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Thought of the Day 9.19.12 Jeremy Irons

“It’s always great to play a man who sets himself up to be punctured.”

–Jeremy Irons

Jeremy John Irons was born on this day in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, England in 1948. He is 64 years old.

He grew up on the island, and didn’t have much connection with the professional performing arts. The family only ventured to the mainland once a year. But when he was an adolescent the family moved to Hertfordshire and, at 13, Jeremy was sent to the Sherborne School in Dorset. There he took part in a four-man school band called the Four Pillars of Wisdom. The group played for their mates on Sunday afternoons, with Jeremy on drums and harmonica (including stand out harmonica solos in “Moon River” and “Stairway to Heaven.” — because when you think of Stairway to Heaven you think ‘harmonica solo!’) He also performed comedy skits and was in the school’s production of My Fair Lady (he played Professor Higgins.)

Irons trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. There he “gained much experience working in everything from Shakespeare to contemporary dramas.” [IMDB biography] He supported himself with a number of odd jobs and by busking on the streets of Bristol.

In 1971 he moved to London and landed the role dual role of John the Baptist/Judas in Godspell at the Round House.

He did a lot of television work in the 1970’s including: The Pallisers;  Love of Lydia; Churchill’s People; Langrishe, Go Down; The Voysey Inheritance; and as Franz Liszt in Notorious Woman,

His film debut was in the 1980 film Nijinsky, but his break out role was opposite Meryl Streep in the French Lieutenant’s Woman. The film, based on the John Fowles novel, follows two parallel love stories — one between Victorian palaeontologist Charles and “the French Lieutenant’s Whore” Sarah; the other between Mike and Anna, the actors who play the Victorian couple in a movie they are making on the novel. Irons was nominated for a BAFTA Award for best Actor (Streep won one for Best Actress.)

Still from The French Lieutenant’s Woman [Image Courtesy: Encyclopedia Britannica]

Back on television he played another Charles, Charles Ryder, opposite Anthony Andrew’s Sebastian Flyte in the hugely successful Brideshead Revisited  based on the Evelyn Waugh novel.  Irons got another BAFTA Nomination (Andrews won), both men were nominated for Emmy Awards.

Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons in Brideshead Revisited (Image Courtesy The Guardian.)

He followed those two high profile projects with an independent film about Polish guest workers in London, Moonlighting.

Irons played Father Gabriel in Roland Joffe’s The Mission. Father Gabriel is a Spanish Missionary who is sent into the jungles of South America. He builds a sanctuary for the Guarani Indians. Robert DeNiro, a reformed slave hunter joins him at the mission. Together they must defend both the mission and the people who live there from the encroaching Portuguese It is all set to Ennio Morricone’s beautiful music.

Father Gabriel’s (Irons) first encounter with the Guarani Indians. [Image courtesy: Mostly Movies]

David Cronenberg’s psychological thriller Dead Ringers saw Iron’s playing identical twin gynecologist. The movie brought the word “co-dependant” to a whole new level. Iron’s is cool (maybe even icy) and creepy in the movie. (It is a total departure from his Father Gabriel. So if you are planning a Jeremy fest, don’t book these two back to back.)

Reversal of Fortune finally brought Irons the Gold. He won both an Academy Award  and a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of Claus von Bulow.

Irons took on the role of Rene Gallimard when Cronenberg brought M. Butterfly from stage to screen.

You might recognize his growling voice from Disney’s the Lion King. He played Simba’s uncle Scar.

When Bruce Willis brought his Die Hard franchise to New York for Die Hard with a Vengeance, Irons played his foil, psychopath Simon Gruber.

He pulled on some tights when he took on Aramis in The Man in the Iron Mask; Antonio, to Al Pacino’s Shylock, in Michael Radford’s 2004 movie of Shakepeare’s The Merchant of Venice;  suited up as Tiberias, a Knight Templar, in Kingdom of Heaven; and starred in the tv mini-series Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, as the Earl of Leicester/Lord Dudley, opposite Helen Mirren’s Bess.

He played photographer Alfred Stieglitz in the made for TV biopic Georgia O’Keefe in 2009.

Still from Georgia O’Keefe. (Image Courtesy: IMDB)

Heck, he’s even voiced the part of Moe’s Bar Rag in the Simpsons!

Irons currently can be seen in Showtime’s sweeping TV mini series The Borgias, a crime drama set in 1492 Italy.

And he plays Henry IV in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 & 2  in the BBC’s the Hallow Crown series.

Still from Henry IV, Part 1 with Irons and Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal (Image Courtesy: The Telegraph)

Here’s Ennio Morricone’s BAFTA Award winning song Gabriel’s Oboe from the film The Mission. [The soundtrack holds a very special place in my heart because we used parts of it, including Gabriel’s Oboe at our wedding. I wrote the publisher to see if I could get the sheet music, but it wasn’t published yet. They contacted Mr. Morricone and they supplied us with a copy of the hand written piano score. How’s that for romantic? This was played on a pipe organ as I walked up the aisle with my dad. ]


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