Which actor smoked joints with Robert De Niro, had dinner with a suspected murderer and got insulted by a cartoon lion?

The answer might surprise you, but these bizarre anecdotes came from an evening with, believe it or not, an entirely sober Jeremy Irons.

The 67-year-old has been a familiar face on the movie screen for decades, and has a pretty healthy cabinet’s worth of awards to show for it.

But it wasn’t always a smooth ride to stardom. One of his first movies involved portraying a rocky relationship with co-star Robert De Niro – and the frosty friendship wasn’t just on the screen.

He said: “For the first few months, Bob wouldn’t speak to me at all, he had a bit of a mistrust for British actors and he really didn’t like me. One day it all came to a head and we had a massive row and let it all out.

“One of our colleagues suggested we had dinner together, so Bob’s partner cooked us a wonderful spaghetti Bolognese and rolled us a lot of joints – and we’ve been very close friends ever since.”

One of the most unexpected dinner party guests he has had, however, was suspected murderer Claus von Bulow as he was rehearsing to play von Bulow in a film based on his trial.

“It was very exciting, having a possible murderer to dinner,” Jeremy said. And successful, apparently, as the film – Reversal of Fortune (1990) – won him a sparkly Academy Award.

But not all of his efforts have been repaid with glittering accolades.

Did you know he played the voice of Simba’s evil uncle Scar in Disney’s The Lion King (1994)?

“I always thought when you do voice-over acting you watch the film and talk along to the animation’s moving mouth,” he said.

“But when I got there I just had a storyboard to look at and a rough idea of the lines, so I was expected to play around and come up with words while the animators sketched me, the writers took down lines they liked and cameramen filmed.

“When I saw the final result I was horrified to see this scrawny hunched old lion next to James Earl Jones’s muscular and proud Mufasa.”

“I realised this must be how I came across,” he joked, “and I was very hurt.”

His anecdotes came as he spoke to fans at Bafta headquarters in central London at an event sponsored by Audi.

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