- Jeremy John Irons
September 19, 1948 (age 72)
- Julie Hallam
- Barbara Anne Brereton Brymer Sharpe, Paul Dugan Irons
Jeremy John Irons (born 19 September 1948) is an English actor. After receiving classical training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Irons began his acting career on stage in 1969, and has since appeared in many London theatre productions including The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, Godspell, Richard II and Embers. In 1984, he made his Broadway debut in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing and received a Tony Award for Best Actor.
Irons' first major film role came in the 1981 romantic drama The French Lieutenant's Woman, for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor. After starring in such film dramas as Moonlighting (1982), Betrayal (1983) and The Mission (1986), he gained critical acclaim for portraying twin gynaecologists in David Cronenberg's psychological thriller Dead Ringers (1988). In 1990, Irons played accused murderer Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune, and took home multiple awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Other notable films have included Steven Soderbergh's mystery thriller Kafka (1991), the period drama The House of the Spirits (1993), the romantic drama M. Butterfly (1993), the voice of Scar in the Disney animated musical adventure film The Lion King (1994), the action film Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), the drama Lolita (1997), the adventure film The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), the romantic drama The Merchant of Venice (2004), the drama Being Julia (2004), the epic historical drama Kingdom of Heaven (2005), the fantasy-adventure Eragon (2006), the Western Appaloosa (2008), and the indie drama Margin Call (2011).
Irons has also made several notable appearances on TV. He earned his first Golden Globe Award nomination for his breakout role in the ITV series Brideshead Revisited (1981). In 2005, Irons starred opposite Helen Mirren in the historical miniseries Elizabeth I, for which he received a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor. From 2011 to 2013 he starred as Pope Alexander VI in the Showtime historical series The Borgias. He is one of the few actors who won the "Triple Crown of Acting", winning an Academy Award (for film), an Emmy Award (television) and a Tony Award (for theater). In October 2011, he was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Irons was born in Cowes, Isle of Wight, the son of Barbara Anne Brereton Brymer (née Sharpe; 1914–1999), a housewife, and Paul Dugan Irons (1913–1983), an accountant. His Dundee-born, paternal great-great-grandfather was a Metropolitan Policemen who was sacked for drunkenness, and later a Chartist; one of his mother's ancestors was from County Cork, Ireland, where Irons lives as of at least February 2011. Irons has a brother, Christopher (born 1943), and a sister, Felicity Anne (born 1944).
Irons was educated at the independent Sherborne School in Dorset, (c. 1962–66). He was the drummer and harmonica player (including renditions of "Stairway to Heaven" and Moon River on harmonica) in a four-man school band called the Four Pillars of Wisdom. They performed, in a classroom normally used as a physics lab, for the entertainment of boys compulsorily exiled from their houses for two hours on Sunday afternoons. (Explanation: During these two hours, boys were not allowed in their halls of residence—a rule presumably meant to encourage exercise and/or discourage idleness). He was also known within Abbey House as half of a comic duo performing skits on Halloween and at end-of-term house suppers.
Irons trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and later became president of its fundraising appeal. He performed a number of plays, and busked on the streets of Bristol, before appearing on the London stage as John the Baptist and Judas opposite David Essex in Godspell, which opened at the Roundhouse on 17 November 1971 before transferring to Wyndham's Theatre playing a total of 1,128 performances.
He made several appearances on British television, including the children's television series Play Away and as Franz Liszt in the BBC 1974 series Notorious Woman. More significantly he starred in the 13-part adaptation of H.E. Bates' novel Love for Lydia for London Weekend Television (1977), and attracted attention for his key role as the pipe-smoking German student, a romantic pairing with Judi Dench in Harold Pinter's screenplay adaptation of Aidan Higgins' novel Langrishe, Go Down for BBC television (1978).
The role which brought him fame was that of Charles Ryder in the television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (1981). Brideshead reunited him with Anthony Andrews, with whom he had appeared in The Pallisers seven years earlier. In the same year he starred in the film The French Lieutenant's Woman opposite Meryl Streep.
Almost as a 'lap of honour' after these major successes, in 1982 he played the leading role of an exiled Polish building contractor, working in the Twickenham area of South West London, in Jerzy Skolimowski's independent film Moonlighting, widely seen on television, a performance which extended his acting range.
Irons made his film debut in Nijinsky in 1980. He appeared sporadically in films during the 1980s, including the Cannes Palme d'Or winner The Mission in 1986, and in the dual role of twin gynecologists in David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers in 1988. Other films include Danny the Champion of the World (1989), Reversal of Fortune (1990), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, Kafka (1991), Damage (1993), M. Butterfly (1993), The House of the Spirits (1993) appearing again with Glenn Close and Meryl Streep, the voice of Scar in The Lion King (1994), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) co-starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty (1996), the 1997 remake of Lolita, and as the musketeer Aramis opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1998 film version of The Man in the Iron Mask.
Irons married Julie Hallam in 1969 and subsequently divorced. He married Irish actress Sinéad Cusack on 28 March 1978. They have two sons, Samuel "Sam" Irons (b. 1978), who works as a photographer, and Maximilian "Max" Irons (b. 1985), also an actor. Both of Irons's sons have appeared in films with their father – Sam as the eponymous hero in Danny, Champion of the World and Max in Being Julia. Irons' wife and children are Catholic; Irons has also been described as a practising Catholic. But of himself, he has stated, "I don't go to church much because I don't like belonging to a club, and I don't go to confession or anything like that, I don't believe in it. But I try to be aware of where I fail and I occasionally go to services. I would hate to be a person who didn't have a spiritual side because there's nothing to nourish you in life apart from retail therapy."