A report on actor Jeremy Iron’s recent appearance at BAFTA’s “Life in Pictures” series is posted on IndieWire. See also earlier post. In reviewing his career, Irons suggests that his selection as Charles Ryder in Granada’s 1981 TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, coinciding with his role in the film version of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, was an important early career break:
“They wanted me to play Sebastian Flyte, but he was very similar to a role I’d just played, a man who loved his mother too much, drank too much and fell off a bridge in Episode 8. And I thought, ‘No I want to keep going to the end.’ So I wanted to play Charles Ryder. Ryder is a sort of very internalized Englishman, not able to show a lot. I thought I knew that man. It needed an actor who was not going to perform, but an actor who was. He had to be like a host at a good party, just getting people together and enjoying them, but not playing too much on the front foot.”
“I made [The French Lieutenant’s Woman] in the middle of ‘Brideshead,’ which of course made the other actors livid, because they had to wait for me for four months while I was doing my thing. But I was 30. I knew that if I passed that up, by being a gentleman, it would have a huge effect on my career. That kind of chance doesn’t come along very often…I wanted to get enough fame that people would come and sit on their bottoms in the West End to see me do a play. But I never thought I would become a film actor, because in those days all the successful film actors were from the North. You know, Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay. And I was sort of effete for all that. Thankfully ‘Brideshead’ swung the pendulum a bit and suddenly people wanted someone who could wear a suit.”
An audio recording of the complete program in which Irons discusses his career with Danny Leigh is reproduced on BAFTA’s website.
An internet entertainment site called The List has meanwhile named the 1981 Brideshead adaptation as the top TV period drama series:
Jeremy Irons reminisces about the time he spent at stately home Brideshead with the Flyte family. A grand tale of dysfunctional family life set between 1922 and 1944 based on Evelyn Waugh’s novel. The magnificent cast also includes Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud.