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Oscar-winning father worries about acting son

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LOS ANGELES -- More than 30 years ago, Jeremy Irons had a brush with fan fixation as Charles Ryder in the TV miniseries Brideshead Revisited.

But he's quick to clarify that the "groupie adulation" he received doesn't compare to the worldwide frenzy that greets Twilight's Robert Pattinson now. Not much does.

"Robert Pattinson has a life that just isn't worth living," said Irons, relaxing at a Beverly Hills hotel suite recently.

The 64-year-old wasn't sniping at Pattinson specifically but lamenting over his lack of privacy after vaulting to fame as the vampire Edward in the incredibly popular fantasy film series.

The veteran actor offered the assessment for a few reasons.

For one thing, Irons worries about his 27-year-old son, Maximilian, who is a performer trying to become an actor, not a celebrity, after co-starring in 2011's Red Riding Hood with Amanda Seyfried.

The Oscar-winning father was also motivated to provide his considered opinion on the subject of 21st-century popularity because he happens to be featured in a movie based on a Twilight-inspired series of young adult fantasy novels.

Irons plays Uncle Macon Ravenwood in the film version of Beautiful Creatures, which opened in theatres Feb. 14.

That's the uncle to Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) who is about to become either a good or bad witch when she turns 16 in a small South Carolina village. Things get complicated when a local mortal Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) starts falling for her just as Lena's evil witch mother Sarafine (Emma Thompson) and childhood friend Ridley (Emmy Rossum) show up.

Fancy special effects abound, but Irons took his responsibilities seriously. In fact, he was encouraged by the movie's writer-director Richard LaGravenese to shape his character the way he saw fit.

"Richard (LaGravenese) called me and said he was making this film and he wanted to do it with Emma Thompson and me," recalled Irons. "It's certainly not what I normally do, but he seemed to be up for it and I was free."

Before he arrived on the set in New Orleans, he worked with a voice coach to perfect a southern accent with a slight adjustment. "I wanted to do something old-fashioned, something that was slightly out of time."

During the shoot, LaGravenese said that he welcomed suggestions, especially from the acclaimed veterans Thompson and Irons. "Why wouldn't I?" said the director.

The actors didn't hesitate to get involved in re-shaping their dialogue and their characters.

"It was a lot of fun," said Irons. "Richard wanted us to look at our scenes and rewrite them when it was necessary and rework them, so we did."

It's the sort of multi-talented creative instincts that arrive after more than 40 years in the business on stage, TV and in the movies, most notably for Irons when he picked up a 1992 best actor Oscar for his Reversal of Fortune role.

Long before the Academy Award breakout, Irons was a journeyman actor honing his skills in productions on London stages.

"At my son's age, I had been working in theatre for a long time, but it's different from my day," Irons said. "Now there isn't that amount of theatre for young actors, but there are very good cable television shows and movies. And if you are young, good looking and can act, you get offered jobs."

He has faith his son will find his way. "I am not offering much advice to him because he's in a different ball game than I was at his age."

In the meantime, Irons seems to be staying busy.

He's the co-headliner in Bille August's Night Train to Lisbon, which recently had its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

"It's a philosophical tale, a love story, a beautiful piece," said Irons. "It's not a big picture. It's a picture for the discerning few."

He's also a co-producer and on-camera guide in the documentary Trashed, which examines "how we make too much garbage and what we have to do about it."

And then what?

"Maybe back to The Borgias," said Irons, who plays the scheming Rodrigo Borgia in the acclaimed TV show profiling the notorious Borgia family of 15th-century Italy.

"There's supposed to be another (season) of The Borgias. I would come back but that will be the last one, if we go again."

Other than that, he's considering his options but will continue to do so in the somewhat secluded fashion of an artist who grew up in the 20th century without Facebook, Twitter or any other social media communicators.

"I don't have time," said Irons with a slight smirk. "Well, it seems that maybe I should have time, but I'm just not interested.

"I'd rather read a book. I'd rather talk to people around a table. I'd rather walk the dog."

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 25, 2013 D5

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