"A career seemed to me something rather like a prison sentence. That was how I viewed a career, that I would start at the bottom and I'd work my way up the ladder and then I'd retire, and after a little bit I'd die. And I thought there's nothing I want to do like that really."
Just out of school, with no particular prospects, young Jeremy Irons answered a "help wanted" ad placed by a small theater in Canterbury, England. The ad called for an asistant stage manager, but once inside the theater, Irons knew he had found his calling.
He had already made a small name for himself on the London stage when international audiences got their first look at him in the television miniseries Brideshead Revisited. Although Irons made his reputation as a romantic leading man in films such as The French Lieutenant's Woman, he has never shied from unusual or unsympathetic roles. He amazed audiences with his performance in the French language film Swann in Love, and as psychotic identical twins in Dead Ringers. He played a spine-tingling villain in Die Hard: With a Vengeance, a dying artist in Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty and the tormented Humbert in the second screen version of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.
After seeing Irons' portrayal of Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune, von Bülow's real life attorney, Alan Dershowitz, declared that "Jeremy Irons is a better Claus von Bülow than Claus von Bülow." The Motion Picture Academy agreed and gave Irons an Oscar for Best Actor.
As familiar as Irons' face may be to adult moviegoers, even more children know his voice as the villainous Scar in The Lion King. Audiences of all ages can be grateful that he has lent his face and voice to an extraordinary variety of roles in some of the most memorable films of the last 20 years.