Whether it’s his charismatic appeal that swathes a tall slender frame, an instantly recognizable aristocratic voice, a body of work lauded as legendary or a pair of hypnotic eyes that dance as easily as intimidate, Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune, The Lion King, The French Lieutenant’s Woman) by all accounts is a creative force of nature.
The British born gentleman inhabits the character of Macon in BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, a haunting love story opening Valentine’s Day from Warner Bros Pictures. Irons as Macon is uninhibited yet quite distinguishable, the latter, a trademark the two-time Golden Globe winner has maintained.
In your words, describe Macon…
Jeremy Irons: I thought there was a certain wit and panache about him and a certain enigma which was interesting. It didn’t tell me everything about him and I was encouraged not to read the books, I didn’t really have time. I came to the movie quite late, they were already shooting. So I sort of did as I was told and wore mostly what I was given to wear. I spoke as I was asked to speak and tried to create what was necessary. I was aware there are other books written about these characters where maybe more is explained about Macon but sadly sitting down and reading those books before I started shooting was not possible. so I had to say to Richard (LaGravanese, the film’s director), ‘tell me about him, what does he need to be to the story, how does he need to be?’ And I tried to create the character in that way which is not the way I normally do it but there was just no time.
Was this portrayal as much fun as you made it seem to be?
Irons: Yeah, I try and have fun when I shoot. It’s a fairly tedious process, shooting movies. They are very slow and I was with a great group of people. Margo (Martindale of Million Dollar Baby and The Hours fame), who played my sister made me laugh a great deal– we were like the three stooges.
Speaking of Richard LaGravanese, what was he like to work with as a director?
Irons: Very, very sweet, very kind… it’s very difficult to condense such a book into two hours of clear storytelling and a director is trying to tell the story as well as possible. As a writer too, it’s very difficult when you’re directing your own work, your own writing. Certainly because on your weekends you’re working on the script and the following week you’re shooting. Working with him felt like a real collaboration and he was very supportive. He’s got a very easy going nature so I think really I spent most of my time trying to encourage him to dress better (smiles).
Not saying that it is so, but, one imagines working with you is daunting for some. What do you do to make people feel at ease in your presence?
Irons: I play the fool.
An example of such tomfoolery would be…
Irons: As actors, we are all struggling to find the truth of the character, trying to make a scene work. So you work with each other completely as equals. I try to break down that barrier of people being overly respectful and such by playing the fool …just make jokes and laugh with them.
What compels you to say ‘yes’ to a role?
Irons: It has to intrigue me a little bit. It has to be something I haven’t said before, if possible. My character has to be within a story which I think is interesting and even if I were to go and see it maybe it would interest a lot of other people. It’s the same as ever really but it’s a gut feeling, much like an appetite in the way that you look at a menu and decide what to eat. Most of us never think, ‘well, why do we choose that?’ It’s just what we feel like eating tonight and I’m sure it (my decision) is made up of many things. If you listen to your body, your body is probably telling you that you need salad or that you need red meat or whatever it is, or you need fish but it’s difficult to be truthfully accurate about why you chose something. Sometimes you might just need the money. There have been times in the past when I’ve done movies for that reason.
There is such honesty in that response, many would not admit to financial motivations.