AT 67, and with over 45 years in the industry, Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons has paid his dues. “I don’t want to work very much any more. I’ve done most things and I don’t really need to work,” states the actor, 67.
But for he who maintains “I like to spend more time NOT working”, 2016 is a contradiction of sorts.
Not only has the veteran actor recently opened A Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Bristol Old Vic to critical acclaim, he can also be spotted on the big screen — both in High-Rise and in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (Irons’ first blockbuster in 20 years).
Yet, perhaps most telling of his versatility is his stint as eminent professor GH Hardy in maths biopic, The Man Who Knew Infinity.
Based on the 1991 book of the same name by Robert Kanigel, it tells the true story of Srinivasa Ramanujan, a 25-year-old self-taught genius who, determined to pursue his passion, writes a letter to GH Hardy (Irons) at Trinity College, Cambridge.
After recognising Ramanujan’s raw talent, Hardy invites him to travel from India to Cambridge in 1913, so his theories can be explored.
Irons says he’s moved away from his earlier perfectionism and now star believes his best work happens when he’s simply “having fun”.
“That’s what I love doing in life: making things easy, so that everything is a bit of party.”
It’s a philosophy the West Cork resident hopes he will brush off on his actor son, Max Irons. “There’s a lot of rejection in this business and I worry, as you do for your children. But he seems to be happy; he seems to be much liked,” says Irons, who has two children with wife of 38 years, Irish actress Sinead Cusack.
For Irons, revelry comes with enjoying life — and specifically, finding peace. “I find it in my garden, with my dog, on my motorbike, when I’m sailing. I tend to do these things alone quite a lot.
“You get to my age and you begin to think there aren’t going to be that many more summers, so I better make the most of this. And I better make the most of these friends because friends are dying. It’s terrible.”
Not one to hold his tongue, Irons’ no-holds-barred opinions have often got him into trouble, from slips on gay marriage to his most recent backlash over abortion comments (“I believe women should be allowed to make the decision, but I also think the church is right to say it’s a sin”).
On his likeness to Hardy, he begins: “I’m not an atheist, but I think if I had a chance to help anybody... I would like to feel that in some tiny way, the world is a slightly better place because of my passing through it. That’s not to be grandiose: I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, ‘What can I do today to make the world a better place?’ But I care about the world, people and happiness.”
Though unlike Hardy, he is an open book when it comes to religion.
“I go to my local church in Ireland, which is Catholic, but I’m not a Catholic. It’s a wonderful centre of the community. I believe in Jesus’ teachings, I believe in Buddha’s teachings, I believe in a lot of Muhammad’s teachings; I think they were all searching towards the centre of human nature.
“But the church has lost touch with modern life, and although I think it’s great we have an organisation that puts the brakes upon this relentless change we live under, organised religion is not my bag. Organised anything is not my bag.
“I have an anarchic nature and I believe we should make our own rules,” Irons confesses. “I have a phrase in my diary that says: ‘To live outside the law, you must be an honourable man’.”
The Man Who Knew Infinity opens in cinemas on Friday.
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