An Interview with David Cronenberg About Jeremy Irons Performance in ‘Dead Ringers’

Gynaecology, symbiosis and foetal pigs …

David Cronenberg interviewed

By Nigel Floyd

SX: I think British audiences will be astounded by Jeremy Irons´ performance of the twins, not just because it’s so good but also because he has a reputation in this country as a rather glacial, remote actor. What was it about him that made you think he was right for such an intensely emotional role?

DC: I think it was seeing the movie Moonlighting that suggested he could do this. There’s no direct connection, but he was so quietly humorous and sweet, and it’s almost a silent movie, which meant that body language was important, and he did that so well. Certainly, he does often seem very arrogant and distant on film, but he’s also very charismatic. And then when we met I found him very funny and very playful, and all of those things together convinced me that he could do it, that it would just a question of normal directing.

I think nobody asked him to do it before, that’s all. Let me put it this way, I didn’t have to teach him how to cry, he knew. I didn’t have to slap him around or stick pins in him or anything to get these responses, he’s really a consummate film actor.

If you saw the circumstance under which Jeremy had to create the role you’d be even more impressed. It was horrific, the number of external distractions, the kind of things he had to do. I tried to give him every break possible, but because of the way the film had to be made, he had to switch back and forth between Beverly and Elliot maybe twenty times a day. There was no other way to do it; it was a very schizophrenia-inducing process, but Jeremy way very disciplined.

Now in North America he has a very different reputation, they like to say he’s the thinking woman’s romantic hero and so on. He’s also thought of as a stage actor who once in a while does the odd film, so I had no way of knowing how adept he was in terms of cinema technique. But I was sure that he had discipline, and I knew he wasn’t a Method actor; the role is not really for a Method actor because you do not have yourself to act with, you have nobody to act with. And Method acting gets you into a lot of trouble in those circumstances, you don’t have a real person to bounce off.