You Wouldn’t Last Five Minutes Inside Jeremy Irons's Head

Jeremy Irons' mind is full of curious views on gay marriage, abortion and women, but his exterior is pure thespian gravitas, and that is confusing.
April 8, 2016, 8:00am

Jeremy Irons as the Architect in High Rise

Jeremy Irons is currently in loads of movies. He's in Batman vs. Superman, High Rise, and The Man Who Knew Infinity. As a result of being in loads of movies he's also doing loads of interviews, and as a result of these interviews we are all getting a troubling re-up on exactly what goes on inside Jeremy Irons's head.

Mate, you wouldn't last five minutes inside Jeremy Irons's head.

When I imagine what it's like inside Jeremy Irons's head, I sort of imagine an internal struggle between a Daily Express columnist, an Oxbridge debate team captain, and a Catholic priest.


Now there's nothing especially interesting about an old white dude saying problematic stuff in the press. It's Michael Caine, it's David Starkey, it's a flabbergasted Richard Dawkins tweeting himself into a vortex of self-righteousness. Yet Jeremy Irons has developed a knack for taking the inappropriate in surreal new directions. Jeremy Irons—esteemed actor and vernacular acrobat. A man with opinions that aren't just outside of your safe space, they are outside of outer space.

Let's firstly consider peak Jeremy Irons, which was when Jeremy Irons told a slightly confused Australian man his opinions on gay marriage. It's in this video that Jeremy Irons comes out with his best Jeremy Ironsism: "Could a father not marry his son?" Now, that's a strange question to ask; coming from anyone, that's a very strange question to ask.

Only, the trouble with Jeremy Irons saying stuff is that his voice makes whatever he says sound really important. As a result—when Jeremy Irons says "could a father not marry his son?"—you sort of, for a second think, Hey, yeah, maybe that's what will happen. Maybe if gay marriage is legalized fathers and sons will start marrying each other to avoid tax. Yet, as he leans back in his chair, vocal chords rippling like strips of leather in his hollow mahogany chest, and calmly suggests the "lawyers are going to have a field day," as he pushes threads of silver hair back across his scalp, scowls into the distance, and tells you how much he loves his dog, things become clear: Jeremy Irons is a really verbose version of Jim Davidson.


Check out his stance on women. In an interview with the Radio Times, he described feeling a woman up at work a form of "friendly communication," adding that, "If a man puts his hand on a woman's bottom, any woman worth her salt can deal with it." That is an awful thing to say, but when Jeremy Irons says it, it almost comes off more like a villainous headteacher, or perhaps the caddish father of the protagonist's love interest. You can practically see him, one arm leaning on a mantelpiece, the other swilling a whiskey glass, "come come," he says, "any woman worth her salt can deal with it."

The trouble is, when your granddad or uncle Steve or your old PE teacher or Jim Davidson come out with this garbage, they say it with cold baked beans dribbling down their chins, with The One Show murmuring in the background, fiddling with a hedge-trimmer. They're not equipped like Jeremy Irons is. They're not ready with phrases like "tremendous mental attack" when explaining why he thinks it's right for the Catholic church to call abortion a sin, "because sin is actions that harm us. Lying harms us. Abortion harms a woman." Put simply, your dad wasn't trained at the Old Vic. Your uncle Steve hasn't got a silk scarf draped lazily around his shoulders.

Jeremy Irons as Alfred in Batman vs Superman

When I imagine the inside of Jeremy Irons's head, really imagine it, this is what I end up with. A confused old bloke who knows he can make everything he says sound really impressive. I imagine him noticing lots of new kebab shops sprouting up in his local area, and gently saying to his wife, "I worry that we are hastening our seemingly inherent tendency to defile our native identity." I imagine him in the back of a taxi, spotting a young woman in a short skirt on her way to a nightclub, only to tell his taxi driver, "When we give too much of ourselves visually, we malnourish the sentience of those around us." I imagine him describing his penis as his "staff".

In his most recent interview, with the Guardian, Jeremy Irons claimed he communicates with inanimate objects. He told his interviewer that they "have a spirit" and an energy that never dies. Apparently, sometimes that energy is evil—as in a "spooky" African mask he has—but mostly it's positive like the Buddha statue he got in Burma. Jeremy Irons believes that the older an object is, "the more energy it has absorbed." Funnily enough, this is sort of the myth at the core of the Jeremy Irons experience. The idea that because he is old, stately, and sounds like a Muppet character operated by Shakespeare, he is somehow an authority.

Ultimately though, Jeremy Irons is just another old man trying to recalibrate dated opinions into acceptable jargon for the 21st century, hoping to get away with it via velvet tones and stately gestures. You can imagine his counter-argument already. He'll say something about being a raconteur, a vagabond, that he comes from a time before you had to pussyfoot around everything. He just wants to live his life free from the constraints of political acceptability; reading Byron to a different lover every morning, sharing snuff with the gentry, and communicating with the rugged cut of the land.

Maybe that's who he is.

Maybe, or maybe he's just proof that sounding clever doesn't necessarily mean you are.

Follow Angus onTwitter.