Max Irons in Harper’s Bazaar UK

Red Riding Hood star Max Irons talks to Bazaar’s Stephanie Rafanelli about wolves, nudity and his famous dad

Max Irons and I are playing The Guessing Game; in this case, over the identity of the lycanthrope killer in the 25-year-old actor’s debut feature Red Riding Hood, a gothic thriller adapted from the original fairy tale. So, who is the werewolf? Is it him, Red Riding Hood’s (Amanda Seyfried) betrothed; or the woodcutter she really loves? The suspiciously hairy wolfhunter (Gary Oldman). Or in an implausible twist, Julie Christie, the tales’ sagacious matriarch? “I cooould be the werewolf. I’m definitely a werewolf suspect!” he chuckles, his eyes widening at the mere thought of such a betrayal. “Okay. I’m the werewolf! Red Riding Hood’s the werewolf! Everybody’s the werewolf!”

Tranquil, post-11am roll-up, Irons stares hypnotically into the log fire at Blacks in Soho; his carved cheekbones and distant jade eyes, with the potential to slip into anguish or fervour, a clue to his genetic inheritance (he is the youngest son of thespian heavyweights Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack; and the grandson of Cyril Cusack, Julie Christie’s 1966 Fahrenheit 451 co-star). It is a heady cocktail that director Catherine Hardwicke, the woman responsible for Robert Pattison’s appearance in Twilight (spawning mass hormonal surges amongst the global pubescent population), clearly responded to. Especially as her reinvention of the fairy tale, one of the first in a spate of upcoming films, promises to be as rife with smouldering teen eroticism as the hitherto dominant Vampire genre. “I heard that Robert got chased down the street in Paris in his car, before the film even came out. Two black eyebrows rise, sardonically, to form a triangle in perfect symmetry. “I really don’t think it will come anything close to that.”

Though his name recalls a strident comic strip hero, by contrast, he is gently self-effacing (“American actors are all muscular, tanned, white teeth and they have this indestructible confidence. We British are all…Dare I say it? Pessimistic”). He is also somewhat apologetic both for the brands he is sporting (Dior boots, and a Prada Jacket – scruffed beyond recognition) as for his turns as a model, during his drama student years, in Mango (2007) and Burberry’s 2008 ad campaigns. “It was about 7am Saturday morning. I’m living in this basement bedsit with no fucking kitchen and barely a window. Smells of death. My phone goes off and someone says do you want to be shot by Mario Testino with Kate Moss. I didn’t have an agent so I said yup!” He fidgets uncomfortably. “That campaign has haunted me a bit. It has a smell of ‘you’ll do anything to be in front of the camera’.”

Like his father before him, Irons is wary of trading on his looks (the veteran actor rose to fame in The French Lieutenants’ Woman and Brideshead Revisited in 1981 thereafter avoiding being cast as the dashingly decadent love interest) or being hyped by the Hollywood machine. “Actors like Rebecca Hall and Andrew Garfield don’t play the celebrity game. You don’t even know who they go out with. Once you become the story off-screen, you are less likely to be the onscreen one.” But his brief track record already suggests that he is an actor of a similar mould. He received critical acclaim for Tom Stoppard’s Artist Descending A Staircase, and was nominated, alongside Hall, for the Ian Charleson Award in 2009 for his work in Wallenstein at Chichester Festival Theatre. (Hall and Irons became acquainted on tour with Sinead Cusack in Sam Mendes’ the Bridge Project that year: “After the last performance in Greece, everyone went skinny-dipping naked, drinking vodka including my mother I think”)

Puffy-eyed from jetlag from a recent “charm offensive” meeting agents in LA, Irons is on a four-day London stopover (which included presenting a BAFTA’s with Eva Green). A few weeks ago, he bumped into Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes. “I spent time with her when my dad was filming House of the Spirits, and her daughter Gracie and I shared the same tutor. She’d recognised me and came up to me. I was so, so touched.”

Growing up, Irons divided his time between Oxfordshire and his parents stage and film locations; though he was too young to witness his father’s favourite film.“I watched The Mission again on a plane to LA recently and I was in floods of tears. My older brother, Sam, was there, and they spent six months living with the villagers. I mean, Christ – what an amazing time.”

As a teenager his holidays were spent in Country Cork where, in 2000 his father bought and renovated Kilcoe Castle (“Err well it’s more like two towers joined together.”): “He’s become like a local.” He shakes his head.”He does this steeplechase where they stop on their horses at the pub every hour for a pint. Imagine what it’s like at the end of the day. Jumping over huge stone walls, going through rivers. They’re all pissed. It’s crazy.”

With such global adventures under his belt, has he inherited his father’s gung-ho spirit? “I’ve got my dad’s height and smoking habit. But I think I’ve got my mum’s looks and sensibilities.” He smiles warmly. “My dad’s very outspoken. He’ll say what he thinks. We’ve had some fruity political arguments across the kitchen table. They are both quite political, but mum more so. She’s very active [she is president of the Burma Campaign UK] and I seriously love that.” Iron’s half-brother Richard Boyd Barratt is also a political activist, like his biological mother Cusack, with whom he was re-united, around seven years ago, after she gave him up for adoption in 1968. “It wasn’t really that she‘gave him up for adoption.’ He was taken away by the Catholic Church; as was the way in those days, because she conceived out of wedlock.” Irons explains. “It was only in around 2004 when the Irish government ordered the Church to make the details of these adoptions available. I think within a week of that happening they’d been reunited. It’s amazing. And they’re so similar and they get on so well considering they missed 43 years of each other’s lives.”

Such is the rich heritage of Max Irons, filled with moving real life epics as well as thespian and cinema classics: a mighty well from which to draw inspiration in his future acting career (and from Irons’ fledgling projects, one senses there will be a future…). For now, he is adding the finishing touches to Runaways, a six part series for Sky One set in Seventies Soho. “The Italians and Irish gangsters are fighting for control of the sex district. I play this kid who ends up O-Ding nastily on a concoction of cocaine, amphetamines and vodka,” he winces. “But I get to wear flares and kind of woollen tanks tops [laughs]. I’ve got really shit hair though. I had to have a perm!.” He has two secret Hollywood projects in the fire (“If I told you, I’d have to kill you”), after which, Irons is keen to return to the stage. “Donmar. Royal Court. Okay. Put that in.” He leans forward and enunciates into the dictaphone. “I’ll do anything. Naked. Anything! Equus – I’ll do it.” And with that, he quickly pulls out a pack of tobacco, deftly crafts a cigarette (“I’m gagging for one”), before sauntering off into Dean Street. For sure, a roll-up is the only thing Irons need be desperate for right now.

Max Irons in The Runaway – on Sky One

The Runaway

Transmission: March 2011

  • Sky One: 6 x 60mins
  • Producer: Nick Goding. Series Producer: Willow Grylls
  • Director: David Richards
  • Executive Producers: Charles Pattinson, George Faber, Lavinia Warner, Helen Flint, Martina Cole
  • Co-Production: Warner Sisters
  • Adapted By: Allan Cubitt
  • Cast: Alan Cumming, Max Irons, Burn Gorman, Jack O’Connell, Jo Van Der Ham

Martina Cole’s The Runaway: New Drama on Sky One
By Steve Rogerson
Published Mar 25, 2011

Sky One brings Martina Cole’s novel The Runaway to life in a six-part drama due to start on Thursday 31 March and starring Alan Cumming and Joanna Vanderham

In her first professional acting role, Joanna Vanderham stars in the title role as runaway Cathy Conor in Martina Cole’s The Runaway, a six-part drama due to start on Sky One on Thursday 31 March 2011. Cathy Conor is the daughter of a prostitute who has been imprisoned for murder and so she is separated from her boyfriend Eamonn Docherty (played by Jack O’Connell) and put into care. She runs away to Soho where she meets Desrae (played by Alan Cumming), a transvestite who adopts Cathy.

Eamonn is also having a tough time as he becomes more involved with the criminal elements in London’s East End, notably gangster Danny Dixon (played by Keith Allen). He runs away to New York to try to build a better life. Eventually the two young lovers are drawn back together as the world moves on from the 1960s to the 1970s, but they find their pasts still haunt them both.

Joanna Vanderham was in her second year at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff when she was spotted by casting director Emma Style. She was granted time off college to film for the series but is now back studying and hopes to graduate in June.

Scottish actor Alan Cumming has not been seen on British television for fifteen years, after making his name on shows such as Bernard and the Genie and The High Life. Most of his career since then has been in the USA on programmes such as God, the Devil and Bob, Sex and the City, Shoebox Zoo and The L Word. His film roles include playing Nightcrawler in X-Men 2.

Jack O’Connell is best known for playing Ross Trescott in The Bill, Pukey Nicholls in This is England and Cook in Skins. Welsh actor Keith Allen has recently starred as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the Robin Hood TV series but his career dates back to the 1980s in shows such as The Young Ones, A Very British Coup and Making Out. In 1994, he played Jonas Cuzzlewit in Martin Chuzzlewit and in 1998 Slick Sloan in The Young Person’s Guide to Becoming a Rock Star. Other notable roles include Dexter in Roger Roger and Tony Whitman in Bodies.

Martina Cole’s The Runaway also features Ken Stott as gangster Joey Pasqualino, Max Irons as his son Tommy Pasqualino, Kierston Wareing as Cathy’s mother Madge and Burn Gorman as Detective Richard Gates.

The Team Behind Martina Cole’s The Runaway

The director of Martina Cole’s The Runaway was David Richards, the producer Nick Goding, series producer Willow Grylls and casting director Emma Style. Based on the novel by Martina Cole, it was adapted for television by Allan Cubitt and Tom Greaves. The executive producers were Lavinia Warner for Warner Sisters, Charlie Pattinson, George Faber and Helen Flint for Company Pictures, Elaine Pyke and Huw Kennair-Jones for Sky One, and Martina Cole.

The show was filmed in three months in South Africa on a specially built set that recreated London’s Soho and New York in the 1960s and 1970s.

Read more at Suite101: Martina Cole’s The Runaway: New Drama on Sky One


Alan Cumming and Max Irons

A exclusive:

Q & A with actor Alan Cumming:

Alan Cumming - Photo by Timothy Greenfield Sanders   Alan, Max Irons, son of Jeremy Irons, is in The Runaway with you. Would you share your thoughts  on Max as an actor and what his role is in The Runaway?

Alan Cumming: He is a darling and is playing my son-in-law. love from alan x

Check out Alan’s fantastic blog at