Like many of my generation I have a very large soft spot in my heart for Jeremy Irons, no doubt borne from years of suckling at the teat of The Lion King, plus a Jesuit education that meant an annual diet of The Mission could not be avoided. And it’s true that there are few of his generation, Alan Rickman (his would-be-on-screen brother in the Die Hard series) being a possible exception, who could match him for sheer charm and Englishness.
So when I heard that he was to be giving a talk at my alma mater last week, there was no question of my missing it. And what a charming little evening it was. A polite eccentric – in contrast to the stern and narrow-eyed characters he has tended to portray in the past – he seems more Charles Ryder than any of the others. When the topic came up of the new version of Brideshead Revisited (already out in the States, due here shortly), Irons said: “We had the luxury of 13 hours to tell the story, they’re trying to do it in 2.” A fair point.
He then added: “There’s some things you can’t do quickly… well.”
Quite. Trust such a droll man to sum it up quite so simply. Other questions flew back and forth from the audience, revealing, amongst other things, that he has come to terms with being best known for The Lion King, was never approached for Die Hard 4, and was certain that he was going to win his Oscar, largely because the odds all seemed in his favour (one could a joke about fortunes reversing but that would be unforgivable). Perhaps most interestingly he admitted that the work he is most proud of is, of all things, playing Humbert Humbert in Adrian Lyne’s Lolita, one of his more controversial films, although a performance I for one found incredibly powerful.
Eventually the question asking came to me, and I elected, as I do, to ask a rambling question with a touch of wit and a fistful of flattery. “While I was watching Kingdom of Heaven,” I began, “it was all going really well, the film had a good trajectory, and then your character announces for no particular reason that he’s going to Cyprus (this is utterly true mind, Tiberias does just up and leave as soon as the going gets tough), and you leave and suddenly the film becomes utterly unwatchable (an exaggeration, I confess, but it certainly becomes a hell of a lot more stupid). So there’s this direct correlation between your screen presence and films being good.”
The audience got a giggle out of this, but Jeremy Irons, perhaps just flattered though I suspect more bemused, smiled and asked, “Are you free for dinner after?”
Sigh. I was. For him I was. But of course the niceties of such events meant the request was all in good humour. But still, Jeremy, if you’re reading this, I am free, any time, night or day, here or there, anywhere.
Yes, there’s nothing like a good dose of starstruckness to get you back at your keyboard and blogging again. Right where I should be.