Jeremy Irons on starring in Netflix film Munich: The Edge of War — 'I love reappraisals of history'

After reflecting on his own history and the sources of his contentment, Jeremy Irons has, in recent years, chosen to work less, and revel more in immediate pleasures. “I act to live. I don’t live to act,” he said.

The New York Times January 21, 2022 14:04:12 IST
Jeremy Irons on starring in Netflix film Munich: The Edge of War — 'I love reappraisals of history'

Jeremy Irons in Munich: The Edge of War

“Am I talking too much?” Jeremy Irons asked. “I tend to get a bit loquacious.”

With that voice — you know the one — he can talk as long as he wants.

Irons was calling from his home in Oxfordshire, England, to discuss Munich — The Edge of War, and his portrayal of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

Based on Robert Harris’ historical thriller, the Netflix movie follows four frantic days leading up to the 1938 Munich conference, where world leaders tried to avert war by allowing Adolf Hitler to annex the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, which had a large German population. In Munich, Chamberlain also signed an agreement between Britain and Nazi Germany that he said would ensure “peace for our time.”

“I love reappraisals of history, and Robert was very keen to try to clear the name, to a certain extent, of Chamberlain,” Irons said. “I think we do understand that Chamberlain was a man between a rock and hard place at that time.”

After reflecting on his own history and the sources of his contentment, Irons has, in recent years, chosen to work less, and revel more in immediate pleasures. “I act to live. I don’t live to act,” he said.

In his 50s, as leading-man roles waned, he found himself “behaving not terribly well because I was bored,” Irons, now 73, said. So he channeled his creative energy into the restoration of his 15th-century Kilcoe Castle in West Cork, Ireland. Now he is rebuilding a cottage on an island about 100 yards offshore that he occasionally swims to.

“I used to think, when I was a young man, that the epitome of wisdom and what I should aim for in my life is to be able to sit beneath a tree and be entirely happy,” Irons said. “And I found the tree — it’s next to this cottage. And I sit under it, and I look at the view and look at the land around me, and I’m entirely happy.”

Munich: The Edge of War is streaming on Netflix.

Kathryn Shattuck c.2022 The New York Times Company

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