Interview taken from www.indielondon.co.uk|
Eragon - Jeremy Irons interview
ERAGON star Jeremy Irons talks about appearing in a dragon
movie for the second time, getting physical and his career so far Ė from the
early days right through to his recent return to the West End stage.
He also reveals why he thinks Eragon became such a popular best-seller
and why is happy to keep reintroducing himself to younger audiences.
Q. Youíve been quoted as saying that you felt it was time for you to
do a film like this. Can you elaborate?
A. I think itís important for an actor to keep reintroducing
himself to a young audience. The kids that this is really aimed towards only
really know me as the voice of a lion. So, I thought we should put a face to the
voice. As an actor, I try to take what opportunities come to me on a very wide
range so that you cover the whole audience. Hopefully, you can then get
audiences who go and see this to go and see other movies that Iím in. Itís part
of a sort of career strategy.
I also thought the strength of this story is that itís written by a
16-year-old about a 16-year-old. Itís how he sees growing up and adolescence.
Itís not an aged academic writing for a nephew about what he remembers about
life when he was younger and fantasy. Who can explain why Eragon is such a
successful book? I can only assume itís because that kids who read it really
feel empathy with what theyíre reading. They understand that world. Yes, itís
set it in a fantasy world but actually an awful lot of itís about this boy
growing up and dealing with fathers, mothers, girlfriends and things he wants to
be able to do and canít. And gently growing into a stage where he has a
responsibility in life.
Q. Were you worried about doing a dragon movie again, given that your
first one [Dungeons & Dragons] flopped?
A. No. I always worry about first-time directors but you have
to risk things and I thought this had been better managed than the first movie.
Q. The film looks stunning. I guess one of the upsides of being an
actor is being able to make films in locations as spectacular as these. What are
A. Getting to those locations [laughs].
Q. How much did you enjoy the physical challenge of making the film?
A. I loved the riding. I could spend all day on a horse and be
very happy. I was less interested in the fighting and the practising and all
that. You know, a big movie is very cumbersome. It takes a long time, so it went
on a little bit longer than Iíd expected.
Q. How easy was it to master the different kind of swordplay?
A. It was just a little bit different. But at least it was in the movie!
Somebody on Kingdom of Heaven spent the whole movie practising for this
massive fight he was going to do and it was not in the final version. It may be
in the directorís cut.
Q. Is there a sense where youíre teaching Eragon all these skills,
especially swordfighting, that you donít want to be shown up by this young buck
of an actor? Especially in physical terms?
A. No. He was much quicker because you are quicker when youíre
young. You remember more. I kept forgetting the sequence and halfway through Iíd
say: ďLetís stop and work through that again!Ē It takes longer to learn. I think
your brain cells die, donít they?
Q. I suppose youíve gone past the stage of making films for your
kids. But was there ever a stage when you did?
A. Well, they donít watch them very much. I donít think either
of them have seen all of them even though we have them at home. Now and again
they see them and say: ďThatís a great movie.Ē But I donít really make movies
for my kids. I made Danny: The Champion of the World so that one of my
kids could be in it, so he knew what the whole business was about. Heís since
chosen to be a photographer having learned what the business is about [laughs].
Q. Was he put off by it then?
A. He enjoyed it at the time but he doesnít like notoriety, he
doesnít like being known. My younger son doesnít mind at all.
Q. Given that youíve said in the past that you come from a boring
middle class background, what did your family make of you wanting to be an
A. My father, who practised trying to be severe on my elder
brother and trying to get him into the type of career he thought he should be
in, was overjoyed when I came to him with an idea of what I wanted to do. He
didnít give it much hope. He said it seemed to be a pretty rocky profession and
it was quite difficult to hold relationships together and things. But he said:
ďIíll help you because if you donít try it, youíll never know and youíll always
resent me for not supporting you.Ē So he did and he paid my fees through drama
school. I had to work for money for the holidays.
Q. Was there a point where he saw his investment had come to
A. I think so. He died shortly after Iíd made Brideshead [Revisted]
and I was making The French Lieutenantís Woman. So he sort of knew I was
on the way and that his faith had been well placed.
Q. What was it that made you want to become an actor in the first
A. The desire to be a gypsy, to not have to tow the line and
play by the rules. I seriously thought about the circus, or the fairground, or
the theatre. I remember wandering around the circuit of the fairground at Epsom
Downs before Derby Day Ė because I was busking in a pub on the corner of the
Downs Ė and I saw the accommodation, which was a sort of store with four bunks
in it, and I thought I couldnít cope with that for long. I wanted a bit more
than that! I then answered an advertisement on the back of The Stage and worked
in Canterbury. I liked the life, especially the nocturnal aspect of it Ė I loved
the smells, loved the people. So I thought I wanted to go to drama school and
learn how to do it.
Q. Given the state of the British film industry at the time you came
out of drama school, did you ever dodge a bullet or come close to making a film
bow in something like a sex comedy or On The Buses?
A. No. I left theatre and I went to Bristol for three years.
Then I came to London wanting a film or the West End. Simon Ward was playing all
the roles that I would have been right for, such as Young Winston. But
Nijinsky was the first movie I made because Nora Kaye, who was married to
Herbert Ross, who made the film, had been a pupil of Mikhail Fokine, who I
played, and thought I looked very like him. So she gave me that role.
Then for French Lieutenantís Woman, I was quite good casting for my
look. They didnít need a star because they had Meryl Streep. So thatís how I got
my chance. I didnít expect to work in movies.
Q. You were also involved in Play Away. Is there a positive to
being involved in something like that?
A. Thereís a positive from everything, even the terrible movies
one falls into sometimes. Thereís always a positive. I often think thereís
positives from failure more than success. But Play Away was great because
it enabled me to sing and to lark about. And itís re-run whenever anybody wants
a cheap bit of television Ė but thatís the nature of it. Even Jack Nicholson has
the dentist, or whatever it is he played, they keep showing. At least I wasnít
posing naked in some magazine, which is the other thing that some people have to
Q. Youíve just been in the West End in Embers. Was that a
recharge of the batteries? Do you plan to do more?
A. It was actually a drain on the batteries. It was exhausting.
But it did everything that I wanted it to do in that it got the muscles going
again and got me in touch with the audience. It was very interesting because it
was a new play and I wanted to see if it would work. It worked alright, not
perfect but alright.
I think really at my age you have to always be looking for interesting roles
because itís harder to find them in movies. Guesting as I do on Eragon is
not particularly satisfying. Itís lovely to be in control of a play or a film,
as I used to be. So I think I shall keep going back to the theatre if I can find
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your next film, Inland
A. Itís by David Lynch and itís a three hour movie. Itís rather
like a Jackson Pollock that you stand before and are amazed by but itís quite
difficult to see exactly what itís about, or what the story is. I play the role
of a film director making a film within this film. And David has the habit of
throwing you scenes the night before and not telling you what the story is.
Laura Dern, who stars in it, had been working on it for a year and she didnít
even know what itís about. Itís a completely different way of working Ė a very
light crew, about 10 in all including the designer Ė and very fast shooting. But
it was a lot of fun. David is a wonderful man.
Back to News & Articles
Back to Home