Best Actor Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons’ career shows no signs of slowing down. While he’s perhaps best known for his villainous roles – in films like Die Hard with a Vengeance – more recently, he took on the role of Alfred Pennyworth in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and his performance and scenes with Ben Affleck are widely considered some of the best elements of that much-maligned film.
We recently had the opportunity to talk to him about the film and what draws him to villains like Rikkin.
You’ve played a lot of bad guys in movies and you’re excellent at it, from Scar in The Lion King to Simon Gruber in Die Hard 3 to this guy to – many others.
Jeremy Irons: Good guys, too. Alfred Pennyworth. Very, very good guy.
Absolutely. He’s very good. But is being villainous something you’re drawn to or is it just something that you’re so darn good at that people can’t help but want to see you be evil?
Jeremy Irons: I think they’re more interesting, the characters, personally, so maybe I’m slightly drawn to them. Not that I delineate between good and bad, I think – most people just try to do the best that they can in the situation they’re in. But enigma is very interesting in a movie and I think Alan Rikkin in this movie has sort of a slightly enigmatic quality, so does his daughter [played by Marion Cotillard].
So yes, I’m drawn to that. What is good, what is bad? Which the movie asks, you know. Should we be Templars by nature, or should we be Assassins by nature? What are you?
[Long pause] Well, I guess I would say I’m an assassin.
Jeremy Irons: Really?
Well, if I have to choose between a group that would enslave the world and then a group that…maybe would not enslave the world and would fight for free will, yeah.
Assassin’s Creed is one of the world’s biggest video game franchises. Obviously, it was a natural fit for making the leap to a blockbuster film, but what about the project made you want to get involved?
Jeremy Irons: Well, we’ve seen many movies made out of video games, and you say a natural leap, and many movies fall on their faces. So one…would worry about that. But I saw that Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard were involved and they had just made Macbeth – and I thought, you know, they’re serious actors, good actors. [Director] Justin Kurzel, who’d never worked in this genre before but who was sort of emerging as a really interesting filmmaker. I thought, well, this is not going to be run of the mill. We’re in with a chance here.
Now, you never know. And filming this sort of film from an actor’s point of view is really complicated. I mean, less so with me, but I had to imagine a lot of stuff, I had to try and understand what was going to be involved and what time sequences my scenes came out of. So I was very much in the hands of the director. I’d say, “What do you need from me in this scene?”
And I hoped and I went away and I made other films, and then three days ago I watched this. And I saw a movie that took my breath away, really. I didn’t have any whispers of a game movie. It was just this fantastic adventure with great, stimulating, intellectual ideas in it, amazing photography, no CGI that I could see – I mean, there was a little bit, but mostly wonderful stunts, fantastic music. I wanted it to go on.
I had a really great time and I’d taken a ten-year-old with me. And [afterwards] I turned to him and I said [makes thumbs up, thumbs down motion], and he went [makes vigorous thumbs up motion]. Because he couldn’t talk, because he’s ten and they can’t at that age. But the thumbs up. Enormous thumbs up. And I thought, well, if it pleases me, not a gamer, if it pleases the gamers, if it pleases the ten-year-old…I mean, I think almost anybody would enjoy this movie. So I was really pleased that I made that choice, but – it’s always a risk.