Oscar Profile #610: Jeremy Irons

Born September 19, 1948 on the Isle of Wight, England to an accountant and his wife, Jeremy Irons is an award-winning British actor. He trained at the Bristol Old Vic where he made his professional stage debut in 1969.

By 1971, Irons firmly established his stage career as John the Baptist opposite David Essex as Jesus in the long-running musical Godspell at the Roundhouse and Wyndham’s Theatre. He made his TV debut in 1971 in an episode of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes and has seldom been away from the medium since. Briefly married and divorced in 1969, he married Sinead Cusack of the Cusack acting dynasty in 1978. Their sons Samuel (born 1978) and Max (born 1985) have both acted in his films.

Irons made his film debut in 1980 in Nijinsky. His award-winnign performance in TV’s Brideshead Revisited in 1981 established his international reputation. He had his big screen breakout role that same year opposite Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

The actor made his Broadway debut opposite Glenn Close in 1984’s The Real Thing for which he won a Tony.

Ever busy on stage and television, Irons’ films include such 1980s films as Moonlighting, Betrayal, Swann in Love, The Mission for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe, and Dead Ringers for which he won a New York Film Critics Award. He won numerous awards for 1990’s Reversal of Fortune again opposite Glenn Close, including his first and only Oscar to date. His 1990s films include Damage, M. Butterfly, The House of the Spirits, The Lion King (featuring his best known voicework), Die Hard with a Vengeance, Lolita, and The Man in the Iron Mask.

Irons returned to the New York stage in 2003 for the New York City Opera engagement of A Little Night Music. His films during the first decade of the current century include The Merchant of Venice, Being Julia, Kingdom of Heaven, Casanova, and Appaloosa. His portrayal of Lord Dudley opposite Helen Mirren in 2005’s Elizabeth I earned him an Emmy.

In the second decade of the current century, Irons made major impressions in such TV series as The Hollow Crown and The Borgias and on screen in such films as Margin Call, Night Train to Lisbon, The Man Who Knew Infinity, Correspondence, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Their Finest, and Justice League. He received his latest Emmy nomination for 2019’s Watchmen.

Last on the big screen in 2021’s House of Gucci, Jeremy Irons remains of the world’s busiest actors. He currently has Cello in post-production and Frankel in pre-production at the age of 73.

JEREMY IRONS AND OSCAR

  • Reversal of Fortune (1990) – Oscar – Best Actor

ESSENTIAL FILMS

THE MISSION (1986), directed by Roland Joffé

Nominated for 7 Oscars including Best Picture, Director, Cinematography (Chris Menges), and Score (Ennio Morricone), winning for Menges, this beautifully filmed, powerfully acted epic features an award-winning performance by Irons that shockingly was not nominated for Best Actor. He plays the founder and head of the 18th Century Brazilian mission caught up in the politics of the day as the country moves from Spanish to Portuguese rule reinstating slavery. Robert De Niro as a former slave trader turned priest, Ray McAnally as a conflicted Cardinal, Aidan Quinn as DeNiro’s brother, and Liam Neeson in an early role also stand out.

DEAD RINGERS (1988), directed by David Cronenberg

Irons won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of twin gynecologists sharing the same medical practice in this real-life horror classic, their emotional dependency collapsing into mind games, madness, and murder over a woman. Cronenberg won Best Director and Genevieve Bujold won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of the sick doctors’ victim from the Los Angeles Film Critics. Both groups nominated it for Best Picture. Oscar wouldn’t touch it. Generally regarded as Cronenberg’s best film, it’s arguably also Irons’ best work, an uncanny double portrayal that still holds up better than most of its kind.

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE (1990), directed by Barbet Schroeder

Nominated for 3 Oscars, Irons himself was finally nominated and won for his portrayal of British lawyer, consultant, and socialite Claus von Bulow, accused of attempting to murder his wife, Sunny. Convicted of injecting her with an overdose of insulin which put her in a coma and sentenced to thirty years in prison, he hires famed attorney Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver) to conduct his appeal. Irons is fascinating to watch in his did-he-or-didn’t-he portrayal with Silver equally strong as Dershowitz. The whole thing is narrated by Glenn Close in her vegetative state while appearing as her lively self in flashback scenes.

M. BUTTERFLY (1993), directed by David Cronenberg

Irons reunited with his Dead Ringers director for the film version of David Henry Hwang’s Broadway play in which he plays a mild-mannered French diplomat who falls in love with an opera diva singing a selection from Madame Butterfly in the Red China of 1964, not knowing that she is really a man and a spy. John Lone, in the title role, carries on an intimate affair with the diplomat for years before the scandal breaks and he is put on trial for espionage. Warner Bros., feeling the film had little appeal, gave it a limited release that unfairly painted it as a flop. Nevertheless, it remains one of Cronenberg’s favorites among his films.

HOUSE OF GUCCI (2021), directed by Ridley Scott

Scott’s biographical film about the downfall of the powerful family empire behind the fabled fashion house of Gucci was an early Oscar favorite. It started awards season on high with a New York Film Critics Award for best Actress for Lady Gaga as a murderous outsider who marries into the family but when the Oscar nominations were announced, it received just one nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. It was all too silly with a well-deserved Razzie nomination going to Jared Leto for his portrayal of Gaga’s cousin by her marriage to Adam Driver. Irons plays Driver’s father while Al Pacino plays Leto’s even though the two actors hardly look like brothers.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.