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Red Riding Hood - Max Irons interview

Red Riding Hood

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MAX Irons, the son of actor Jeremy Irons, talks about following in the family way and getting to work alongside Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried in Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood.

He also discusses his career and what may lie ahead, as well as his passion for theatre and why Seyfried’s sense of humour forced him to wear a peculiar badge at the London junket.

Q. Was it always obvious that you wanted to become an actor because ‘it runs in the family’?
Max Irons: Well, I suppose it does run in the family but no, not at all. I think I was about 16 when I first figured I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a fighter pilot before that, but then I thought I don’t want to kill people so that ruled that out. But I had dyslexia as a kid so when I used to audition for plays they’d always say get up stage and read this and act. But I couldn’t do that. So, it took me a while to just say: “Listen, give me the piece and I’ll go away and learn it and then I’ll come back.” So, I started doing that and then realised it was as much fun as you could have, so yeah.

Q. Your father recently took some time off to build something… Is that something that also influences you when you choose your profession – the fact that even your father obviously has some reservations about the profession?
Max Irons: In West Cork, Ireland, yes… But I think acting as a profession does have certain strains. You spend a lot of time away from your family and it is kind of an all-consuming profession. There’s the cool work, which is acting, but then there’s stuff like press and various things you have to do continually and I think he was aged about 48 at the time, so felt the urge to just take a couple of years out and build something.

Q. Did he encourage you to act? Or give you any tips?
Max Irons: No, it’s a bit like when your parents give you driving lessons… you know they’re right but you want to tell them to ‘shut up’. But he warns me about the professional aspect to the business… the more business side of things.

Q. Did you have to audition for this?
Max Irons: I did. It was five auditions – three in London and then two days of screen tests… horrible screen tests. It was a bit like X Factor. In England, people tend to be really good about auditions… you know, you sit in a room and go ‘good luck’. People are very earnest about it. But then in LA I found myself in a room with about 20 muscular, white teethed actors who all are kind of saying “I’m going to kill it”, which is very bizarre. So, you just have to deal with that. And we had chemistry tests, so you had to pair up with every single actor there, which was hard work.

Q. Are you quite competitive in that environment?
Max Irons: I don’t think I’ve got enough energy to be competitive! Most of my energy is just devoted to me being nervous and trying to deal with the situation.

Q. Catherine [Hardwicke] seems to have quite an unusual way of testing chemistry…
Max Irons: How do you mean?

Q. The kissing on her bed…
Max Irons: Well, that never happened to me, unfortunately.

Red Riding Hood

Q. Did you know about that beforehand?
Max Irons: No, thank Christ! It was quite awkward when I was in London for the screen test becauseI didn’t know Amanda [Seyfried] was coming. So, in walked Amanda Seyfried who, at the time, was on the side of every single bus because she was out in two movies. And I then had to snog her in the scene, and it’s terrifying when you have to do that because most of your life you’ve been concerned about your kissing technique just from her perspective. But suddenly you become concerned about what everybody else sees and what the camera is seeing when it’s zoomed in on your lips. It’s terrifying and pretty uncomfortable.

Q. You mention nerves, so what was it like appearing alongside someone like Gary Oldman on that first day on set?
Max Irons: Well, Gary is amazing and he’s also English, which was very nice because instantly you have a little connection. But he walked onto set on the first day and we were all kind of: “Oh Gary Oldman’s coming!” But he came on set in his big purple thing and he was walking around the sound stage just singing his lines and roaring his lines at the top of his voice despite the fact there were 200 cast and crew around. He was just doing his own thing. So, you just thought: “OK, that guy is just playing… he’s having fun.” So, to work with him, who is prepared to do that and not be worried about making a fool out of himself, is exciting.

Q. And what was Catherine like as a director?
Max Irons: She’s great. I mean, she’s a bit crazy really but that’s why we love her. She’s like a kid in a schoolyard who has a great idea for a game and runs into the circle of children and explains the rules of the game with the right amount of energy and passion that makes you all want to go ahead and do it. So, that’s just what you need for a movie involving a werewolf.

Q. What do you think is the lesson of this story?
Max Irons: Well, for me it’s the paranoia that Gary Oldman’s character introduces to the village – that if you have a closely knit society, then if a little bit of fear is injected into it you can watch a place tear itself apart – just like The Crucible. And I think that’s relevant to the world we live in. So, that’s the message I took away from it – and follow your love, I suppose.

Q. When you took on the role were you ready to face the possibility of becoming a heart-throb? Did you know there’s now a Camp Peter and Camp Henry split of fans [a la Twilight]…
Max Irons: I’d heard about this! It hasn’t changed my life so far yet. I can live a fairly ordinary life. I think if you start being too concerned about that, which is consequential of the actual work we do, it’ll mess you up – because it’s not the work, it’s just a consequence of it. So, keep your eye on what’s important and try and dismiss what’s not. But it’s very nice to have people like what you do.

Q. I gather Amanda has quite a playful sense of humour on the set?
Max Irons: Yeah, I think it’s too X-rated to repeat! I mean, she’s given me a badge I can show you, which she’s insisted that I wear in this interview [says I Love C**k]. I think that’s an appropriate example.

Red Riding Hood

Q. How is working with CGI?
Max Irons: It’s very bizarre but quite easy at the same time. You have to go to a child-like place. You know, when you’re a kid you enter games with cowboys and Indians and you’ve got massive machine guns when, in fact, all you have is a stick… but as you get older, you kind of shut that part down of you. But you just have to re-engage it and pretend you’re face to face with a massive wolf!

Q. Did you know what it looked like?
Max Irons: No, I didn’t. We knew the size of it. Catherine Hardwicke played the wolf one day, which was very bizarre and quite hard to take seriously. But then this Canadian guy had a wolf costume, and of course we also had the tennis ball on a stick. So, it’s just imagination.

Q. You mention small communities… so how did you grow up?
Max Irons:* I was born in London but then I spent the first five or six years down in Oxfordshire in the countryside, and then I went to boarding school in Oxford and then I went to another boarding school in Dorset until I was 18 and then I was in London until then.

Q. And you’ve also done some modelling?
Max Irons: I did some modelling when I was at drama school because, basically, you’re at drama school from 9am to 6pm, so there’s no time for a job. I tried it for a while and it kills you. So, I remember I got asked to do it, and it was a bit of money to get me through drama school, so I thought ‘why not’? And there were some interesting people, like Kate Moss, who I thought at the time was the bees knees, so yeah: “Why not?”

Q. Do you think you’ll get more offers now?
Max Irons: Well, I think now that I’m doing this I don’t think the two things are compatible. So, I’m going to concentrate on this.

Q. Did the fashion business hold some lessons for this business?
Max Irons: No, nothing. It’s not the same thing. People often find it surprising that actors find photo shoots difficult, because you’re very concerned about what’s going on externally in those things when you have to be concerned with what’s going on internally as an actor.

Q. Which is harder?
Max Irons: Acting! There are so many more things to take into account… not only what you’re doing and what the character should be thinking, but also lighting, blocking and direction – all those kinds of things that you have to have an eye on. And I haven’t done that much of it. I’ve done more theatre than screen, so it’s a kind of obstacle course at the minute but something that I want to do more of.

Red Riding Hood

Q. Was film always an ambition?
Max Irons: As an actor, variety is the spice of life. I love theatre… it’s what I enjoy the most. But a bit of TV, a bit of film, a bit of stage – what more could you ask for?

Q. Would you base yourself in America?
Max Irons: No. I think it’s quite good to have an amount of unavailability. I think if you’re constantly there, and God knows they exist these guys because there are 10 million actors in that city… if you’re knocking on doors too often… you know what I mean? I think it’s good to always be ever so slightly unavailable. If they want you, they can always have you there.

Q. So does that mean you’ll never turn your back on theatre and will always make time for it?
Max Irons: Absolutely. In fact, it’s what I want to do next.

Q. Have you got anything lined up?
Max Irons: Just weighing up options really, seeing what works.

Q. Would you like to appear with your father?
Max Irons: I did once when I was 16… a couple of lines. But I don’t think so – at least not at this stage.

Q. Do you like seeing him on screen?
Max Irons: It’s always been the case. I mean, there are certain things I don’t want to see him doing on-screen and I make strategic decisions not to watch certain movies but generally speaking I like it.

Q. So, why avoid working with him?
Max Irons: I don’t know… just not at this stage. I suppose in this country there is an attitude towards nepotism, which is negative, and I suppose it’s a good thing – I suppose it’s built into the class system. I think a lot of people might misconstrue me working with him as some kind of nepotism. So, I think at this stage just avoid it. He’s happy with that and I’m happy with that, so why not.

Q. Did you ever consider changing your surname to avoid those accusations?
Max Irons: No, I’m his son, I’m going to be seen with him and people will find out. I think that changing my name would draw more attention to it and, anyway, I’m not ashamed of him, I’m proud of him, and I’m proud of my family. But you just want to forge your own… you know, people say ‘follow in the footsteps’ but I always find that a strange expression because what you want to do is forge your own path, so to speak.

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