Jeremy Irons — an Irish Post Award winner

Jeremy Irons — an Irish Post Award winner

A consummate actor but a reluctant knight

PEACE IN OUR TIME Jeremy Irons as Neville Chamberlain in the film Munich - The Edge of War (image courtesy of Netflix)

ACTOR, producer, director, activist Jeremy John Irons will be the recipient of  an Irish Post Award on November 9 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

Irons has already won an Academy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Tony Award. He is one of the few actors who have achieved what is known as ‘The Triple Crown of Acting’ with an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony awards in film, small screen and theatre.

But the one award he doesn’t want is a knighthood in any British royalty Honours List — he made it clear some years ago that he would decline such a title in order to forestall any effort by the British establishment to pull him on board.

Irons, an activist across many causes, would never want to be shackled in any way, would never be gagged.

An honour he does cherish, however, bestowed on him back in 2014, is that of Honorary Corkman.

Irons has lived in Kilcoe Castle in west Cork with his Dublin-born wife, Sinead Cusack since the 1990s. The Rebel County, fittingly given his propensity to speak out against injustices, is home for him. His castle dates back to the 15th century, and Irons took two years out from his acting career to renovate the place, including painting the walls the traditional ochre colour. This was widely, and mistakenly reported as pink.

Kilcoe Castle, Co. Cork (photo by Mike Searle, Wikimedia Commons)

He received his Honorary Corkman award from fellow west Cork resident, Chariots of Fire producer, Lord David Puttnam. He told Putnam at the ceremony in Cork that he regarded himself as a blow-in, but that the honour made him feel slightly less blow-in-ish. One reason he loves living in west Cork, he told The Irish Post, is that “people leave me alone”. He explains how he fetched up in Co. Cork — basically he was visiting friends in Kerry and went through Cork “I thought I had arrived home, even though I’d never been there before. That afternoon I started looking for somewhere to live.”

To his collection of Honorary Corkman title along with his myriad other awards — which must see the mantelpiece in Kilcoe Castle sag under the weight of the silverware — Jeremy Irons will now add an Irish Post Award.

This honour recognises the actor’s huge contribution to the world of film, television and theatre, and also for his very significant contribution to Irish society, to charities and to worldwide human rights causes.

Jeremy Irons (photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Universal Pictures)

A many-splendoured career

Jeremy Irons’ versatility as an actor, which sees him as much at ease in hefty Shakespearean roles as in television miniseries such as Georgia O’Keeffe, undoubtedly stems from his great love of the art. He has been at the centre of theatre, and all its many forms, since beginning his career at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

The Bristol Old Vic is world’s oldest English-speaking theatre still going strong after 250 years, and the Theatre School has been going since the 1940s, mentoring legions of top class actors including Brian Blessed, Erin Doherty, Gene Wilder, Olivia Colman and many more.

During the early part of his career, Irons performed extensively “on the boards” in rep, gaining huge critical acclaim for his Royal Shakespeare Company roles including Leontes in The Winter's Tale, Willmore in Behn's The Rover, the title role in Richard II, and Harry Thunder in Wild Oats by John O'Keefe.

On the small screen, the role which significantly raised his profile was as Charles Ryder in the television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (1981). Irons’ dashing, aristocratic good looks combined with his immaculate speaking voice were prefect for the role. First broadcast on ITV, the show ranks among the most successful British television dramas of all time, with Irons receiving a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.

His first major film role was in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981). Irons and Meryl Streep played the leading roles in the adaptation of the John Fowles novel.

His Oscar came in the American drama film Reversal of Fortune, based on the true story of the unexplained coma of socialite Sunny von Bülow, the subsequent attempted murder trial of her husband Claus von Bülow,, and his eventual acquittal. Irons plays the inscrutable lawyer von Bülow opposite Glenn Close. Irons does inscrutability exceptionally well, and in the film his acting genius allowed him to add empathy to a difficult and enigmatic figure.

In 1994 He voiced the role of Scar in Disney's The Lion King. Asked by Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show if he had watched the 2019 remake of the film, he said: “I was invited, but it’s like being invited to the wedding of your ex-wife. I would wish her well, but I actually don’t want to be there.” Irons speaks with some experience. In 1969 he married Julie Hallam, but divorced later that same year. He married Sinead Cusack, of the Irish acting dynasty, in 1978. They have two sons, Sam and Max.

In 2021 his role as Neville Chamberlain in Munich: The Edge of War was widely praised as a tour de force of sensitivity and subtlety, he employs his great skill at getting to the person behind the headlines. In the film, Irons paints a more rounded picture of the man usually described, and portrayed in film, as an appeaser of Hitler.

This ability of Irons to flesh out what are usually stereotypical, almost cartoonish representations of characters, is one of’ Irons greatest talents. Although a strikingly handsome, beautifully spoken actor, he never allows his good looks to do his acting, as so many Hollywood stars do. He has an unerring ability to interpret and tease out the complexity of characters who perhaps have hitherto been given one-dimensional portrayals both in previous productions, or in the case of public figures, in the media.

His latest role is as Francesco in The Cello, a 2023 horror film directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by Turki Al Alshikh. It is based on Alshikh's novel of the same title.

The film is due to be released next month, December 8, a month after he is honoured with an Irish Post Award.

Jeremy Irons, winner of the "Male Actor In A TV Movie Or MiniSeries" award poses in the press room during the 13th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)