Jeremy Irons: Not a Typical Englishman

Sophisticated, discerning, attractive, charmingly devilish.

I may look like a typical Englishman but I am much more eccentric than that, and a bit less moral. That’s why I have been given such a wide range of parts – the world famous star Jeremy Irons remarks on himself.

There is always an inscrutable secret in his eyes. He is open and reserved, friendly and aloof, childlike and serious, innocent and dangerous, talkative and reticent.
He is full of harmonious contradictions that mingle harmoniously. He is a man of extremes, who leads his life from the center of his mind and heart, but also makes space for the tasks brought by fate and faces them without fear.

“I like contradictions in life because they create energy in me. I have always wanted to be different from others. I was given a middle class upbringing, and I was eager to break free of it. I longed to live the life of a wanderer, and as an actor I have been able to do so. I am a bit strong willed, which may seem like selfishness to others, though all I really do is pay attention to what my body and soul desire.”

He is one of the few actors who is capable of absolute metamorphoses in his roles. He does not simply play a given part, but rather becomes it, unquestionably. He is authentic because he is sincere. He knows all the tricks of his profession and never does he overanalyze the role. Instead, he allows himself to be guided by his instincts.

“I relate to a role as a child relates to his play. I don’t overcomplicate it, but simply give myself over to the play. Every emotion is inherent in each of us, and I simply let whatever the role happens to call for come out in me. I feel best when I am not speaking. The space between the words is very important. The expressive power of the eyes says all. That is why I admire dancers who, without uttering a word, express everything with their bodies and faces.”

He was given his first feature film part in a motion picture on ballet dancer Nijinskij. The film was shot in Budapest in 1980 and Irons played the part of choreographer Mikhail Fokine. Since then, Jeremy has visited Hungary on many occasions. In 2004 he worked with director István Szabó in Csodálatos Júlia (Being Julia). The highly successful Showtime TV series, The Borgias, was produced in the Etyek Korda Studio. In 2012 the part of Pope Alexander VI earned him the Golden Globe Award nomination. In the 15th century the Popes had more far reaching powers than they do today. Indeed a pope was a kind of godly sovereign with his own standing army, and popes were allowed to marry and have children.

“Faith, power, murder, and sex are eternal themes. The world may have been corrupt in the 15th century, but it remains corrupt today. We do not seem to learn very much from our mistakes. Here we are in the 21st century, still waging wars, and standing almost idly by as millions starve to death. We destroy the earth, we greedily accumulate goods, while others don’t even have what they need to survive. How long can this continue unpunished?

I do not belong to any church in particular, although Buddhism is perhaps the closest to my faith. I believe that God himself is love. Making people around us happy, being attentive to them, tending to our daily tasks as best we can, in my mind this is what love means in practice.”

He married the beautiful Irish actress Sinead Cusack 34 years ago. They have two sons, Sam (34) and Max (26).

“My parents divorced when I was 15. This broke something in me, something I have been looking for ever since. My family is extremely important for me. It is not easy to live with me, I can be a bit of a difficult person. My wife is not simpler either. Marriage is very complicated. But whose is not? It is almost impossible to live with someone, but being nice and polite is crucial.”

Sam is a photographer. I saw his photographs in the London Jacobson Space Gallery, in the exhibition titled “No Lipstick”. His art emanates mystery, beauty, music, and humor. He never gives titles to his photographs. He allows the viewer’s inner world to respond to the topic of a given photograph, and for this to filter through his soul and touch an inner secret, an inner truth.

“In the movie ’Danny, Champion of the World’ (1989) Sam played the part of my son, Danny. I suggested this after having worked with him in the production Midsummer Night’s Dream. I thought the experience of a film shooting might be useful. Sam enjoyed it, and at eleven years of age he did quite well as a professional. He did not enjoy the heightened attention that comes with this career, however, so he decided not to become an actor.

I told my sons that whatever they do in life, the most important thing is to take pleasure in it.  Sam became infatuated with photography.  

Max is a model and an actor. He inherited his mother’s features, and his father’s height and enchanting glance. His voice is velvety and sensual. He has modeled for Mango and Burberry with Kate Moss, and now for Macy’s INC in New York.

He attended the well-known Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He plays Henry in Red Riding Hood. He is charismatic on screen. He has the je ne sais quoi that one cannot learn.

“My wife and I tried to talk Max out of acting. We explained to him that it is a very frustrating profession. There is a lot of jealousy, and it does not necessarily provide financial security. When we saw that Max was taking it very seriously we gave in. We have to let him follow his own path, and live the fate he has been given.”

Max’s favorite film with his father is The Mission (1986), in which Irons plays Father Gabriel. The role earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination. Sinead was expecting their second son during the shooting.
Jeremy’s favorite movie is Lolita (1997) Jeremy’s favorite movie, as it so happens, is Lolita. He was a bit hesitant to play the part of Humbert Humbert, since of course he was well aware how potentially scandalous the role was. The idea of a grown man becoming his underage step-daughter’s lover is not exactly a popular topic for a film. In the end the movie was only distributed on DVD and aired on television, but was not played in theaters.

I love this film, because it has both drama and humor. Director Adrian Lyne beautifully recreated Vladimir Nabokov’s novel on screen.
Any father may acknowledge that girls under 16 are very attractive, and that they may even flirt with their parents. This is simply a fact to be accepted, not something to be scandalized over. Humbert was not a pedophile. He is aware that what he is doing is wrong. It is his weak character that leads to tragedy

At the age of 63 he is still one of the most sought-after actors, having acted in more than 70 films. In each one, he gives a captivating performance.
In Dead Ringers (1988), for instance, he plays the parts of two identical twins living in New York, both of whom are gynecologists: two men who look alike, but have different personalities and one soul. Irons is also great in the role of the romantic heroes of Betrayal (1983) and Swann in Love (1984).
For the part of Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune (1990) Jeremy Irons received the Academy Award, alongside Glenn Close.

This film is based on a true story. Claus is accused of the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny, a wealthy woman who falls into a coma, and, in the event of her death, her husband stands to inherit a fortune that he hopes to share with his lover. Glenn convinced me to take this role, because initially I had not wanted to. As members of the family are still alive, I found it tactless to shoot the film. Glenn won me over by saying that if I do not take the role, someone else will.

He reads works by Antal Szerb, Attila József, and Sándor Márai.
One of the greatest theatrical experiences of my life was a theatrical performance of Márai’s A gyertyák csonking égnek, a novel that has been translated into English as Embers, and Irons’ performance of the part of Henrik in Cristopher Hampton’s stage production in the Duke of York’s Theater. He accepted my congratulatory praise with sincere modesty, as truly outstanding artists always do, and asked me to sign his album.

He enjoys horseback riding, sailing, motorcycling, travel, carpentry, and construction. He resides in three different places: London, Oxfordshire and Ireland, where he owns a 15th century castle. He took an active part in its restoration.

“When I purchased Kilcoe Castle it was a beautiful, romantic, and dangerous ruin. I had two options: either preserve it in that condition, which would have been the less expensive alternative, or transform it into a living, warm, friendly home. I like challenges, so I instinctively chose the latter.”

At the request of Katalin Bogyay, Prince Charles and Camilla hosted the commemorative event of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian revolution in St. James Palace.
Jeremy was sitting next to me in the first row. He looked exhausted, and I could hardly imagine how he would be able to give the recitation. That evening he recited a poem by Márai, and I was astonished to see the complete transformation he underwent from one moment to the next. There was no visible trace of his fatigue whatsoever. He was dazzling and captivating. When he stood I looked at his tall frame as he confidently stepped on stage. I saw in him all the characters he has played. How can one man have so much in him? – I was wondering. He cannot be confined to borders.
There are no limits for him, he does not know the impossible.

For him, life is a great adventure, the joys of which lie in his ability to find innocent, even childlike pleasure in the smallest things and to face without blinking even the most difficult challenges.

La femme Magazine 2012