Recommended second chance
The Hollow Crown
Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons returns to TV in the title role of BBC2’s adaptation of Henry IV, part of The Hollow Crown cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays. After playing Rodrigo Borgia in Sky Atlantic’s hit series of the same name, he’s used to portraying all-powerful despots, but that’s where the comparison ends. TV Choice collared him on location in a snowy field in Buckinghamshire earlier this year…
What’s it like coming back to Shakespeare?
It’s wonderful that the BBC is doing this and the adaptation that (director) Richard Eyre has done is marvellous. He’s taken out all the — I don’t want to say dross because a lot of the language is wonderful — but the verbiage which isn’t necessary for telling the story. It lets you play the characters that are fantastically coloured, so hopefully the audience will see a great story with great visuals.
Give us an insight into the character of Henry IV…
He’s a man who is governed by the fact that he took the crown or was kind of given it with popular support. The previous king, Richard II, was not very much liked, but now he’s taken the throne, the whole mystique of the nature of kingship has broken down. He knows he’s got it not in a God-given way, so he feels a little guilty.
When did you first experience Shakespeare?
We’d read it in class at school, which I loved doing, and I started playing Shakespeare at drama school. I have to say that I think in order to appreciate it, you have to see it. There are some things that don’t come off the page, but when you see them, they make sense. That’s why I’d like every kid in the country to see great productions of Shakespeare.
Have you seen anyone else in the role, and which Shakespeare performances have made an impression?
I saw an RSC production a long time ago but I can’t remember who played Henry. I saw David Warner’s Hamlet and Laurence Olivier as Othello, performances that stayed with me.
Your son Max is an actor, how do you feel about that?
We [Jeremy is married to actress Sinead Cusack] didn’t encourage him but when I watched him I thought, ‘Yeah, there’s certainly something there’. He’s a lot better at his age than I was and a man has to do what a man has to do. What you want for your children is for them to have a passion for something and he has a passion. My other son has a passion for photography and that’s really all you can want.