For Jeremy Irons, playing Adrian Veidt in HBO’s “Watchmen” is a perfect fit considering his fondness for characters with an enigmatic air. In the series, we see Adrian isolated at a manor with clone servants as his only companion, many decades after his fateful decision to transport a giant creature to New York in an attempt to get the world’s nations to stop fighting with each other and face this existential threat together. Even as someone who had no previous attachment to the “Watchmen” graphic novel, which served as inspiration for the HBO drama, Irons was spellbound reading the scripts. “It gives me extra life playing these strange characters,” Irons says in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby. “It was a great attraction when I read most of my script to discover how bizarre, how covered, how witty, how urbane this man was.” Watch the exclusive video interview with Irons above.
Despite living in the kind of idyllic countryside you would find in “Downton Abbey,” Adrian finds himself bored and frustrated, trying to escape what has essentially become a prison. Details on why he’s there and why he wants to escape continue to unravel as “Watchmen” carries onward, but Irons compares his character to that of a “retired president,” detached from society and the power they once held. While there is still an element to Adrian that enjoys the isolation, being with his own thoughts and ideas, he is not exactly enriched on an emotional level, however many servants surround him. “A lot of people envy the rich and I’ve always wondered how enviable that position is, really,” muses Irons. “You have a lot, but what about the heart? What about the soul? I think that’s where Adrian feels a lack.”
Irons was particularly drawn in by “Watchmen” series creator Damon Lindelof and his eager vision for telling this sequel story of sorts. “Enthusiasm in our business is not always 100 percent,” Irons notes, “and when you find somebody who really wants to tell a story, who is so enthused about how one could continue such an iconic graphic novel as ‘Watchmen’ and make it relevant, I found this very attractive.” So attractive, in fact, that it brought him back to television for the first time since “The Borgias” six years ago. While Irons has straddled the line between acting in film, television and theater throughout his storied career, he finds the dramatic potential of TV more alluring than ever before. “I think some of the best work is being made for television now,” he states. “The business is really changing. That, for me, is why there was really no argument when ‘Watchmen’ was suggested.”
It has been almost 30 years since Irons won his Academy Award for playing another mysterious figure, Claus von Bulow, in “Reversal of Fortune.” He notes that such milestone moments are “great for your self-esteem,” though he is unsure of how much his career truly changed in the aftermath. One trend he did observe is how many “terrible” scripts he was sent shortly after his win. “They thought, ‘If we get an Oscar winner on board, we might get the picture made.’ Of course, they were all terrible scripts, ’cause that’s why they weren’t made.” He admits that as he ages, he is becoming “harder to cast” in Hollywood but he is always on the lookout for a project that truly sparkles, like “Watchmen.” “It gets a little quieter but you’re still watching for that movie, that script, that really excites you,” Irons admits. “If it happens a little less than it used to, well that’s quite nice because there are even more things I like doing apart from film than there were when I was in my 30s.”
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