Jeremy Irons reads ‘A Christmas Carol’

A long career filled with many prominent roles and every possible acting award defines the path taken by Jeremy Irons. The 61-year-old actor is expected in Athens this week, for a reading of Charles Dickens’s «A Christmas Carol.» Two readings are scheduled to take place at the Athens Concert Hall tomorrow and Wednesday. A few days prior to his visit, the Oscar-winning actor talked to Kathimerini about his recent, first-ever contact with the story that is loved the world over. «A Christmas Carol» has been presented in every possible way in theater, cinema, ballet and even by [Jim Henson’s] Muppets – a 3D cinematic version is also coming up. How will your version differ? My take will be much simpler. I will be reading alone on stage, accompanied by musicians playing traditional carols. It will be a traditional narration, a little bit like Dickens reading the story himself. I will read excerpts that I chose myself for about an hour and 15 minutes. Of all the different versions, which is your favorite? I haven’t seen any of them. The truth is that up to three months ago, I hadn’t even read the book. You’re not interested in Dickens? On the contrary, I’m very interested in Dickens and I have read many of his works, as well as a biography. I believe that besides a great author, he was also a great personality. So how come you only discovered «A Christmas Carol» so recently? I was asked to present something in Athens and we talked about what the audience might enjoy. We decided that «A Christmas Carol» might be that kind of spectacle. You will be alone on stage. Can an actor with your experience be afraid of an empty stage? I hope this is not going to be the case. I don’t usually get stage fright or feel terrified in front of the audience. The only time when I could feel something like that is when I’m not in control of what’s happening on stage. I don’t think something like this will happen in this production. Whatever I do, whether cinema or theater, is a kind of narration. I’m really looking forward to standing in front of the audience, just before Christmas and give them a break from work and festive preparations. And I do hope they will be there with their children. What does Dickens’s story mean today? I think the same thing it meant at the time it was written. That we have to think, especially at times like Christmas, about those who are less fortunate than us and that giving is happiness. It is well known that the more you give, the more you receive, especially when it comes to love. Do you believe that people can genuinely change after a big shock, like Scrooge does? I think so. Things appear to have changed substantially following the outbreak of the financial crisis, for instance. We were buying more than we needed, spending beyond our means, borrowing more than we could afford and capitalism was completely out of control. Many people suffered this shock and lost a lot of money. And now they realize that this way of life couldn’t go on. And they are changing. Regardless of how the crisis develops, it seems that we will be unable to sustain the same level of growth and the same wealth. People will have to change the way with which they deal with life. We were very greedy, very materialistic, living in a consumer bubble. Are you worried about your own future? Do you feel complete and satisfied? I usually try to feel satisfied, though I don’t always manage it. As an actor, I never worry too much about my future, otherwise I wouldn’t have become an actor in the first place. We finish a job and then we don’t know when the next one will come along. I’m used to this and I’m confident that I can take care of my family. You have said in the past that you accepted roles as career moves or just to pay the bills. Which roles are you proud of? The answer should probably come from the audience. I am proud, however, of «Lolita,» «Dead Ringers,» «The Mission» and «Swann in Love.» None of these films are perfect but I feel that I was fortunate with my collaborations, because it’s hard to come across films that you want to do and that also mean something to the public. It’s never easy to find the right role and as time passes it gets even harder, because cinema wants male actors in their 30s and 40s and I have long passed that age. So it takes patience and looking around. An Oscar, two Golden Globes, a Tony and more. What else would you like to achieve? Just the next role. Something which will challenge me, inspire me and make me take some risks. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333, www. megaron. gr.

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