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 Interview for CNN-IBN

While in Dubai for the Chivas Legends Dinner, Jeremy Irons was interviewed by CNN-IBN’s Sushant Mehta –

Click the link or photo below to watch the video:

Jeremy Irons talks about his journey as actor and a philanthropist Sushant Mehta, CNN-IBN | Dec 15, 2013

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Jeremy Irons in Paul McCartney’s ‘Queenie Eye’ Video

Jeremy Irons makes an appearance in Paul McCartney’s video for ‘Queenie Eye’ a song from McCartney’s 2013 album NEW.

Here’s the video which premiered on VEVO on 24 October 2013:

Here’s a behind-the-scenes video about the filming of ‘Queenie Eye’:

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Jeremy Irons in ‘Cigar Aficionado’ Magazine

Jeremy Irons is featured in the March/April 2013 issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine.

This magazine is a must own for any Jeremy Irons fan. Be sure to buy a copy at your local news stand, book seller or cigar store.

Here are scans and photographs of the magazine. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the images and read the text.

All images © Cigar Aficionado Magazine [Text by Marshall Fine – Portraits by Jim Wright] No copyright infringement intended.

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Jeremy Irons at The New School for Drama

Read original post HERE.

Click on the photo below to go to VIMEO and watch the entire interview video:

Jeremy Irons-97 with Karen Ludwig at the New School for Drama

 

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.

Jeremy Irons on “Say Anything!” with Joy Behar

Jeremy Irons was interviewed on Joy Behar’s show “Say Anything!” on the Current television network, on Thursday 13 December 2012.

Here are a couple of clips:

Here’s a Behind the Scenes clip with Eliot Spitzer and Jeremy discussing the Claus von Bulow case:
http://current.com/shows/joy-behar/videos/behind-the-scenes-jeremy-irons-and-eliot-spitzer-on-the-claus-von-bulow-reversal-of-fortune-case/

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Just Like You Imagined – NY Magazine

Just Like You Imagined

Jeremy Irons plays himself very well.

Photo by Matt Carr/Getty Images

By Jada Yuan
Published Mar 27, 2011

Read the original article HERE

Jeremy Irons is laughing heartily outside Le Bilboquet on East 63rd Street, surrounded by attentive females. It’s a cold day, but he seems oblivious to the chill as he sips an afternoon Kir Royale and languidly smokes a hand-rolled cigarette. You approach and introduce yourself. He springs up, grabbing both your arms, and stands back to appraise you. At 62, he still possesses a liquid-eyed hotness. He cheek-kisses good-bye his coterie of women (publicists, managers, friends—it’s unclear), lays his hand on your shoulder, and gently guides you through the bistro door, all the while staring deeply into your eyes, so absorbed that he is halfway through the room before he realizes he forgot to put out his cigarette. With apologies, he takes his leave amid a chorus of dismay. “Are you kidding? He can smoke wherever he wants! He’s so cool!” says one entranced male diner, upon whom Irons bestows a two-palmed handshake before stepping outside to carefully deposit his cigarette butt in a trash bin.

Jeremy Irons is just so Jeremy Irons—that is to say, the man of flesh is very much the man of your fantasies. He doesn’t so much occupy space as consume it. Eyes follow him, then stare, rapt. And Irons, something of an attention hog, plays to his audience. He chooses the corner that allows him to face out and survey the room as it surveys him right back.

Irons calls out for a round of “Château Bloomberg” (a.k.a. tap water), “straight from the East River!” He has, he declares, “turned vigorously against the mayor because of the new law [banning] smoking in parks or on the beach, which I think is ludicrous and a terrible bullying of a minority that cannot speak back.” Irons, his teeth a testament to a life of indulgences, believes smokers ought to be protected like “handicapped people and children.” Though he clearly relishes declamation, he is getting notably heated over a law that is very briefly touching his life. The actor spends most of his time in an Oxfordshire village or at Kilcoe, an actual ­fifteenth-century castle (“You’d call it a keep,” he clarifies) on a bay in Ireland. Kilcoe’s ­hundred-foot, lovingly restored towers help to explain a spate of early-aughts parts in “sub–Lord of the Rings stuff” like Dungeons & Dragons. “It’s the shit you do,” he says, to “pay for another six months.”

Irons is in New York to reprise a guest role as a sex addict turned sex therapist on Law & Order: SVU (airing March 30) and to publicize his new Showtime show The Borgias (debuting April 3), a part he took at the behest of his friend Neil Jordan (The Crying Game), who wrote the series and directed the first two episodes. Irons plays Pope Alexander VI, despite having zero resemblance to the real man—an enormous, hook-nosed Spaniard with an insatiable appetite for corruption, food, women, and murdering his enemies. “I Googled Rodrigo Borgia, and he’s a voluptuary,” says the actor. “And I said, ‘I think I’m a bit of an ascetic, really, for that.’ And Neil said, ‘No, no, no. Because it’s all about power and what power does to you and how you deal with it. And you can play all that.’ ”

Yes, powerful and dark, Irons can do. He broke out as a heartthrob in the BBC series Brideshead Revisited, then romanced Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. But by his forties, he was playing against his good looks, choosing dangerous, even creepy characters—like the twin gynecologists in David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers and Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune, for which he won his Oscar.

In his Borgias role, an outsider beset by a Roman aristocracy bent on destroying him, Irons sees parallels with Barack Obama. “Just look at the gossip about your current president being from Africa or being a Muslim,” he says. “Alexander was getting all of that.” On the other hand, Irons thinks Alexander had it easier than another of our presidents. “The medievalists would see the reaction to Clinton, for instance, and the cigars, as being deeply prohibitive. He’s a man! We ought to forgive and say, ‘Yeah, he’s got a lot of testosterone, and he’s great at what he does, and he loves a bit of lady, and there you go.’ We see all these marriages breaking because they’re under intolerable strains, because we expect to get all our happiness from our husband or our wife. Impossible! How can you get that from one other person? I don’t want a saint to be my leader. And maybe his wife after fifteen years won’t be able to provide everything he needs. That’s fine. That’s life.”

Irons’s wife of 33 years, the actress ­Sinéad Cusack, is apparently fine with this; no doubt she’s used to her husband’s decrees—including his disdain for organized religion (she is a practicing Catholic): “I don’t really approve of religion … I’m not quite sure the relevance Christianity has.” Their son Max, 25 (brother to Sam, 32), is currently starring in Red Riding Hood. Irons hasn’t seen the film, but he did catch the Jimmy Kimmel appearance in which Max talked about his eternal embarrassment over his dad’s driving around in a horse and buggy in the town where he grew up. Irons smiles indulgently. The father is resigned to letting the son find his own way. “I hope he never gets out of touch with theater, and I hope he doesn’t get too seduced by the money and all that,” says Irons. “I wish him well. But it’s always, for any parent, a slightly heart-in-the-mouth situation when you see your child climbing a rock face.”

Should The Borgias come back after the first season, the actor is committed to the series for five months out of the year, perhaps for three or four years. He is aware of and on guard against the lusty tendencies of cable TV’s costume dramas: “I know there are some series where there is a bit of history and a bit of fucking and a bit of history and a bit of fucking,” he says. “I think [Showtime] would have liked to have made it even more about that, but I wouldn’t want to be involved in something that’s just as obviously … You know, if you want fucking, there’s a lot of other channels.” (For the record, there is still quite a lot of fucking in The Borgias.)

As he’s telling me about his desire to play King Lear (“The next fifteen years, I’ll be right for it. And the next ten, I’ll be able to remember my lines”), a man approaches to ask if Irons would mind posing with his giggling female companion. The actor lets out an exasperated sigh. It is the first indication that being Jeremy Irons might be a bit of work. Then it’s gone, the Irons of your imagination returns, and it’s impossible to tell if his annoyance was real or feigned. He looks up at the woman, leaning awkwardly over him, and wraps his arm around her waist: “You’re falling over. Come and sit down. Just don’t show it to my wife. Ha. Ha. Pleasure. My ­pleasure.”