Jeremy John Irons is an English actor and activist. After receiving classical training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Irons began his acting career on stage in 1969 and has appeared in many West End theatre productions, including the Shakespeare plays The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, and Richard II. In 1984, he made his Broadway debut in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, receiving the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.
Irons's break-out role came in the ITV series Brideshead Revisited (1981) which is frequently ranked among the greatest British television dramas as well as greatest literary adaptations. It would earn him a Golden Globe Award nomination. His first major film role came in the romantic drama The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor. After starring in dramas, such as Moonlighting (1982), Betrayal (1983), and The Mission (1986), he was praised for portraying twin gynaecologists in David Cronenberg's psychological thriller Dead Ringers (1988). Irons has won multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his portrayal of the accused attempted murderer Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune (1990).
Irons had roles in Steven Soderbergh's mystery thriller Kafka (1991), the period drama The House of the Spirits (1993), the romantic drama M. Butterfly (1993), voiced Scar in Disney's The Lion King (1994), played Simon Gruber in the action film Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Humbert Humbert in Lolita (1997) and Aramis in The Man in the Iron Mask (1998). He starred in the action adventure Dungeons & Dragons (2000), played Antonio in The Merchant of Venice (2004), appeared in Being Julia (2004), the historical drama Kingdom of Heaven (2005), the fantasy-adventure Eragon (2006), the Western Appaloosa (2008), and the indie drama Margin Call (2011). He appeared in Assassin's Creed (2016) before portraying Alfred Pennyworth in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Justice League (2017), and Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021).
On television, Irons appeared in the historical miniseries Elizabeth I, receiving a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor. From 2011 to 2013, he starred as Pope Alexander VI in the Showtime historical series The Borgias. In 2019, he appeared as Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias in HBO's Watchmen. He is one of the few actors who have achieved the "Triple Crown of Acting" in the US, winning an Oscar for film, an Emmy for television and a Tony Award for theatre. In October 2011, he was nominated the Goodwill Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Early life and education
Irons was born on 19 September 1948 in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, to Paul Dugan Irons, an accountant, and Barbara Anne Brereton Brymer (née Sharpe). Irons has a brother, Christopher (born 1943), and a sister, Felicity Anne (born 1944). He was educated at the independent Sherborne School in Dorset from 1962 to 1966. He was the drummer and harmonica player in a four-man school band called the Four Pillars of Wisdom.
Irons trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and later became president of its fundraising appeal. He performed a number of plays, and busked on the streets of Bristol, before appearing on the London stage as John the Baptist and Judas opposite David Essex in Godspell, which opened at the Roundhouse on 17 November 1971 before transferring to Wyndham's Theatre playing a total of 1,128 performances.
ons' television career began on British television in the early 1970s, including appearances on the children's series Play Away and as Franz Liszt in the BBC series Notorious Woman (1974). More significantly, he starred in the 13-part adaptation of H.E. Bates' novel Love for Lydia (1977) for London Weekend Television, and attracted attention for his key role as the pipe-smoking German student, a romantic pairing with Judi Dench, in Harold Pinter's screenplay adaptation of Aidan Higgins' novel Langrishe, Go Down (1978) for BBC Television.
The role which significantly raised his profile was Charles Ryder in the television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (1981). First broadcast on ITV, the show ranks among the most successful British television dramas, with Irons receiving a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. Brideshead reunited him with Anthony Andrews, with whom he had appeared in The Pallisers seven years earlier. Around the same time he starred in the film The French Lieutenant's Woman (also 1981) opposite Meryl Streep.
After these major successes, he played the leading role of an exiled Polish building contractor, working in the Twickenham area of southwest London, in Jerzy Skolimowski's independent film Moonlighting (1982). On 23 March 1991, he hosted Saturday Night Live on NBC in the US, and appeared as Sherlock Holmes in the Sherlock Holmes' Surprise Party sketch. In 2004 Irons played Severus Snape in the BBC's Comic Relief's Harry Potter parody, "Harry Potter and the Secret Chamberpot of Azerbaijan".
In 2005, Irons won both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his supporting role in the TV mini-series, Elizabeth I, in which he starred opposite Helen Mirren (Queen Elizabeth I). A year later, he was one of the participants in the third series of the BBC documentary series Who Do You Think You Are? In 2008, he played Lord Vetinari in Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic, an adaptation for Sky One.
On 6 November 2008, TV Guide reported Irons would star as photographer Alfred Stieglitz with Joan Allen as painter Georgia O'Keeffe, in a Lifetime Television biopic, Georgia O'Keeffe (2009). Irons also appeared in the documentary for Irish television channel TG4, Faoi Lán Cheoil, in which he is seen taking fiddle lessons from Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh.
On 12 January 2011, Irons was a guest-star in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit called "Mask". He played Dr. Cap Jackson, a sex therapist. He reprised the role on an episode titled "Totem" that ran on 30 March 2011. Irons stars in the 2011 US premium cable network Showtime's series The Borgias, a highly fictionalised account of the Renaissance dynasty of that name. On 8 November 2018, it was announced that Irons had been cast as Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias in HBO's Watchmen series.
Irons made his film debut in Nijinsky in 1980. In addition to Moonlighting and The French Lieutenant's Woman, he appeared in the Cannes Palme d'Or winner The Mission in 1986 and in the dual role of twin gynaecologists in David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers in 1988. Irons would later win Best Actor for Dead Ringers from the New York Film Critics Circle that year. Other films include Danny the Champion of the World (1989), Reversal of Fortune (1990), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, Kafka (1991), Damage (1993), M. Butterfly (1993) working again with David Cronenberg, The House of the Spirits (1993) appearing again with Glenn Close and Meryl Streep. What's more, he lent his deep baritone voice as Scar in The Lion King (1994). Afterwards, he portrayed as Simon Gruber in Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), co-starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty (1996), the 1997 remake of Lolita, and as the musketeer Aramis opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1998 film version of The Man in the Iron Mask.
Other roles include the wicked wizard Profion in the film Dungeons and Dragons (2000) and Rupert Gould in Longitude (2000). He played the Über-Morlock in the film The Time Machine (2002). In 2004, Irons played the title character in The Merchant of Venice. In 2005, he appeared in the films Casanova opposite Heath Ledger, and Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. He has co-starred with John Malkovich in two films, The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and Eragon (2006), though they didn't have any scenes together in the latter.
In 2006, Irons appeared with Laura Dern in David Lynch's Inland Empire. In 2008, Irons co-starred with Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen in Appaloosa, directed by Harris. In 2011, Irons appeared alongside Kevin Spacey in the thriller Margin Call. In 2012, he starred and worked as executive producer of the environmental documentary film Trashed. He portrayed the mathematician G. H. Hardy in the 2015 film The Man Who Knew Infinity. Irons played Alfred Pennyworth in Warner Bros.' Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Justice League (2017) and the 2021 director's cut of the same film. In 2018, he played General Vladimir Korchnoi in Francis Lawrence's spy thriller film Red Sparrow, based on Jason Matthews' book of the same name. In 2021, Irons played Rodolfo Gucci in Ridley Scott's biographical crime drama film House of Gucci.
Irons has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company three times in 1976, 1986–87 and 2010. After years of success in the West End in London, Irons made his New York debut in 1984 and won a Tony Award for his Broadway performance opposite Glenn Close in The Real Thing.
After an absence from the London stage for 18 years, in 2006 he co-starred with Patrick Malahide in Christopher Hampton's stage adaptation of Sándor Márai's novel Embers at the Duke of York's Theatre.
He made his National Theatre debut playing former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (1957–1963) in Never So Good, a new play by Howard Brenton which opened at the Lyttelton on 19 March 2008. In 2009, Irons appeared on Broadway opposite Joan Allen in the play Impressionism. The play ran through 10 May 2009 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater.