characters against each other, particularly B. D. Wong and Chris Meloni, around Jeremy’s character.”

Irons liked the complexity given Jackson. “I thought he was multidimensional, which is hard to find. and he contained enigmatic qualities. He was a mystery–basically a good person but a person who had fought his battles in life. I thought it was a multi-layered role and something I’d like to get my teeth into.”

Baer could not be happier with Irons’ performance. “He’s brilliant in the episode. When you see him, he fits into the show quite well, and yet there`s something about him– and this is what I think separates the great actors from actors–you want to know him. From the moment he steps on the screen you want to know him. He brings to the show this intensity and that is very alluring, I think, to an audience,” Baer explained. “That’s what we wanted and that’s certainly what Jeremy gives in this performance and it’s a very interesting performance because as he was alluding to, his character is a very multi-dimensional character who is struggling with some very real emotional issues that he’s able to bring to the surface in a way we can all identify with. Even though there are things about [Captain Jackson] you won’t like, you empathize with him.”

On his favorite role:

Irons said that there are definitely projects he’s enjoyed more than others, adding “SVU is way up with those I’ve enjoyed. It’s a lovely team of people.” He also loved the fast paced shoot and said, “I watched [Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni] in awe as they worked.”

There was actually quite the mutual admiration society between Irons and Meloni. When asked what stood out the most about his experience on SVU, Irons replied, “I enjoyed working with Chris a great deal. He’s a tremendous actor.” Meanwhile, Baer said, “Chris kept texting me throughout out the shoot, ‘I love Jeremy Irons,’” to which Irons retorted, “We are talking about getting married.”

When asked what role was dearest to his heart, Irons said it was one that might surprise us. “I think it’s a movie called ‘Lolita.’ I thought it did everything that a movie should do which is stir up people and make them question things. It was a very well-played film [directed] by Adrian Lyne that sadly got very small distribution because studios were probably frightened by the subject matter.”

Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC Wednesdays at 10pm eastern/ 9pm central with “Mask” airing on January 12.



Exclusive! – Fan account of Jeremy’s appearance in Rome

Italian fan Ambra Corti has contributed this first-hand account of Jeremy Irons’s appearance at the Viaggio nel Cinema Americano, sponsored by the Festival Internazionale del Film di Roma.

[Translated from Ambra Corti’s original Italian]

The event in Rome was wonderful! I never thought my emotions could be so great and overwhelming. Jeremy Irons is a wonderful actor and a very fine man, calm and charming and is one of the few actors capable of doing major showbiz productions and supporting charities beyond all expectations, a more extraordinary person there never was!

With his English manner, in the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, he was beloved by everyone, including me,with the power of his warm and seductive voice.

During the evening, we were shown some of the scenes from his films such as The Mission, Lolita, The House of the Spirits, Reversal of Fortune, M. Butterfly, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Stealing Beauty, Kingdom of Heaven, Dungeons and Dragons, of course, accompanied with comments.

Of The Mission, speaking of the relationship he had with DeNiro, he said:
“At the time, filming went really slowly and DeNiro asked for a lot of takes. When I arrived on the set I was dissatisfied with the choice, I would not accept having to work with an actor who was not trained as I was. With every passing day our antagonism grew until it burst into a furious argument, but it subsided thanks to our producer. Since then we have become great friends.”

Of Lolita he said: “Many found it crazy that I could be like a villain, but I think there are people in the world capable of committing terrible acts and still be humorous, and if I’m not mistaken, here in Italy you have a Prime Minister …” he said with a grin. He did not say the name, but everyone in the room who knew all related, and all burst out laughing!  He went on to say: “I did not want to do Lolita because I was convinced that this film would cause me many problems with the passage of time. Adrian Lyne asked me to make this film for 2 years in a row, saying that if I had not accepted the part, he would not have made the film. Glenn Close was to convince me that it was a classic story and had all the right elements for a good movie and a good job.”

I remember that the presenters did ask a question about the Labour Party, who Jeremy once supported. Eventually, there were 4 or 5 questions from the audience (including me).

I remember one in particular, even though it was more of a statement than a question.
A lady, who was from Ischia, pointed out some events took place many, many, many years ago.
At the time, Jeremy was 17 years old and the lady was as well. She said that they had a [brief relationship or a date] and he played the guitar and she was fascinated.

Immediately after this lady, I made my application (Jeremy was directed to me when I raised my hand to speak) and I think I started in the worst and most embarrassing of ways. I said: “Carramba, what a surprise!” referring to the situation the first lady spoke of, and I do not think that he took that very well, but that may just be my impression.

When I asked the question I was very nervous! I wasn’t standing when I asked the question; I was sitting, because even if I was standing I would have fainted! I do not even know how I had the courage to do it, my heart was bursting, I surprised myself!

The real question that I did was: “You have not yet spoken of The Lion King! I want to know how do you dub a cartoon?”

He explained the various technical things that he had to do before moving on to comment directly on Scar. Of Scar he said: “It’s the ugliest animal! Because, unlike Mufasa (played by James Earl Jones) Scar is dry, skeletal, has a bad mane and tail hair has not, however Mufasa is strong, beautiful, strong with the bushy tail!”

Jeremy did not speak Italian at all and the woman sitting next to him on stage acted as his translator. At the conclusion, I and about twenty people went up to the stage in hopes of an autograph, but he was gone. It was a wonderful and unforgettable evening!