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You can count on one hand those actors of our time that possess the ability to break through the screen and steal away into our psyche.  There is something different about Jeremy Irons.  I've tried to figure out what it is exactly for years...to be able to give an answer when someone asks "What is it about Jeremy Irons?' To be able to articulate some answer to that beyond, "Everything."  But that's the real answer.  And though he pretends for a living, as my daddy reminds me of all actors, he is never short of truthful in the characters he chooses to show us.  Passion can't be contrived and Jeremy Irons is filled with it.  You've probably all heard of him but he's a back burner sort -- neither he nor his films are ever in your face.  So we remind you of him here -- get out to the video store and rediscover one of our greats...Jeremy Irons.

The 7 Deadly Sins According To Jeremy Irons

by Kurt Vandemaele, Humo (Belgium)

It's been quiet for a while but that's something he chose himself while he was in the process of renovating an Irish castle.  For a lord of the castle - annex - movie star, the first deadly sin is an easy one...

GREED

Irons: That one doesn't apply to me. That's easy for me to say of course, I'm not exactly short of money. But still, I would never do the impossible just to get my hands on something. I believe in coincidence; if you're predestined to become rich, you will – if not, too bad for you.

Humo: Do you ever act in movies purely for the money?

Irons: I've done that a couple of times, yes. After all, it's what I do for a living.

Humo: We understand that you can't admit having done Dungeons and Dragons for the money, but what other reasons could you give?

Irons: I'd done Die Hard With A Vengeance with producer Joel Silver and he persuaded me to read the script. Once in a while you have to risk a bit. Plus, I like working with young directors. 28-year old Courtney Solomon had been shopping his script for 10 years. That much perserverance intrigues me. If someone is willing to fight that hard for his cause, he can't be all bad. On paper, the project reminded me of Star Wars. Like Alec Guinness in George Lucas's film, I had to give the project some gravitas.

Humo: When you were offered Dungeons and Dragons, you were in the process of renovating a castle in Ireland.

Irons: I'm still continuing to. I stopped acting for 2 years in order to complete the project.

Humo: You are the owner of a castle in Ireland and you say you're not greedy?

Irons: It's not a real castle. The building consists of two 110 foot high towers, bordering the ocean. It was such a magnificent piece of work I couldn't resist it. It had fallen into ruin in the 17th century and I thought, someone's got to save this before it completely collapses. I couldn't find anyone interested so I bought it myself.

Humo: Are you going to live in it?

Irons: I'm still not sure. I have a summer house and some land nearby. I think I'll live in the towers for a while before lending it to friends or renting it out.

Humo: Is there anything you can't do without?

Irons: There are a few things that I quite like, but there's nothing that I can't do without. I could even cope without cigarettes. There are things that make me happy: for instance, I feel better when I have a dog in my life but I could live without one.

GLUTTONY

Irons: Not guilty, again. I don't eat enough, probably because I'm a smoker. I don't think I'd be this thin if I were a glutton.

Humo: I've noticed that you smoke quite heavily. Isn't that a form of gluttony?

Irons: I'm addicted to cigarettes, that's right.

Humo: A man like you must attend a lot of parties. Any excesses where drink or drugs are concerned?

Irons: No, I seldom go to parties and I don't drink much. I easily get a hangover. I also don't like being in a space with too many people. I do enjoy dancing to the right kind of music though.

Humo: And that's something you do by yourself, at home?

Irons: No, I go to clubs that are not too crowded where the music is so “ancient” I still like to dance to it.

Humo: A person can be an intellectual glutton too...

Irons: That's something I don't suffer from. [Laughs] I think you're going to ask me about laziness next.

LAZINESS

Humo: Well... are you lazy?

Irons: I love lying in bed. I could do it for days on end. I turn my laziness into an asset. For example, I don't prepare for work as well as other people do. I like to be unprepared, that way I'm more on edge.

Humo: Doesn't that make you very nervous?

Irons: I work just hard enough to avoid having a nervous breakdown. That keeps things exciting. Very different from my wife, Sinead. She studies every word in the script and analyses the entire character. I don't know if that makes her a better actor than I am. I like unexpected twists and turns. I like to scare myself to death by accepting parts that I don't think I can handle.

Humo: Can you give us an example?

Irons: Mostly plays. Theatre frightens me more than film because everything depends on you and nobody else. In film, a good editor can cut your bad moments, the lighting can be flattering... In theatre, if you don't deliver the goods, you fail.

Humo: Could you live without working?

Irons: Very easily. I'm working more and more to allow myself a certain lifestyle. Once in a while I'll find a part that I absolutely want to do but they're few and far between.

Humo: What was the last part you wanted for yourself?

Irons: Years ago I played in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing on Broadway. I would have killed everyone who would have wanted to take that part away from me. I worked really hard to get it. Nowadays there are very few roles that I'm willing to fight for, although a short while back I had to refuse a part because it coincided with another film that I had signed for. That still bothers me. It was a fantastic love story called “Possession” by Neil La Bute. I was filming “The Fourth Angel” by John Irvin and I couldn't postpone it.

Humo: If “Possession” becomes a hit and “The Fourth Angel” becomes a flop, people will start questioning your judgment.

Irons: “Possession” will be a much bigger movie. You can't win 'em all.

Humo: Speaking of laziness, are you doing any work on the renovation of your castle?

Irons: Yes, mainly signing checks! [Laughs] No, I make all the decisions, buy the materials and pay the workers. When the renovation was in full swing I had 40 people working there.

Humo: If you're paying for all of that, you must be a rich man, Mr. Irons.

Irons: Not anymore.

ANGER

Irons: I used to be an angry young man but nowadays I find very little worth getting angry over. It's totally useless: a tantrum is a waste of energy. Anger is a sin because it causes a lot of pain to the one you're angry with. It's OK to express your anger as long as it's appropriate.

Humo: How do you vent your anger? Through acting?

Irons: No, I scream. I can scream very, very loudly! [Laughs]

Humo: On a film set?

Irons: No, on a film set I'll go to a person and tell him or her exactly what is bothering me. It's not very diplomatic but that's the way I am. If actors are different from regular people it's because they can show their emotions more easily. That's what we're trained for. That's why you can never trust an actor's emotions: never believe an actor who says he loves you and don't take his tantrums too seriously.

Humo: Do you play with emotions in your private life?

Irons: To tell you the truth, I'm not good at pretending. That's why I have to disappear into my character when I act; I have to “be” not “pretend to be.”

Humo: That's not an easy task for an actor.

Irons: I'm always surprised when I see an actor who can laugh, cry, suffer effortlessly. I always have to concentrate very hard.

Humo: You say you have learned to control your anger. Is there anything left that really makes you angry?

Irons: I can get very angry when people don't try hard enough. Sometimes I get angry at my children or my wife... The closer you are to people, the angrier you can get with them.

PRIDE

Humo: We have 3 sins left; lust, pride and jealousy. Which one do you want to start with?

Irons: Pride? I'm guilty of being proud or, as I call it, self respect. You have to be proud to get on a stage and I'm proud of the fact that I got this far in the business. I don't think that's arrogant. I fully realize that what I do is totally insignificant. Your pride disappears fast when you think of what you mean to mankind.

Humo: Do you have a special place for your Academy Award in your home?

Irons: No, I have a shelf in my den where I keep my awards. There are about twelve.

Humo: Actors are often called insecure. How does feeling insecure fit in with the self respect you just mentioned?

Irons: I don't know if I'm insecure, I do know I need approval from time to time. I value the appreciation of others for my work, especially collegues. I want to know if what I'm doing is right and applause helps.

Humo: What is more important: the amount of applause or who is doing the applauding?

Irons: Who is applauding, of course.

Humo: Is there a particular review that sticks in your mind?

Irons: [after a long pause] There is one review of Dead Ringers that I remember. The critic wrote, "If there were a Nobel Prize for acting, it should go to Irons." I thought that was very nice.

Humo: What's your best film?

Irons: I think I did my best work in Dead Ringers and I'm very proud of Lolita and The Mission. Those are the only ones.

Humo: People want applause for things that are hard to achieve, not for something that they can do blindfolded. Are you the same?

Irons: I got an Academy Award for Reversal of Fortune and I didn't think I did such a great job. Playing Claus von Bulow frightened me somewhat because the man was still alive. There were people who actually knew him and knew that I didn't look like him at all. I'm convinced I got that Academy Award for my work in Dead Ringers, a film that, according to a lot of people, did deserve an Oscar. But you're right, it's the difficult stuff that keeps you going. “Lolita” wasn't an easy part because there was so much resistance to the project and because the result was very underestimated. I feel very happy whenever I get a compliment for that movie.

Humo: I thought you were excellent in “Lolita”.

Irons: I'm overjoyed! [Laughs]

LUST

Humo: Since we're talking about “Lolita” we might just as well make the connection to lust. A sin according to you?

Irons: If there's no love involved, yes. It's OK if it's a prelude to love. I don't think lust without love is very pleasant anyway.

Humo: Aren't men obsessed with the physical aspect?

Irons: It's part of our nature to have as many partners as possible. A male animal looks for female animals to procreate. Women are attracted to men for different reasons: a sense of humor, intelligence, you name it. Men just react to the outside and the sexual chemistry. It's partly true for women also but not to such an extent. Lust, like all the other deadly sins, becomes a sin when you can no longer control it.

Humo: You've played in a lot of movies dealing with lust.

Irons: I don't know the reason why. Maybe it's a safe way to explore dangerous ground. It's all written in the script. There's a beginning and an end and I survive. A film allows you to do things that would scare you in real life.

Humo: Women are crazy about you. When I tell my friends I'm doing an interview with Jeremy Irons, they turn green with envy.

Irons: Really? God knows why. They should talk to my wife.

Humo: Don't pretend you didn't know that!

Irons: It is important for an actor that women like him.

Humo: How difficult is it to walk the straight and narrow?

Irons: It's never easy. [Laughs] People admire you for what you depict on a big screen because you represent something they believe in, because you've played people they feel close to. It has nothing to do with who you really are. I have a wonderful wife who would be very difficult to replace. That keeps my feet firmly on the ground and my legs in my trousers: knowing that the adoration of fans has nothing to do with who you are and knowing what you've got to lose by straying.

Humo: Does your wife find it difficult to see you in raunchy scenes?

Irons: A journalist once asked her that same question and she said she knew I was only acting because I wasn't half as good in real life! [Laughs]

JEALOUSY

Irons: I don't think I'm jealous. I do regret not getting a part sometimes or watching a colleague score big time in a movie I feel I could have done or could have done better but in the end I can't complain. I'm very happy with what I've got. Jealousy destroys a lot - it's a very unhealthy feeling; it eats you alive.

Humo: Not being jealous is not too difficult when you're successful.

Irons: True. I don't know what I'd be like if I weren't successful. Although I was never envious of other people's success before I became well known. I never asked myself, "why them and not me?" Instead I wondered how they got there and if they were happy and if that was what I wanted for myself. I have a strong belief in myself. I can do anything provided I want it badly enough. I think that goes for all of us, really. Those yuppies on Wall Street or in the City are incredibly rich but they lead horrible lives. The right balance - that's the secret of life.

Humo: If you get a great part, is it because you were obsessed by it?

Irons: Yes. It's weird that obsession isn't a deadly sin.

Humo: The opposite of jealousy is admiration: are there people you admire so much you think “If only I were..."

Irons: Laurence Olivier. His career was so versatile and so long... He did it all: film, theatre, TV AND he was married to Vivien Leigh. Pity he wasn't such a happy man. Apparently success and happiness don't mix well.

Humo: You are successful.

Irons: Relatively successful and rather happy. That's what you should go for in life: find out what makes you happy and go for it!

Humo: We're gone already!



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