Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Top 5 Movie Guide: Jeremy Irons

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, in connection with this weekend's "Beautiful Creatures", we take a look at some other films featuring actor Jeremy Irons. Irons is an English actor who got his start studying at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. After two years of attendance, we went on to star in a variety of musicals and stage plays. He worked primarily out of London until 1984 when he made his way to Broadway. He first starred opposite Glenn Close in "The Real Thing", earning him strong critical praises.


After his work in the production, he transitioned to more mainstream film roles, including breakout work in "Dead Ringers" (1988) and "Reversal of Fortune" (1990), the second of which earned him his only Academy Award to date. And while he's won a bevy of different awards over the years, he's one of only 14 different performers to win the "Triple Crown" of acting: an Academy Award ("Reversal of Fortune" 1990), a Tony ("The Real Thing" 1984), and an Emmy ("The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century" 1996).

An accomplished horseman and avid garner and outdoorsman, Irons has stated in interviews that one of his biggest guilty pleasures entails sifting through dumpsters in search of discarded "treasures". I know that last bit has little to do with his acting career, but who doesn't like to imagine a 65-year-old, Academy Award winning man rummaging through the trash as a hobby?

Anyway, after the break, check out which films from Irons' filmography we detailed as some of our favorites!


Alex Schopp -
I really need to brush up some some of Irons' less popular works. I don't typically go out of my way to catch his films, but I generally like his performances (as much as you can like someone who regularly takes on villainous roles, that is).

     1. Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)

I never tire of watching this movie. It doesn't have that raw grittiness of the first installment, but this might be the most "fun" Die Hard movie to watch. Irons is a perfect villain and is a great counter to John McClane. I've said it before, but I love the puzzles and riddles in this movie; if I had to be involved in a grand terrorist situation like this, I'd hope that my enemy tried to defeat me with riddles.
     2. The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
Pullin' the ol' switch-a-roo! Classic move. This is a pretty fun telling of the Three Musketeers story, and I love the whole plot to overthrow the tyrannous regime. I'm still haunted by the imagery of that iron mask and just how terrible a torture like that must have been.
     3. The Lion King (1994)
This is probably the greatest animated film of our generation, if not all-time. And Irons is one of the best parts about it. I do have to drop this film a few pegs since it is just a voice role, but I would be willing to bet that you won't find a more iconic cartoon voice-over performance than that from Irons as the villain Scar. This is a must-see animated film, and one that still, presumably, holds up pretty well today.
     4. Appaloosa (2008)
While this film hasn't matched the lofty standards that some other modern westerns have climbed to in recent history, this is still a solid film, and Irons again lives up to his reputation as one of the best villainous actors to ever grace the screen. I don't care much for the love triangle in this film, but I'll watch anything that's settled on dirt roads with a couple of guns.
     5. Margin Call (2011)
Not much "happens" in this film, but if you're looking for a technical masterpiece this might be pretty close. This film is so tight and offers sharp performances by so many great actors. Irons doesn't have a large role in the film, but many of the actors appearing in the film don't. Really, the film just makes me want to be in that kind of business. I could make those tough/morally grey calls that so many others struggled with.

Ben Foutch -
Irons is a fantastic dramatic actor. I wonder if he looks back at "Eragon" and "Dungeons & Dragons" and feels satisfied with the paychecks. Money is money...right?

     1. The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

My favorite film involving the Three Musketeers. It may seem somewhat silly at times, but overall it effectively blends the humorous elements with drama, action, and suspense.
     2. Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)
The last good Die Hard film, and arguably the best villain (Irons). Simon says, "STOP ruining a good action franchise!".
     3. Dead Ringers (1988)
Like most things Cronenberg, it's an acquired taste. Irons nails the part(s). I wonder if this is on Blu-ray yet...
     4. Moonlighting (1982)
This is one of those situations where #4 is really #1. It may actually be one of best films of his career, but sometimes that watchability factor knocks it down a notch. It's unfortunate, but that's the nature of a Top 5. Even though it's not on my #1 spot, this should be the one from this list that you walk away with.
     5. The Words (2012)
This is a pretentious film, and it honestly gets under my skin at times. But, there is a lot to like here, especially the performances from Irons and Cooper. I really identified with some of the feelings of Cooper's character - trying to realize a certain level of potential, but constantly being gut punched by my own limitations.

Derek Clem -

     1. The Lion King (1994)

One of the undeniable greats of not only the Disney Renaissance but in all Disney animation history. Jeremy Irons lends his commanding voice to one of the most villainous of all Disney villains. You have to wonder, had his parents not named him Scar would he have been a nice guy?
     2. The Mission (1986)
It's sad to see what destruction can come out of good intentions. I love the loyalty and grace Jeremy Irons' character, Father Gabriel, has for the GuaranĂ­ community and those looking to change their lives. His character's strong sense of duty keeps me holding this movie in high esteem.
     3. Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)
I think it's safe to say he plays the second best Die Hard villain. His unique voice was definitely built for this sort of role.
     4. Dead Ringers (1988)
Irons slips into a David Cronenberg movie just as easily as James Woods does. He's a natural in Cronenberg's venereal aesthetics.
     5. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
This is a movie I don't revisit enough. It has a nice stoney grey pallet making it a perfect watch on a cool breezy day. Also, If you're really into accidental inter-textual relationships, like his character in "The Lion King", Irons also has a scar on his eye in this movie.

Nathan Hinds -
I don't know that there are many actors that I have such a high opinion of where I've seen such a limited amount of their filmography. Maybe it has something to do with the voice? Jeremy Irons has one of the greatest voices in the history of film. If you look back at all of our actor-based lists, you will rarely see animated films show up; but Irons gives one of the most iconic voice-over performances in the history of film and while we normally try to highlight full on acting gigs, I don't think anyone will argue my number one pick...

     1. The Lion King (1994)

In my opinion, this is the greatest animated film of all-time. This is the only animated film that I would also group into the "Epic" category. That is largely based on having such a phenomenal villain, perfectly brought to life by Jeremy Irons. One of the biggest reasons I don't think that animated movies stack up to live-action flicks is that the villains simply don't carry the weight of real actors on screen. This is one of the few exceptions. If you don't have Irons as the voice of Scar, "The Lion King" doesn't have anywhere close to the dramatic impact that it did.
     2. The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
I actually just recently watched this for the first time. I have always enjoyed the tale of The Three Musketeers, and while this is only very loosely based on that story, it is my second favorite film involving the characters. There isn't one actor who really shines more than anyone else, but the entire cast is very balanced.
     3. Margin Call (2011)
This movie doesn't really have a true ending, and normally that would bring it way down for me, but "Margin Call" somehow manages to pull it off. This is another film where there isn't one actor that shines above everyone else, but I don't think there is a single weak link.
     4. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
I don't have a lot to say about the last two movies on my list. For "Kingdom of Heaven" specifically, I think it's a very underrated historical action film. The battle scenes are some of the best that I've seen in this type of film.
     5. Appaloosa (2008)
This makes the list mainly because I haven't seen many of the other more well-known films in Irons' career. Still, I got plenty of enjoyment out of this western. For a genre that isn't visited that often, this is a perfectly acceptable installment.

Tracy Allison -
Sadly, I haven’t seen the majority of Jeremy Irons’ filmography. However, from what I do know already, I've gathered that I’m not a big fan of very many of his movie choices. But, with his sometimes gristly appearance and often gravelly voice, he does well as an antagonist and also playing roles with questionable character.

     1. The Lion King (1994)

I was five when this movie was released; the perfect target audience. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I had never seen a villain of that caliber before then. I will never forget the impact that Scar’s snarling voice had on me as a young child. It’s forever etched on my memory. I didn't know that any creature could be that evil.
     2. Appaloosa (2008)
In quite the departure from his normal fare, we see Jeremy Irons in a Western film. Although, he appears as a villain again, of course. His looks are extremely well suited to this role of a bad, yet cunning cowboy with no regard for the law. This modern Western has a strong cast and more layers than some of the other modern cowboy fare we've seen. He serves as a constant threat to the protagonist in that of Ed Harris.
     3. Margin Call (2011)
In this modern drama, Jeremy Irons was cast as a CEO of a failing Wall Street company. He faces a major moral dilemma in which he wastes no time deciding. He rationalizes his role in putting people out of business and selling worthless shares to better his own position. This film dealt a lot with moral grey areas and Irons’ subtle cajoling that he used to get his executives to do his way was very slimy in an unsuspecting way.
     4. Die Hard: With A Vengeance (1995)
These movies are as popular as ever and you can find Jeremy Irons as the menacing villain in this third installment of the franchise. He adds to the legacy that Alan Rickman started in the first Die Hard movie. This is a fun, 90’s action movie and the fact that most of Jeremy Irons’ and Bruce Willis’ interactions happen over the phone is easily improved by Irons’ striking voice.
     5. Lolita (1997)
In this retelling of the classic novel by the same name, Jeremy Irons plays the lovelorn man that falls for the inappropriately young Lolita. He first tries to hide the lust that he has for her, but it’s evident on his face and with his body language. It’s hard to say that I like this disturbing story, but it’s based on a classic novel and Irons is good as the man so crazed with lust that he is led into a troubled, downward spiral.

Another week featuring a nice array of titles. Jeremy Irons doesn't headline many films, so filling out this list proved to be a slightly more challenging task than many of our other subjects. Still, 11 different films were represented, providing a nice window into Irons' career.

No film hit on all five lists this week, but two found their way onto four: "The Lion King" and "Die Hard: With a Vengeance". "The Lion King" deserves top recognition this week, as it also grabbed three of the five first-place votes (Die Hard, meanwhile, managed one). This may be the only time where you'll see so much respect for an animated film on an actor's list. Yes, we've seen them pop up from time to time in the past, but never in such an accomplished fashion. For Irons only providing voice work in the film, it just goes to show the impact that aspect can have on a film and a character. "Die Hard: With a Vengeance", is the third film of the Die Hard franchise, and again, it's Irons' voice that makes a substantial contribution to the villainous role. Had Irons' iconic voice not lent itself to the many telephone conversations in the film, that villain probably wouldn't have been nearly as effective.

After those two, three different films appeared on three lists: "The Man in the Iron Mask", "Margin Call", and "Appaloosa". Quite the variety of titles here, but a broad array to satisfy most movie fans. "Dead Ringers" and "Kingdom of Heaven" rounded out these picks, each earning placement on two lists.

As always, we hope that each of these selections helps you to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films that Jeremy Irons has provided over the years, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!