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Jeremy Irons - Idol Chatter
Jeremy Irons - Idol Chatter

The star of Callas Forever enjoys shocking his fans and doesn't worry if he is liked or not. Just don't call him boring.

CALLAS FOREVER, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, BEING JULIA. WHY, I DO BELIEVE WE’RE HAVING A BANQUET OF JEREMY THIS SEASON.
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? And you say banquet, but, really, they’re all side dishes. Nevertheless, it’s nice to be a side dish in a great meal.

DON’T BE SO MODEST. IN MERCHANT, YOU’VE GOT AL PACINO’S SHYLOCK TO SPIT VERSE AT, AND IN CALLAS AND JULIA, YOU GIVE MASTER CLASSES IN THE ART OF HANDLING DIVAS. SO ARE YOU EVER A DIVA? GOD KNOWS YOU SMOKE LIKE ONE.
I do smoke. I remember once I was tussling with some acting problems with Meryl [Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman], and I was lighting up, and she said, “Jeremy, the answer is NOT in another cigarette.” (laughs) And, yes, I was [a bit of a diva] earlier in my career because I was a perfectionist. But I remember a story about Peter Cook: He was doing a part in a

film and came off, and someone said, “How many takes did you do? Did you go again?” and Peter said, “No—there’s a thin line between being a perfectionist and being a cunt.” (laughs)

SO TRUE. BUT, YOU KNOW, THAT LINEAS MANY OF YOUR ROLES HAVE DONEMAY SHOCK THE FAINT OF HEART. DO YOU GET OFF ON THAT?
I like to stir the sediment of people’s thoughts, or, certainly, the sediment of people’s opinions, yes—as an actor it certainly hasn’t been my chief aim to be liked by my audience.

WHICH IS PRACTICALLY UNHEARD OF.
I’m afraid it is. If I was cleverer, perhaps, I wouldn’t be like that.

BUT THEN WE WOULDN’T HAVE YOUR OSCAR-WINNING PERFORMANCE AS CLAUS VON BULOW IN REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, YOUR HUMBERT HUMBERT IN LOLITA, YOUR JUNKIE GYNECOLOGIST TWINS IN DAVID CRONENBERG’S DEAD RINGERS, OR EVEN THE RATHER CONTROVERSIAL SCAR IN THE LION KING. YOU KNOW, SOME TUT-TUTTED THAT HE REPRESENTED SOMETHING AKIN TO “THE EVIL GAY”.
I
hadn’t heard that. But, yes, I suppose he DIDN’T have an obvious wife, did he?

NOPE. HE’S ANOTHER DARK LIGHT IN YOUR GALLERY OF WEIRDOS.
But I wouldn’t describe them as that. I just think they’re people who live in the extremes of life. Which are very interesting to play. You see, there’s nothing more boring than playing the good-looking pilot who flies fighter planes and wears a suit well. (laughs)

MUCH MORE FUN TO EXPLORE THE FREAK IN ALL OF US?
That’s right. That’s what upset so many people about Lolita. They said, “You’ve made Humbert likeable, yet he’s a monster.” I said, “Well, yeah, the things he does are terrible, but life is not black and white, we’re all a bit gray.”

DO YOU EVER HEAR FROM THE VERY GRAY CLAUS VON BULOW?
No, but I did meet him about four years after I made Reversal. It was in a cricket pavilion and I heard this voice behind me saying (in a plummy Claus accent), “You see, I’m NOT fat.” I turned around said, “Claus, I never said you were fat, I said you were bigger than me. Which you ARE.” He said, “Do you ever see Alan Dershowitz? I hear he’s representing Leona Helmsley and Mike Tyson—you haven’t been asked to play either of THEM, have you?” (laughs)

GOTTA LOVE CLAUS. BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK? GUILTY OR INNOCENT?
I think, possibly, he left his wife on the floor slightly too long. (chuckles)

YOU’RE HILARIOUS, JEREMY. BUT DOES YOUR TWISTED FILM PERSONA EVER CAUSE ANY STRANGENESS IN DAY-TO-DAY LIFE?
I’ve always looked for that tell-tale flinch when you approach a woman’s neck, but I’ve never seen it. So, no—I think it’s because in life I’m so different.

YOU DON’T HAVE ANY OF THOSE FREAKY GYNECOLOGICAL TOOLS FROM DEAD RINGERS LYING AROUND YOUR HOUSE AS KNICKKNACKS?
No—David Cronenberg’s got them all. I think he sleeps with them.

WITH THAT DELIGHTFUL BON MOT, WE NOW REACH THE LAST QUESTION: HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED?
“He was never boring.”

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