It's natural to think that, growing up in a family of actors, Max Irons would have been groomed from an early age to inherit that same passion for the performance art. Yet, as Irons tell us, that wasn't the case.
"I actually wanted to be a teacher for most of my life. But then, when I was at school, I started bits and pieces in school plays and found it more engaging than anything I was doing academically. And I suppose when you're at that age, you're drawn to what you find most engaging," Irons recalls. "And for my parents, it wasn't a prerequisite at all."
Irons is the son of multiple award-winning actors Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack, with a host of other relatives—from grandparents to aunts and uncles—part of the film, television and theatre worlds too. "My parents were very worried when I told them I wanted to act because they recognised that they've had very fortunate careers," says Irons. "Certain aspects of this career are luck and being at the right place at the right time. But also, it's inherently unstable; it's hard to carve out a career for a whole lifetime."
That didn't stop the British actor from pursuing his passion. Irons decided to enrol in drama school ("It's the British way of approaching to becoming an actor."), specifically London's prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, of which actors such as Joseph Fiennes, Alfred Molina, Ewan McGregor and Lily James are some of its notable alumni. It was then that his parents began noticing his dedication and started supporting his endeavour.
Irons' list of credits so far proves that his range is not contained to any particular genre. He starred in the sci-fi romance flick The Host, based on the novel of the same name by Stephanie Meyer (known for her Twilight series of books and movies), as the love interest to Saoirse Ronan's character. He then took on the role of King Edward IV of England in the BBC miniseries The White Queen, an adaptation of a historical novel series. In The Wife, Irons acted alongside Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce as their writer son, who's looking to seek the approval of his Nobel Prize-winning author father.
His biggest leading role to date is in Condor, a series that premiered on the US-based streaming platform Audience Network in June 2018. The thriller is based on the 1975 film Three Days of the Condor (which is in turn based on the novel Six Days of the Condor) starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway.
Condor sees Joe Turner (played by Irons), a naive analyst who works for the CIA, finding himself in precarious situation after situation after unknowingly stumbling upon a heinous plan concocted by members of the same covert agency that he works for. It's a cat-and-mouse game filled with deceit and lies that has Turner grasping for the truth and finding ways to stop a force from killing millions of lives.
"It's been really fun. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in the garden, running around with plastic guns, pretending to be a spy. (laughs) Most of my research was on the CIA—what they've done, where they've been involved since the end of the First World War… And it makes for fascinating reading," Irons tells us when asked how he prepared for the role. There was also a former member of the CIA who was brought on to provide notes and feedback to maintain some form of realism to the scenes.
While there are quite a lot of action scenes in Condor, Irons doesn't really partake in them. Well, that's because his character didn't undergo 'kinetic training'—a term the series used to mean 'field agent training'—and we wouldn't expect a desk-bound operative of the CIA to do so anyway. But according to Irons, that's something that will change in the upcoming second season that's scheduled for sometime this year.
"There is more action. There's also an equal amount of running about. But not jogging, thank God! [The first season saw Turner jogging in multiple episodes.] More sort of running around through bushes and being shot at, that kind of thing. But Joe seems to have a speciality: which is being pursued and running," exclaims Irons.
One would think that having had experience delving into a role that involves espionage and government conspiracies, Irons would be open to putting his name out there for the next James Bond post- Daniel Craig. Yet on the UK talk show Lorraine, Irons laughed that off, saying: "I think as a nation, our requirements for James Bond are a little too low."
Curious, we asked him why. "You know, as a kid, you watch the James Bond series and he's this behemoth of masculinity and strength. And you don't (laughs) naturally look at yourself like that," he explains. "I think James Bond has to have an X factor—for lack of a better term—and that's a hard thing to find. Hence, the speculation about who will or won't be playing James Bond; there are some great names up for the role at the minute."
Irons' pick? Michael Fassbender. But most definitely not himself.
A role like James Bond could potentially further propel him into the consciousness of the mainstream. Yet, that's not something that Irons is particularly fond of. He acknowledges that the choice of roles and projects when he was starting out were based on being visible and maintaining that visibility. But that approach has since changed.
"As I get older, my priorities are sort of shifting; I'm not drawn to the spotlight particularly in life. In fact, I think my agents and publicists will tell you that it takes a bit of motivating to get me there. And also, I'm quite into the idea of making a home outside London. Sort of a more quieter life," Irons expresses.
He doesn't even have any form of social media too, choosing to not be bothered by comments and reviews about his performances. Or even any form of comparison to the other members of his family.
In contrast, Irons' wife, Sophie Pera, is quite active on Instagram as a savant in the field of high fashion and the fashion director of the UK edition of Tatler. The pair married near the end of 2019 and have had to split their honeymoon into two because of work commitments. In fact, at the start of our conversation with the actor, he revealed that he's in France, skiing in Quatre-Vallées and having just woken up to "quite possibly the most beautiful day I've ever seen".
Irons lovingly describes Pera as someone who's able to detach herself from a job that she loves. "She comes home and she's my normal Sophie," he gushes. Being in the fashion industry too has allowed her to have a good understanding of the industry that Irons has chosen, especially when they're not that too different from one another. It's the sort of normalcy and grounded qualities that Irons fancies. "She isn't overly impressed by the more superficial side of what I do and understand what's actually important," he expresses.
But does she put on her fashion director hat and give him style pointers? "Yeah she does, more and more. And I'm taking it more and more," he answers. Irons is no style slouch though, having fronted campaigns for the likes of Burberry and Dunhill. It's something he's thankful for being given the opportunity to do but not something he's particularly focused on.