<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hampshire Life today click here

Jeremy Irons on his love for the Isle of Wight, charity work and doing the actor’s grand slam

PUBLISHED: 16:21 12 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:21 12 April 2017

Jeremy Irons at a 2013 press conference in Berlin for his film Night Train to Lisbon (Photo: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images)

Jeremy Irons at a 2013 press conference in Berlin for his film Night Train to Lisbon (Photo: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images)

2013 AFP

He’s a giant of stage and screen, but Jeremy Irons tells Bernard Bale he could have joined the circus, if only the accommodation had been up to scratch

He has been Batman’s butler, sang at the Last Night of the Proms, won an Oscar, created history by becoming the first ever Chancellor of Bath Spa University and mostly lives in Ireland. So what has Hampshire got to do with Jeremy Irons?

“I was born on the Isle of Wight and I still have a home there. I have always loved the place and have very happy memories of my childhood on the island and of our weekly trips to the mainland,” Jeremy explained.

“I was actually born in Cowes and loved being surrounded by the sea. I used to enjoy boating, climbing trees and walking the dog. Then when my sister, Felicity, grew out of her ponies I used to exercise them. I liked doing my own thing and, if I am honest, I was probably a little wild. Perhaps it was the sea but I had a spirit of adventure from an early age and every time we crossed to the mainland, usually Portsmouth, I saw it as a voyage of discovery or to do battle with pirates, or even be a pirate.

“The sea was my playground and growing up with all the nautical history of the island, Hampshire, the Solent and the English Channel was just perfect.

“My father was an accountant and we had to move to Hertfordshire because of his work. Hertfordshire was very lovely but I must admit that I missed the sea. Then I was sent to boarding school in Dorset but I never lost my love of where I had first grown up.”

With a father who was an accountant it might have been expected that Jeremy would follow in his footsteps but he had other ideas.

“I could not think of doing what my father did, it was definitely not me. I once thought of joining the circus. I wandered round one night to the back of the Big Top and took a look behind the scenes. The circus workers were living in mobile bunk rooms and I didn’t fancy that – I was far too middle class for that kind of existence. The theatre seemed a better option. I looked behind the scenes there as well and loved the fact that you could get up at 10 o’clock having gone to bed at two which meant being out of sync with everybody else. I loved the smells, I loved the attitude, I loved the fact that some of my colleagues were quite insecure as people, which made them quite open. It was theatre for me.”

Jeremy was admitted to the Bristol Old Vic School where he studied for two years.

“I learned a great deal and the best part was that you were doing productions all the time and there was a lot of encouragement to do well. At ordinary school you’re sometimes looked upon as someone a bit strange if you want to act. At a stage school everyone is there for the same reason. I think you get a more rounded education too because you find yourself appearing in all kinds of productions from Shakespeare to farce. I enjoyed my time there and the Bristol Old Vic is not a bad start to your career.”

Conforming to such education seems unusual for a man who has a reputation or being something of a loose cannon. “I’m not really off-the-wall,” he insists. “I am just my own person and I do things which seem perfectly normal to me but seem to be a little strange to other people. I don’t see that as my fault. I just think that some people have an odd way of viewing life and others.”

Early in his career he played John the Baptist alongside David Essex in the West End musical Godspell. A little later he starred in Kingdom of Heaven with Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson and Eva Green. Both were controversial. Godspell was criticised by some as being blasphemous and Kingdom of Heaven was attacked for depicting the Crusades at a time when there is modern sensitivity about tensions between religions.

“There is nothing like raising the passions,” the 69-year-old laughed. “Whatever you do will please some people and displease others. I prefer to listen to those who are pleased.”

In between his many work commitments Jeremy finds time to compere classical concerts and help charities. At one time he read aloud letters from inmates in Canada to raise money and awareness of a prison service to help offenders re-establish their self-confidence and ability to cope with life on the outside when they are released.

“I like to help where I can, “he said. “There are some serious issues out there which need support. They are very real to those involved. They should be taken seriously but not acting, never take that too seriously, it is just a professional game of pretend.”

Among other things Jeremy will be back on our screens this year as Batman’s butler. Alfred. “There is a very small and select band of us who have played Batman’s butler and it is a great honour even if it is a pretend one,” he said.

He is also one of the few members of an unofficial club in that he has done the actor’s grand slam of an Oscar (for Reversal of Fortune), a Tony and an Emmy. He also added a Golden Globe to his achievements for his role in Elizabeth 1.

“I never know what to say when one of these things is handed to me,” he admitted. “There is no doubting the delight that you feel but it is quite humbling and at the same time embarrassing. Since everyone is looking at you waiting to hear what you are going to say as an acceptance of the award, you feel decidedly uncomfortable. Winning is great but not winning is more comfortable.”

The awards are a tribute to Jeremy’s unmistakable talent. From Brideshead Revisited to providing the voice for Scar, the villainous lion in Disney’s Lion King cartoon, he has set female pulses racing, while at other times he has been so horrible that those same women could cheerfully lob a stiletto at him.

“That’s what acting is about,” he smiles. “If your audience can forget who you are and get involved with your character you know it’s working. I like that. A good production will draw on the emotions of the audience so if that audience doesn’t feel anything you should have done better.”

Away from the screen and the stage which he has graced in many productions and in many of the world’s cities, Jeremy Irons is also something of a daredevil. He loves to ski, ride motorbikes faster than he should and also still has a reputation as a fine horseman.

“I like to live life a little,” he said. “I’m not a wild man or out to create an image. I just believe you should explore your passions. My work is one of my passions and I work hard to perform as well as I can.”

That was obvious back in 1999 when he stole the show at the last Night of the Proms by performing five Noel Coward favourites in the style of the man himself. It was a brilliant performance and one still mentioned regularly by annual Promenaders.

“I put the same effort into my leisure time. Enjoy your time off as fully as you can because you have earned it.”

A champion of so many causes, a dog lover, family man, lover of Ireland, theatre and screen actor, singer and brilliant narrator, what does he like best about his life?

“All of it,” Jeremy said. “I am not the sort of person who enjoys celebrity but I try to turn it into something constructive rather than just signing autographs. I love helping and being active for others as well as for myself and, as for acting, I quite enjoy playing bad guys, I think it brings out the real actor in me. I am naturally a nice person – so I have to work so much harder to be nasty.”

Jeremy still returns to Cowes whenever he can. “I have to, I can’t stay away,” he said. “The whole island is as beautiful as when I was growing up and returning to the mainland is still a marvellous experience. As I stand on the boat and watch the Hampshire coastline getting ever nearer I often have the urge to salute – that’s easier than giving it a big hug!”


More…

Shakin’ Stevens on struggling to keep a job, playing Portsmouth and how long he plans to keep going - The UK’s biggest selling singles artist of the 80s plays Portsmouth in May. A career spanning almost 50 years has seen some unforgettable musical moments. But, as he tells Claire Pitcher, it hasn’t all been rock and roll for Shakin’ Stevens

Dan Snow on his love for Hampshire, a passion for history and his latest book - Historian, keen rower, family man and lover of all things Hampshire, Dan Snow’s life is anything but dull. His TV work has brought history to a new audience and his latest book is another fascinating glimpse into our past, as he tells Bernard Bale

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Tue, 12:11

Faith Eckersall meets two siblings attempting to row 3,000 miles unsupported across the Atlantic to highlight the deadly effects of skin cancer and raise £100,000 in memory of a very special man who lost his life to the disease

Read more
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How a shepherds hut helped master cabinet maker Terry Lynch fight his way back to health and launch a business that’s now booming

Read more
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Art is a passion and a business for Emma Dunbar, whose colourful and vibrant work is in demand from private clients and galleries. As Sandra Smith discovers, this is an artist who really delivers the goods

Read more
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The detective writer who chose Southampton as the setting for his dark novels tells Faith Eckersall why the city - and the New Forest beyond - are a perfect fit with his ‘fractured’ heroine, Detective Inspector Helen Grace

Read more
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Some of Hampshire’s best known personalities have revealed what they most love about the county. Here, we compile some quotes from our interviews over the years

Read more
Thursday, September 7, 2017

Events to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death reached a peak in Basingstoke with a statue of the author being unveiled. A colourful art trail also gives visitors a tour of an area she knew well, says Simon O’Neill

Read more
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Deep below the Test Valley, natural mineral water is waiting to begin its journey to tables around the globe. Viv Micklefield meets the royally appointed company bringing about a refreshing change to our drinking habits

Read more
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August brings us a feast of art, with painters, potters, sculptors and other creatives throwing open their doors for Hampshire Open Studios. Sandra Smith spoke to just some of the hundreds taking part this year

Read more
Monday, August 14, 2017

A successful athlete can be inspired by a hero of their chosen sport, pride in competing for their country, or the support of family. Roger Black is inspired by all of the above, plus his home county of Hampshire, as Bernard Bale discovered

Read more
Monday, August 14, 2017

The issue of travellers provokes strong reactions on both sides of the argument, as was evidenced by a recent incursion in Hampshire

Read more
Monday, August 7, 2017

Interiors editor Carol Burns is always looking for show pieces that offer up the wow factor – and have their own unique story. Enter Hampshire’s Seat Threads

Read more
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Home is where the heart is for illustrator Sam Hiscock and that means Southampton. It has allowed him to learn and grow as an artist and have his work exhibited all over the world, as he tells Sandra Smith

Read more
Tuesday, August 1, 2017

With 2017’s Hampshire Life Food and Drink Awards about to launch, Claire Pitcher spoke to Alex Handford, of Hampshire Farmers’ Markets, who won the Food Hero accolade last year, much to her surprise

Read more
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Celebrities and other famous figures who went to school in Hampshire

Read more
 
Pure Weddings advert link
 
South West Life advert link
 
A+ South & South West
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad
Hampshire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Hampshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search

Search For a Car In Your Area