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
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
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
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
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
Humo: I thought you were excellent in
Irons: I'm overjoyed! [Laughs]
Humo: Since we're talking about “Lolita” we
might just as well make the connection to lust. A sin according to
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
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]
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
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!