Jeremy Irons had a ball playing the the Caster Macon in Beautiful Creatures, who is charged with protecting his niece Lena (Alice Englert). Lena is approaching her sixteenth birthday and in their witchy world, that means she will be "claimed" by either the dark or light side of the magical world. "I thought there was a certain wit and panache about him and a certain enigma, which was interesting," Irons said.
Based on the blockbuster-selling books by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures follows Lena as she moves back to her family's hometown. She meets a book crazy teen named Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) and sparks fly. The only thing is, Macon believes, her relationship with this "boy" could deeply threaten her world.
Irons' role as Macon is just the latest in a long line of outstanding work. He won an Oscar for Best Actor for his turn in Reversal of Fortune and has appeared in dozens of other films that have cemented his status as one of the best working today. When he took the part of Macon, director Richard LaGravenese actually didn't want him turning to the bestselling books for inspiration.
"I was encouraged not to read the books," Irons said. Which was fine since the actor came onto the movie late in the process and it was all he could do to wrap his head around the character on the page of his director's script.
"So I sort of did as I was told really. I wore mostly what I was given to wear, and spoke as I was asked to speak, and tried to create what was necessary. I had to say to Richard, "Tell me about him. What does he need to be for the story? How does he need to be?" And I'm trying to create the character that way. It's not the way I normally do it, but there was just no time."
One of his favorite scenes to film is a pivotal scene in a church where he and Emma Thompson go toe-to-toe. "I had a bit of fun with it. I broke the set up," Irons said and laughed. Thompson's character is wearing the most ridiculous hat in the scene and the actor scores huge laughs from the audience when he disses her hat. But, on this particular day, Thompson was not in the shot and Irons got to make fun of another of Thompson's garments.
"She was standing beside the camera after doing her lines… and I had that line about her hat. I just put that in, but she changed out of her high heels and was wearing fluffy slippers. But, I threw in a line -- because she didn’t have on that hat anymore -- about her slippers! The nice thing about working with someone like Emma is you get back what you give."
With Irons' legendary status in the film world, it could be a daunting task for a young actor to appear opposite him, particularly if that actor has to challenge him onscreen -- which both Ehrenreich and Englert have to do repeatedly in the Beautiful Creatures trailer. The veteran knows exactly how to put his young co-stars at ease.
“I play the fool,” Irons said and smiled. After decades of working the craft, he keenly knows how it feels to perform. In fact, he is still just as unsure about his performance as the neophyte actor he was decades ago.
“We're all feeling insecure. We're all feeling we don't know how to do it. It's struggling to find the truth of the moment -- the truth of the character that tried to make a scene work. And so you work with each other completely as equals and I think actors very soon feel that, even young actors," Irons admitted.
"They see that you're a technician. You're an actor. You're a craftsman, and you might be older, you might be a little bit more experienced, but that doesn't always help."
Speaking of years of work, we wondered what movies in his esteemed career resonated most with him. "I’m very happy with about 80-percent of what I’ve been a part of. The other 20-percent I won’t mention because I’d like them to disappear," Irons said and laughed. "At the time, I must have done them for a reason!"
When it comes to films he wishes more people had seen, he takes no time in answering. "House of the Spirits, now, there’s a film which maybe didn’t get seen as widely as it should have. I saw it again and started watching it and I was immediately drawn into it. It’s a wonderful little movie," Irons said.
"And it was made so long ago, that now I can see it very clearly. As an actor, it gave me a chance to play a man through the age of 80 -- that is wonderful to play an arc of a life. It’s great to see how you change."