Jeremy Irons in Corriere della Sera Magazine

Jeremy Irons is featured in the 7 June 2013 issue of Corriere della Sera Magazine from Italy.

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Here is a translation of the article:
(Thank you to Barbara Danisi for the translation!)

Jeremy Irons arrives in Italy to read Machiavelli’s The Prince together with Laura Morante.

He says that the only real Prince left is the Pope. He’s the only one who has the power to change the world and make it better. He has already begun changing the Vatican: Jeremy was very impressed seeing the Pope washing people’s feet, that’s what the Church needs. Then he compares Pope Bergoglio with the character he played in the movie Mission, Father Gabriel, they’re both of the Jesuit order.

The game of power has remained the same for years. ‘’ Whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse’’ Machiavelli wrote.

Human nature hasn’t changed, and so haven’t the means to control people. Industries only care about their business, politicians in Bruxelles decide for our lives. It’s the game of power. Those who cheat will always find those who let themselves be cheated.

Jeremy has never thought of becoming a politician. To be a politician you must have great ideals, know society, without accepting compromises, which is the most difficult thing to do.

‘’I’ve always tried to organize my life, and I’ve always said to my sons that the most important thing is to find happiness in life. Even when I choose my roles I choose characters who are far away from politics.’’

In theatre he played Richard II, a man who didn’t want to rule, but found himself on the throne, as opposite to Macbeth and his lust for power and dangers. Jeremy says that in politics there have been some good men, such as Nelson Mandela or Churchill. But every politician is disappointing in the end, leading a nation is a hard task.

Bruxelles has power over almost every European nation. Last year in Italy the prime minister was not voted by people, but imposed and charged to put order in the Italian economics, but having an economist as the head of the government is not a good thing.

Ironically there was a politician in the Irons family: one of his ancestors broke into Westminster parliament riding a donkey to make a petition for democracy.

There is one man that Jeremy admires, and he is Pope Francis. Jeremy likes going to church with his Catholic wife Sinead. ‘’When I was in Colombia shooting The Mission I chose to be barefoot all the time because the Indians didn’t wear any shoes and I wanted to feel like them, feel what they felt, a strong bond with nature and the ground under their feet. You can follow the word of Christ without being influenced by the Church of Rome. Actually the Church has always been far away from people , but I think Pope Francis can change this. It will be hard but he can make it’’.

Very different from Pope Francis is Rodrigo Borgia, a dissolute libertine. ‘’I read a lot about him to play this character. He was more of a king than a pope, he wanted to be rich and powerful but in the end he stained the name of his family forever. Rodrigo is often seen as a negative man, but playing a negative character is very charming! Playing the role of someone who goes against the rule of society is very interesting! There’s this constant fight between the good and the evil inside of us’’.

Then Jeremy goes on talking about Trashed. Films, movies (Jeremy’s favourite movie is L’amour by Michael Haneke) cannot change people but can make us aware of the problems we need to solve.
Jeremy Irons says he wants to stay away from politics, but Trashed is a political film.
‘’We are sinking into trash. We are producing too much trash and it pollutes everything, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the sea. But many industries make a lot of money out of trash, so there’s little interest in facing the issue. It would be easy, starting with recycling and reducing packaging. Incinerators are very dangerous, because all goes into the air and can cause damages to people’s brain. Governments should do something about it but they don’t, they’re not interested. ‘’

In the end Jeremy talks about internet and facebook. They should be places for dialogue, instead every word you say is turned around and given the wrong meaning, as it happened recently when Irons stated his views on gay marriage.

‘’Everyone sees what they want to see, few really listen to what you say and understand what you really are’’ Machiavelli wrote 500 years ago. And so we wait for Jeremy in Florence to explain all of this.

Showtime Cancels ‘The Borgias’

Wednesday 5 June 2013

It’s official.  Showtime has announced that The Borgias has been cancelled and there will be no fourth season and no two-hour wrap-up movie.

The current third season of Showtime‘s medieval drama will be its last, with the June 16 season finale serving as series finale.

The series was originally envisioned as going for four seasons, matching the run of predecessor The Tudors. But while filming a pivotal scene in the Season 3 finale, Jordan said Irons turned to him and told him that “this feels like the end of something, that the family has come to an end.” While mulling a potential fourth season, Jordan said he wasn’t sure he had enough material for 10 episodes and wasn’t sure whether Showtime would want to commit to another season either. ”As a compromise, I proposed to finish the arc of all the characters with a two-hour movie,” Jordan said, adding that Showtime commissioned the script and he wrote it. “When they looked at what it could cost, it was just too expensive,” he said. “Sadly, that’s what happened. I would have loved to bring all the characters to a conclusion. All of the actors were heartbroken we couldn’t continue, and so was I.” Jordan said he still likes where the story currently ends with the third season finale, especially for siblings Cesare and Lucrezia, and thanked Showtime for supporting  his vision.Doing a standalone movie to wrap the big-budget Borgias would’ve been hard to pull off not only from a production but also from a marketing and promotion standpoint. “Ultimately the show was designed as a regular series, and I was reluctant to do an extra two-hour disconnected from the whole that could be potentially anti-climactic,” Showtime Entertainment president David Nevins said. “Now we have a nice upward build towards the finale. We have a nice ending, a good climax, and I didn’t want to muck it up with an afterthought.”

Read more:

The Hollywood Reporter

Deadline

TV | Line

Variety

Jeremy Irons on Studio 360

Source

Jeremy Irons was recently a guest on Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson.

Click on the player below for the full audio:

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“You can’t play a bad guy thinking, ‘I’m a bad guy,’” Jeremy Irons tells Kurt Andersen. “You’ve got to say, ‘Why does he make that choice to behave in that way?’” It’s all about playing the gray areas.

Irons knows from despicable; for 40 years, he’s been our best bad guy — the possibly murderous Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune; the deranged twins in Dead Ringers; the fratricidal Scar in The Lion King. Irons’ latest complicated character is Rodrigo Borgia, a pope with mistresses and illegitimate children, in Showtime’s The Borgias.

It’s a good thing Irons was bad at science. “I wanted to be a veterinarian,” he tells Kurt, “but I didn’t show any signs of a scientific mind.” The headmaster thought he would join the army; his mates thought he’d become an antiques dealer. Instead, at 64, Irons is as busy in film as ever. Kurt wonders whether Irons ever agonizes over the roles he takes. “No, I’m pretty sanguine about that. I sort of know what I want to do and it comes just through appetite. I mean you see a bacon sandwich on a full stomach you think, ‘I don’t want it.’ And then, you know a day later you look at it and think, ‘I’ll eat that.’”

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Bonus Audio – Jeremy’s 3 for 360

Click on the player below to listen:

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Jeremy Irons – Migros Magazine Interview

Original interview in German

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Published in issue 11-MM
11th March 2013
Author – Ralf Kaminski

British actor Jeremy Irons (64) is among the very biggest stars of international cinema. Since his breakthrough in 1981 with the TV, “Brideshead Revisited” and the movies with “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” he is constantly present in movies and television. His specialty are shady characters, whether it be the 40-year-old literature professor who falls in “Lolita” (1997) for precocious 12-year-olds, or the ruthless bank boss in “Margin Call” (2011), the financial crisis in the largest provides a way to rake in more money.

Irons has been married since 1978, with the Irish actress Sinéad Cusack, they have two grown sons, one of whom, Max, is also an actor. The couple lives partly in Oxfordshire (UK), and partly in a self-renovated Irish castle in West Cork. In the coming weeks, Jeremy Irons is seen in three ways: first as a teacher Raimund Gregorius in Bille August’s “Night Train to Lisbon ‘, based on the novel by the Swiss author Pascal Mercier (in cinemas from March 7). Once head of the family of a witch clan in fantasy film “Beautiful Creatures” (in cinemas from April 3). And finally, also known as Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI. in the TV series “The Borgias” (the third season running in the U.S. on April 14 on).

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“It’s great fun to play people who reinvent themselves for their own rules”

The British film star Jeremy Irons plays the main role in the film adaptation of Pascal Mercier’s “Night Train to Lisbon”. Before the premiere in Bern, he spoke to the Migros magazine about shooting, his other projects and his penchant for shady characters.

A world star you meet not every day. And British actor Jeremy Irons (64) has a reputation during filming is not always easy to be because of a certain tendency towards perfectionism. The slight nervousness turns out to be unfounded. Irons is not only extremely friendly, he is also very relaxed. Middle of a conversation, he gets up, fishes a tobacco package from his overcoat pocket, rolls a cigarette and walked with it to the balcony door of the hotel room as he continues to answer questions. He then puffing contentedly out into the icy Bern air, behind him on the wall of the room large a Non smoking signs …
Jeremy Irons, in the next few weeks you will be featured in three completely different roles. As a somewhat conservative Latin teacher in “Night Train to Lisbon”, as scheming Pope in the third season of “The Borgias” and as head of the family of a witch clan in “Beautiful Creatures.” How do you choose your roles?

Always for very different reasons. “Night Train” has attracted me in many ways. I like director Bille August, we have worked together before and then also shot in Lisbon, a great city. And I liked the book extraordinary, as I read it then. It seemed, however, that it would be difficult to film because it is so much revolves around ideas and philosophical questions. But if someone hinkriegt then Bille August. So I thought that might be a very nice five weeks, and so it was.
“The Borgias” is a rare excursions into your television, you can delay the first left?

Not really. Nowadays fewer and fewer films are being shot out of the way I like to do: movies, which are directed more to a smaller audience, but still cost quite a bit. More and more writers wander therefore from the television, where he produced many great quality series currently. Neil Jordan, whom I admire very much, did that too, after he had tried once before about ten years ago to make a movie out of the material. And he asked me if I would take on the lead role. It was one of these projects, as I like them, and it’s a really great role. So I said yes and am now engaged in five months.
That’s quite a time commitment, it was therefore already in collisions with other projects?

Until now. Or if so, then my agent told me nothing about it (laughs). So far it has been successful, so to work around.
“Beautiful Creatures” seems to be a relatively unusual choice of roles …

It’s not a movie I would see myself in the movies. But I had not worked for some time for a major Hollywood studio, and I know that this strip as part of “Twilight” are very popular. The figure has wit and a couple of nice scenes. So I thought, why not?
You sometimes take roles because they pay well?

I did that about three times in my life, and it’s been a while. “Dungeons & Dragons” is an example, and then there was a film in which I played someone with a white face … I do not come just for the title …
“The Time Machine”?

Exactly. I’ve done both while I renovated our little castle in Ireland. Since it was very useful to get a good fee.
When was the last time you have to audition for a role?

Phew, that was long ago. After drama school for roles in the theater, or about the age of 22. Nowadays, I get offers and decide what I want or do not want.
There are times that you absolutely want to have a role, but do not get it?

It happens, but the last time is also a long time ago. I would have loved to have had Robert Redford’s role in “Out of Africa”, the director Sydney Pollack unconvinced. He and Redford were good friends.
The presentation of “Night Train to Lisbon” discussed many philosophical questions, and religion is a recurring theme. Are you a believer?

These questions were the reason that I was attracted by the project. I’m quite a spiritual person, I believe in a whole lot. But I’m not one to like to hear about a group or club. My wife and my children are Catholic, and I myself was baptized Protestant. But religion is not such a big issue in the family. Whenever we go to church at Christmas and Easter, then a Catholic with us in the area. It is a kind of center for a very widely dispersed community, and follow whatever is completely there. It is always very nice. This church is like the glue that holds together the people.
About 20 years ago, have you ever filmed with Bille August in Lisbon. How he has changed since then, as the city?

He has not changed one bit. More children he has, but that’s it already. I also believe that I have not changed that much. Nevertheless, everything was new, because it was about a whole different story. And we turned in another corner of the city, especially in the old city – beautiful, especially because it crumbles a bit to himself.
Did Bille August? Much freedom left in the interpretation of the figure, or he knew exactly what he wanted?

He knows very well what he wants. But he also looks for the people that he knows that they bring him. If you do something that does not fit him, he says that too. Which is good. A director is a kind of sounding board that you need as an actor. The hope is that you hit the right note, but can never be sure, because you do not even see or hear. Since it needs someone who helps in fine-tuning. This of course requires that you trust the taste of the director what I do at Bille.
But that was it different?

Oh yes, I will not mention names here but.
And then you rebel?

It is often only realized when you see the finished film. During filming, I thought: Well, but that can not be justified. Then I saw the movie and thought, oh no, all wrong, we should do it the way I wanted it.
You have enjoyed your short visit in Bern during filming last year, I have read. How well do you know Switzerland?

Not very good, unfortunately. I go once in a while skiing in St. Moritz, and now by the way again after that visit here in Bern. But that’s it for now.
“The Borgias” You’re yes then for television, is somehow different?

Not at all. It’s like being on a movie set, even a bit more luxurious, we have more time and better equipment. But that’s just because it’s a quality series. I have friends in the U.S. turn the soaps, which sounds much less pleasant.
Rodrigo Borgia is a very complex character, a ruthless schemer. And yet you play it so that you like him, and hopes that its work plans.

A very interesting character. I read a lot about him, a lot of research, and has opened up a very wide spectrum character, I can work with. The popes after him have hated him, and their interpretation of it has come to dominate. This has ruined the reputation of the Borgia family rather, with all the stories of incest, for example. I am convinced that this is a caricature, and how I interpret it too. I’m looking for the nuances, the contradictions that we all have within us. We behave sometimes good and sometimes bad.
They like to play these kinds of characters, right? About in “Lolita” …

This role interpretation have taken me some really bad.
You played the seducer of a 12-year-olds to “nice”?

I was asked: How could you do that? My answer: people who do bad things are not necessarily bad.
However, you seem to play the bad guys like to correct: “The Time Machine,” “Die Hard with a Vengeance” …

Oh yes. Why are bad guys bad? Because they do not follow the rules, they find their own way, outside the conventions of society. It’s great fun to play people who invent their own rules. And it gives the audience the opportunity to watch people who behave like they normally can not, but secretly would probably also like.
You once said that you are particularly proud of “Dead Ringers,” “Lolita” and “The Mission”. Does that still?

In “Lolita” I could not really show all that I can, it is certainly my most complete film. On the other two I’m still proud, though I’m never as good as I would have liked.
“Lolita” was a risky role, you smoke, you ride a motorcycle – you obviously like to flirt with danger.

In fact. Risks brings enrichment to life. I’ve also never regretted. If something does not work out as hoped, then I say to myself, okay, but it seemed to make sense, as I have decided to make it so. So, what the heck. Do not regret, but just keep going. I try not to look back, not forward, but to live in the moment.
They always say that it had to do with smoking, that you have such a great voice. But I know some smokers, and none has such a voice! How do you do that?

(Laughs) I have no idea. She just is. Good genes! And of course it’s great to have something that stands out.
Is it true that on a film set can sometimes be difficult because you are a perfectionist like that?

That was probably one way, but I’ve put it behind me. Today I am much more relaxed and try to have a good time especially. If all fun and relaxed, it increases the chance that they will do a good job.
Your wife and your sons are indeed also worked as an actor. Look at each of your films to give advice and criticize?

That’s what we do. However, the movie business has changed dramatically since the time when we started. This makes it difficult for us, a young actor to give career advice. But it is important to know what we think of his work. The same goes for me and my wife when it comes to our films.
Has your wife ever really criticized heavily for one of your works?

Oh yes, and how. I once played some time ago in London theater. She looked at the dress rehearsal and then said: “Thou art really bad in the play” (laughs)
Very often, you do not look likely. All are constantly traveling somewhere and making films. Is not it hard sometimes?

Oh, because we have become accustomed, it was ever thus. We meet when we can. Our sons both live in London. And if we are spending time together, we enjoy it even more.

Jeremy Irons Interviewed by Backstage

Original article in German

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Follow Backstage on Twitter: @Baeckstage_ch

Google translated from German:

Jeremy Irons:. “I sing only for friends or at the pub”

On the day of the gala premiere of “Night Train to Lisbon” Oscar winner Jeremy Irons met at the Bellevue Hotel in Bern for an interview. His immense presence was already being felt from a distance. Irons sat on a chair in front of the open balcony doors and smoking a cigarette when I entered the room. Without being asked then, Irons grabbed a chair and placed it next to his and put the receiving device on his right. This rootedness and openness, he also presented in the conversation about the Bernese nightlife. Miscast in his “Night Train to Lisbon” and his role in the TV series “Borgia”

Backstage: What memories do you have of the filming here in Bern last year?

Jeremy Irons: Oh, very happy memories. But short. We were only here for two days. Still, it was wonderful to come to Bern. I knew the city was not before. I also love cities that are located along rivers. I love these big, high bridges here and the architecture of the shops. The arcades are perfect because you despite snow and rain can enjoy the shopping. Yes, I have happy memories of Bern, very happy. And to the people. These certain slowness in Bern and the pleasant pace fascinated me. It stands in stark contrast to London and New York, where everything has to happen very quickly. People there do not have much time for each other. In Bern, this is totally different. Here you have time to chat and that’s very nice.

Backstage: Do you have the novel “Night Train to Lisbon”known before the film?

Jeremy: No, I had only heard of the novel, when I was asked to do the film. Then I read the book and loved it. When I was with the book, suddenly people came up to me and said, “This is my favorite book.” That was very strange, because I’ve never heard of it before. It is a very interesting book. It provides the readers questions like “What are you doing with your life? Is that what you want to do? ‘. These are very important and good questions, I think. I thought that it will be a difficult book to be implemented, since a lot of philosophy is contained therein. But Bille (Director August, editor’s note) has created a very concentrated version, I think, captures the spirit of the book. What is your feeling? How did you find it?

Backstage: Yes, it is a shortened and condensed version, some characters such as Florence or Fatima are not treated, but that does not make a big difference. The essence of the book is there.

Jeremy: Yes, the essence of the book is there, I think so.

Backstage: Some critics have but perhaps struggling with the fact that Gregorius – the hero of the story, which you embody – decides after only 15 minutes of play, to put up in the night train to Lisbon …

Jeremy: Yes, there are some things for which there is not enough time in the film. That’s the problem, you understand me?

Backstage: Absolutely. The film is a different medium than the book.

Jeremy: Exactly, it is a different object. I think it is not in a manner fair to compare the two. But it is legitimate to ask whether the one reflects the essence of the other. It is as if you have a diamond and a picture of the diamond in front of him. There are two completely different subjects, but the painting can give you a feel for the diamond? If it is a good painting, they do so perhaps. Ok, maybe that’s not a good analogy, but you know what I mean, it’s a different medium.

Backstage: Are you an amateur philosopher?

Jeremy: I think so, but I do not spend much time talking about philosophy, but when I stumble across it, I love it. In this way, I’m a little like Gregorius. What fascinates him about Amadeu’s book is, indeed, that he found written down ideas that were lying somewhere in his head. If we come across a book that in a figurative sense speaks our language, share our unformed thoughts, we feel connected to the book. Someone else has solidified our meandering thoughts. And that makes us naturally clear that we share a common humanity. The same fears and concerns. I love historical biographies and read many biographies, I like it noted that other people have encountered in their lives to the same thoughts and problems as I did in mine.

Backstage: What similarities do you have with Gregorius?

Jeremy: We have very few similarities. Every time I drive to work, I get on a night train to Lisbon. I find new people. I love to learn more about other people, explore new places and live in different worlds. So I make my living. But what Gregorius and I have in common is that we are the same (laughs). But we think differently. Although I often think of very boring, like Gregorius.

Backstage: Do you think that they were the right choice for Gregorius?

Jeremy: No, I do not think so. I think we do not see very similar. Gregorius I have a little older, balder and presented uncharismatic. And as an actor I think I have a certain charisma. This I had to suppress it for the role in some ways.

Backstage: Was that difficult?

Jeremy: Hmm, I think the one he needs a little bit of charisma, because it is also a love story and the audience has to be worth watching Gregorius. I hope that one of the reasons why I got the role, the one was that I feel very comfortable here, to play characters who do very little. So that viewers still see the change in him, even if I do not do great things. Through this production, I was reminded of how much can be achieved with small gestures. As an actor, you have to act sometimes less. Instead of playing a lot more you have to think about and somehow it adds also to the outside, as one is perceived. Years ago, I played in a series called “Brideshead Revisited” with. That figure was similar to Gregorius. Charles was a simple man who meets this wonderful aristocratic family and is absorbed by it. He was all the time the observer bringing the audience into the story, she let him feel the same. And so even Gregory does in this movie.

Backstage: You played so Gregorius, although it does not feel right for the character?

Jeremy: If I had a choice to make, I would not have chosen.

Backstage: Who you would cast in Gregorius?

Jeremy: Who I would choose? I do not know … maybe Rush… Anthony Hopkins, Geoffrey and William Hurt …

Backstage: How was it working with Bille August?

Jeremy: Wonderful. I’ve been using for Bille “House of Spirits” worked many years ago, so I knew him. And I liked it, liked the way he works. He is very accurate, fast and he is very polite. On his sets it’s going to always be very cheerful and so forth. He knows what he wants, unlike many directors who filmed everything going on it until the actors are tired and bored with the scenes. Bille has a good flavour, it matches the illustrations in small ways, so that it all fits together and works. You can trust him, so I enjoy working with him. For me there is a better director.

Backstage: And how was it working with the other actors?

Jeremy: Also wonderful because all the actors are very good. Unfortunately, I have not shot with the youngsters, but my God, we were very lucky, just think of Bruno Ganz. Or Martina Gedeck, an actress I’ve seen in “The Lives of Others” and that impressed me greatly. I met her in Budapest when I was there she made ​​a film with Istvan Szabo (The Door, editor’s note). We spent a little time and I really liked her. As they would then suggested for the part of Mariana, I found this fantastic. Charlotte Rampling, is also a good actress, with whom I had previously been worked. And Portuguese actor, whose name I can not remember just not the one who plays the hotel owner. I love him, we had a lot of fun on set. Lena Olin, another leading actress, with whom I played in “Casanova.” When you work with so many good actors, it is so easy to. It really adds to the enjoyment. They were very happy filming, which is rare, but this shoot was really nice.

Backstage: You could also visit very beautiful places …

Jeremy: Absolutely. I love Portugal, but I was the last time for the filming of “House of Spirits” there. But this time around. To a completely different part, in the historic centre of Lisbon, which is very crumbly, romantic and simply wonderful We can shoot for this very lucky, it is not always so nice.

Backstage: Gregory is a teacher at the Bern Kirchenfeld High School. If you were a teacher, what subject would you teach?

Jeremy: Well, I would probably teach drama as this is my job. Strangely, I wish in a way that we would teach all one afternoon a week something. They spend an afternoon, for example, about journalism, or tell about writing. So we could pass our enthusiasm for our work to the children. I think that teachers do a great job with everything they do and how they do it year after year. I think everyone has something in his life that he can pass on to students that to help children gain a better understanding of life. I think this should be something that we offer to the children on a regular basis.

Backstage: Your latest TV production is a series called “Borgias”. Do you think the episode is interesting shape for a performer, because the characters have more and longer time for deployment?

Jeremy: This is the joy, exactly. I have now shot 30 hours of “The Borgias”, which are about 15 films with the same character. The challenges to the rise in screenplays. It is important to ensure that the books are not simply be a repetition of the events in different ways, but the characters are expanded and share an inconsistency that makes it really interesting too. Because we are all just inconsistent and we behave in our being. Shakespeare, for example, was a poet who brought this issue to their best advantage. Characters in movies are usually more stable, less in books where there are more opportunities for inconsistencies. Inconsistency allows it to display an actor depths and the true reality. There is therefore a great privilege for me to play in this series. Alexander is also a very interesting one, an exceptionally broad man, a great administrator, a man of God, but also a man with enormous sensual appetites. Mix all of these facets together to be able to make me a lot of fun.

Backstage: Soon again you come out with a movie, “Beautiful Creatures.” What can we expect?

Jeremy: I was told that the movie to “Twilight” genre is one, but I have “Twilight” is not seen, so I can not say exactly. My son Max has (written by “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer, editor’s note) is also a movie called “The Host”, which also belongs to this genre. In “Beautiful Creatures” I play the father figure Macon Ravenwood. He is described as incubus, but I’m honestly not quite sure what is meant by an incubus (An incubus is a kind of strange dream-eating demon, editor’s note). He is someone who has been, as it was required of him, as it’s just so many people. The story takes place in South Carolina in the United States. Macon is a man who lives alone and is happy here. A gentleman of great style, wit and knowledge. But the story is basically a love story between two young people.

Backstage: Christopher Lee confessed in an interview today that he’s releasing a heavy metal album.

Jeremy: Did he really?

Backstage: Yes. He is represented with his vocals on it. What about you? Can you imagine for a music album or sing for a musical such as “Les Miserables”?

Jeremy: I think my voice is not good enough for that (laughs). The actors in “Les Misérables” all have an excellent voice. But I used to sing a little when I was younger. In musical theater productions. But when I last sang? (Thinks). I made a recording of “My Fair Lady” with Kiri Te Kanawa, but now it was years ago. Today I sing only for friends or pub.

Backstage: Will we hear you sing today in Bern at a pub?

Jeremy: I’m afraid, but I have not enough time (laughs). Is there really a lot of good music in Bern Local?

Backstage: No, unfortunately there are not that many for himself singing, actually practically not a single good place to eat.

Jeremy: Are you serious?

Backstage: Bern is unfortunately no “Nightlife City” …

Jeremy: So not much of nightlife in Bern? I thought so. I remember when I came here for the first time and then someone asked if Bern is a party town. Having been told the following: “However, we all have a good time here. If it’s nice outside, we sit in front of the cafes and drink “and I was like,” Ok, understood “(laughs).

Jeremy Irons – The A.V. Club Interview

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Jeremy Irons on Shakespeare, The Simpsons, and enjoyable inconsistencies

by Will Harris January 31, 2013

Jeremy Irons’ filmography encompasses everything from Disney to David Cronenberg, plus a 1990 Best Actor Oscar win for Reversal Of Fortune, but his first efforts as an actor were on the stage, and one of his initial entryways into the dramatic arts came via Shakespeare’s work. Which explains why he was tapped to host an episode of PBS’ new documentary series Shakespeare Uncovered; Irons’ instalment, airing February 1, will cover Henry IV and Henry V. In conjunction with the show, Irons spoke to The A.V. Club during the Television Critics Association winter press tour about how he came to participate in the program, which of the villains he’s played is the most Shakespearean, and how his training prepared him to play a bar rag on The Simpsons.

The A.V. Club: What was the initial pitch when you were approached about Shakespeare Uncovered?

Jeremy Irons: Well, it was that we were going to make a documentary about the plays, about the locations, where they were written, the historical occurrences around the period, and where Shakespeare diverges and where he follows history, and why. They said to me, “We’ll do it all in four days for you. Do you want to do it?” And I had the time, and I thought it was a very interesting idea. Because anything that opens up Shakespeare to an audience is good. You know, he has a lot of disadvantages. But he’s often taught badly, and people haven’t seen great productions, so they sort of think, “Mmm, I don’t think so. I think that’s a bit heavy.” So anything that can make people realize that he’s a fantastic playwright, a fantastic story-writer, and open it up for them in their minds… well, it must be a good thing.

AVC: Did you have carte blanche to select which plays you wanted to tackle for your episode, or did they say, “Hamlet’s off the tableDavid Tennant gets first pick because he used to host Masterpiecebut anything else is up for grabs”?

JI: [Laughs.] No, I was doing Henry IV at the time [for BBC2’s The Hollow Crown], so they thought it would be interesting if I did the one that included the two plays that I was doing.

AVC: What was your first introduction to Shakespeare?

JI: I think it was The Winter’s Tale… Well, no, no, no, it wasn’t. I’ll tell you what it was: It was reading ’round the class in my English lessons at school. And I think perhaps once a week in English, we would choose a bit of a Shakespeare play, and we’ll all take characters, and we’d sit at our desks and read them. But it wasn’t until I began to see productions at Stratford and… I can’t actually remember the first Shakespeare I saw, though I think it might have been the Hollow Crown series, with Alan Howard. Peter Brook’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, I remember seeing. That was pretty early on. And suddenly I realized how theatrical Shakespeare is, how alive, how wonderful it is when it’s opened up by a great director and a great company.

AVC: Was it Shakespeare that made you want to become an actor?

JI: He was one of many. No, I wanted to become an actor because I wanted to become a gypsy. [Laughs.] I wanted to live the gypsy life!

AVC: You mentioned The Winter’s Tale a moment ago. That was the first Shakespeare play you actually performed, correct? At the Old Vic?

JI: The Bristol Old Vic, yeah.

AVC: The Winter’s Tale is one of the lesser-adapted Shakespeare plays when it comes to film and television. Do you have any theories as to why that is?

JI: Hmm. No, I don’t. But I’d actually love to film it. It’d be very interesting to film, because it’s all about two sorts of people. It’s about the really buttoned-up and the very loose people, the people who are always touching, which is like I am. The so-called Bohemian people. [Laughs.] Especially now, in this world where we’re so politically correct, and you’re not allowed to hold the hand of a little girl under the age of 14, and you’re not allowed to do this, you’re not allowed to do that, you’re not allowed to smack your children… You have to be so correct. And you compare that with the ’60s and ’70s and that time, with hippies and free love. And to have those two societies rubbing up against each other, which you have in The Winter’s Tale, it’s interesting.

AVC: Watching your episode of Shakespeare Uncovered offers a reminder of just how many of Shakespeare’s lines have filtered into pop culture, such as Christopher Plummer delivering the “dogs of war” speech in Star Trek VI

JI: [Laughs.] Yep, yep, yep.

AVC: Do you have a favorite example of Shakespeare being adapted for current tastes in popular culture?

JI: Well, I mean, I saw Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus, which was a very interesting way to show the play. Ian McKellen’s Richard III. Again, an interesting film. I suppose you could argue The Lion King, in a way. [Laughs.] We always say that he has entered our language with so many of these colorful phrases that we use in life. I suspect that they were phrases that were being used at that time, which he used in his plays. I’m not sure he necessarily invented them all.

AVC: You mentioned The Lion King, but looking beyond Scar, who would you say is the most Shakespearean villain in your back catalog?

JI: I think Simon in Die Hard With A Vengeance, a man who enjoys creating mayhem and living his own rules. Quite Shakespearean.

AVC: Earlier today, you suggested that you might have a performance of King Lear lurking within you somewhere. Is that something you anticipate letting out anytime soon?

JI: Oh, I don’t know. How soon is soon? [Laughs.] In the next 10 years, let’s say. I’d like to do Iago [in Othello], who is a wonderful character. A smiling villain. I’ve also never done a Don John, in Much Ado [About Nothing], who is a really unhappy man. I’ve always tended to play people who relish playing against the rules.

AVC: Rodrigo Borgia on The Borgias seems to qualify for that category. 

JI: Oh yes. He is wonderfully bad, isn’t he? [Laughs.] He’s a man who… well, one of the great things about Shakespeare is that his characters are inconsistent, and that’s something I think makes him a writer above most writers, because inconsistency is what we as people are full of. We maybe don’t see it in ourselves too often, but we are inconsistent. We think one thing one day and something else another day. We act a certain way one day and another way a second day. And Shakespeare knew that. Now, that’s very hard to play on film. It’s very hard to get a writer who will write characters who are inconsistent. They see it as somehow a failure. But when playing the Pontiff, the great thing is, I’ve had time to develop those inconsistencies. The fact that he was no doubt a man of God—maybe his faith wavered sometimes, but he was a man of God, as most people were then—and yet he is able to authorize assassinations and live in a way which we would think, “Well, that’s not very godly.” But then you look at George W. Bush, and you think, “Well, he was also calling himself a man of God,” but he also sanctioned actions around the world—basically in Iran—where thousands of innocent civilians were killed because of his decisions. So we all contain a bit of that.

AVC: Many actors admit to taking certain TV and film projects solely to subsidize their theater work. Has that ever been the case for you?

JI: It’s sort of incidental, really. I mean, you manage a career, you have to pay bills, and… sometimes I have done work to subsidize my life. [Laughs.] And to subsidize other works, yes. Less so now. Now I’m lucky enough to be comfortable enough that I can just choose what I want to do. It sort of doesn’t matter too much what I’m paid for it, and I do what I enjoy doing now. But when I was starting, yes, very much, television would subsidize my theater work.

AVC: In what way did your Shakespearean training prepare you to play a bar rag on The Simpsons?

JI: It taught me the importance of the smallest character, the most insignificant character, who not only has a great history, but who is as involved and as caring and as emotional as the largest character, the most active character. So it taught me not to take the bar rag for granted and to realize that he was, in his soul, Hamlet. How’s that? [Laughs.]

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