<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">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Somerset Life today click here

Interview: Jeremy Irons, from Batman to Bath

PUBLISHED: 15:29 19 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:54 19 June 2017

Jeremy is the first Bath Spa University chancellor

Jeremy is the first Bath Spa University chancellor

Chris Wakefield

Bernard Bale chats to Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons, who has just taken on an important Somerset role

From Batman’s butler to Bath Spa University’s first Chancellor – what a busy time it’s been for Jeremy Irons who was clearly delighted to be back in Somerset when he was inaugurated in November.

“I am just thrilled to be here,” he says. “Bath holds many wonderful memories for me as I have appeared at Bath Royal Theatre in the past and always enjoy visiting this wonderful county.

“I was deeply honoured to be asked to become Bath Spa’s Chancellor and had no hesitation in accepting, especially since the university had never had a chancellor before. Although it’s something of a figurehead role, I intend to be as hands-on as possible. I hope, that as Chancellor for whatever period I am still welcome, we can mark up some achievements. I hope we can share debate on issues that matter from environment to politics to humanity. I look forward to that kind of dialogue and playing a small part in Bath Spa university life. I hope it will be an enjoyable and beneficial journey all of us.

“There may be those students who want to pursue a career in the arts and they could not be in a better place. I look forward to discussing this when I’m able to do some kind of talk or Masterclass at the University. I am happy to talk about my own experiences, and the role of the Arts in our lives. I hope this will appeal to all students not just those interested in the arts and not just those from Britain. I look forward to sharing insights into the relevance of the arts in the lives for which our students are preparing.”

You never know quite what to expect from Jeremy Irons. One moment he is starring in a Hollywood blockbuster and the next moment he is giving a reading of letters from prison inmates to raise funds for charity. Perhaps that is the secret of his success, a suggestion which has him shrugging his shoulders.

“I’m an actor, I’m not supposed to take life too seriously so I do not look for deep reasons why some things work and others don’t,” he says. “I spend my time pretending to be other people. That’s a crazy way to lead your life – but a very nice way. It allows you to opt in and out of real life as you please.”

In so many ways, Jeremy Irons seems to be the quintessential actor who personifies an English gentleman and yet has often been cast as a bounder and a villain.

“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 harder to be nasty,” says Jeremy. He was clearly sending himself up.

His is an amazing story of how the boy born on the Isle of Wight grew up to become a thrilling-yet-threatening heart-throb.

“Someone once told me that if I had been born 30 years earlier I would have been a matinée idol. I think that was meant to be a compliment, I hope it was. I always wanted to be an actor but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I got involved in drama productions at school. It was probably my best subject. I was one of those who worked at what was interesting and shirked what wasn’t.”

Jeremy took advice and 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 of being something of a loose cannon.

“I’m not really off-the-wall,” he assures. “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 think that is my fault. I think that some people have an odd way of viewing life and themselves, that’s all.”

Jeremy is one of the few members of an unofficial club in that he has done the actor’s grand slam of an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy, as well as a Golden Globe.

“I never know what to say when one of these things is handed to me,” he admits. “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. It was the same at the inauguration – I was worried about becoming tongue-tied.”

The awards he has received 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, Jeremy Irons has at times set female pulses racing with his sheer sensuality 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 really like that. A good production will draw on the emotions of the audience so if that audience doesn’t feel anything then 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 likes nothing better than spending time at home in Ireland with his wife, actress Sinead Cusack, to whom Jeremy has been married since 1978.

“I am a family man,” he reveals. “Being in the acting profession means that you are apart for some stretches of time but you learn to cope with that and there are fantastic ways of communicating in this modern age. Our marriage has stood the test of time, we are survivors.”

Jeremy is not often seen without his beloved dogs but make no mistake, he is also something of a daredevil. He loves to ski, enjoys riding motorbikes faster than he should and also has a reputation as a fine horseman.

“I like to live life a little,” he says. “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 think I work hard to perform as well as I can.”

Jeremy 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.”

Early in his career Jeremy Irons played John the Baptist alongside David Essex in the West End musical Godspell and he has appeared in other films which have been both acclaimed and criticised for pulling at some religious strings.

“There is nothing like raising the passions,” he laughs. “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. The reason he was reading aloud letters from inmates in Canada was 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 says. “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.”

There is no pretence about his approach to becoming Chancellor of Bath Spa University.

“I have always believed that education should be joined up and the various disciplines should not be treated as alien to each other. I believe the unity of the various elements of education makes for more rounded individuals. At Bath Spa I have seen that there is a real effort to make this happen. When I was invited to be Chancellor, it opened up the possibility of being involved in a quite new area.

“I never went to University, and have not spent much time in the world of education. It is a new adventure for me and I am already enjoying it immensely.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

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

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Somerset Life 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 Somerset Life 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 Somerset Life 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 Out & About

Fri, 15:37

Often overlooked in favour of its more illustrious neighbours, Bridgwater has a wealth of riches too, just waiting to be discovered, says Laurence Mcjannet

Read more
Wed, 16:58

It might still be winter but romance is in the air, as it often is in February. Flowers and chocolates and expressions of love become oh, so important and the setting has to be perfect too, so Bernard Bale takes us on a tour of Somerset’s beautiful and romantic surroundings

Read more
Tue, 12:07

We look ahead to an exciting year in the city

Read more
Tue, 12:03

Somerset is home to some of the country’s most breathtaking coastlines, and the landscape is a simply stunning place to enjoy a ramble. We pick seven stretches of coastline ideal for a walk (and the charming cafes to stop off at on the way)

Read more
Monday, February 5, 2018

Chris Gladstone discovers some fascinating tales from across the ages

Read more
Friday, January 26, 2018

Rich in history and legend, National Trust’s Glastonbury Tor is a pleasure to trek up and admire St Michael’s Tower. We choose 12 pictures that will make you want to visit Somerset’s iconic monument immediately

Read more
Friday, January 19, 2018

Bursting with flora and fauna and pretty in bloom throughout the year, Charles Williams picks the best of Somerset’s glorious open spaces to explore

Read more
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

This month Andrea Cowan visits Blagdon - think a fishing lake, community mosaic, dolls house shop and annual wassail

Read more
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

We scroll through the alphabet and reveal 26 reasons why Somerset is such a wonderful place to visit and for residents to call their home

Read more
Friday, January 5, 2018

Still hosting lively markets every week, there are many delightful market towns to put on a list of places to visit in Somerset. We recommend starting with these 8!

Read more
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

From playtime and pastimes, to ephemeral and esoteric, Simone Stanbrook-Byrne looks at 30 reasons why we love being at the seaside in Somerset

Read more
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Somerset is home to some of the UK’s most breathtaking coastline, and the landscape is a simply stunning place to enjoy a ramble. We pick six spots ideal for a walk embracing the county’s beautiful beaches

Read more
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Learn more about Jane Austen and her books by retracing her steps and discovering her favourite Bath haunts

Read more
Thursday, December 14, 2017

Memories of childhood holidays flood back when Stephen Roberts takes a walk down the beautiful piers of Somerset loved by many

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

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
subscription ad

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Somerset's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search