Max Irons has yet to become a household name-- and he knows you might wonder why. After all, he was the hunky male lead opposite Amanda Seyfried in Red Riding Hood, the kind of role that made Robert Pattinson and Josh Hutcherson big stars. Why hasn't he totally exploded?
Well, partly because he doesn't want to. "I’m still learning how to do this and if you can’t sustain that, which is a hard thing to do, you can be thrown under the bus. And God knows there are a hundred other young actors to take your place like that."
Maybe it's because he's British, but in our quick interview to talk about this Friday's The Host-- in which Irons plays the hunky male lead opposite Saoirse Ronan this time-- Irons got away with saying the kind of stuff you never hear from people promoting a PG-13 movie aimed at teens. Like, "Justin Bieber is rotting your brain." Or in reference to 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis's Best Actress oscar nomination, "Let her have her fucking childhood." Or talking about much-publicized news about an A-list actor turning down a plum role, "Are you fucking nuts??” Add that to a story about a fellow actor at a casting call stripping off his shirt and doing push-ups, and Max Irons may need to write a tell-all biography, even though his career is just beginning.
Get a look at Irons and his soulful brooding in The Host's trailer below, and then read on for more about Bob Dylan, impertinent questions from the Hollywood Foreign Press, and why even Al Pacino starts off as a terrible actor.
So you and Jake have been singing in hospitals on this press tour?
Yeah, I little Justin Bieber in there…
How did that happen?
I hummed it once. Fateful mistake and since then, I am apparently Justin Bieber’s favorite, number one fan.
I guess you need to learn some more songs, because I heard that they wanted "Boyfriend."
I know, I know lots of songs. It’s just that no one is interested in those ones.
Well, you’ve got to learn more Bieber songs.
Fuck Justin Bieber. I can sing Bob Dylan.
You’re going to teach these kids.
They’re really young. I go, “Listen you. We need to school you on the world of music.”
You’re older than the fans of this. You’ve got to be the elder statesmen and educate the kids these days.
Stop listening to Justin Bieber. It’s rotting your brain.
And One Direction.
Oh God, they never stop.
Does it make it harder to build friendships with other guys your age-- like co-stars Jake Abel and Boyd Holbrook-- because you're always auditioning for the same roles? I mean, you see each other all the time, like you could be easy friends, but if you’re competing against each other, it could get weird that way.
I did do once an audition for Red Riding Hood and I fortunately ended up getting the part, but we were in this room with about 18 guys, and I was under the impression there were going to be about 3 of us. It’s really interesting to see how actors deal with that situation, you know. There’s a few of us who are just kind of nice to each other and wish us luck and that kind of thing and try to get past the nerves by just talking. Then, there was this one guy who took his shirt off and started doing press-ups in this room. That’s nuts.
That’s like the whole caveman male intimidation. That’s like the most basic thing you can do.
And then you get the guys who try to sort of psych you out before you go into the room. You know, “I’ve heard that they want a guy with a lot of muscles and if you’re skinny you just don’t stand a chance.” And I’m [gestures at himself and, to be fair, pretty impressive muscles]. Well, I’m fucked.
We all go through that and it’s so stressful and part of being an actor is to try to make that situation look comfortable and look like you’re relaxed. You’re not.
Red Riding Hood is interesting because it was sort of brought up on this wave of fairy tales and everyone was like, “The trend is going to be huge. There are going to be sequels,” and something like that doesn’t quite happen. It just doesn’t find its audience. What is it like when you are put in something like that and you’re bracing for this huge onslaught and it just doesn’t quite happen that way.
I was never really braced for it. I remember several people around me saying, “You’re not going to be able to walk down the street...,” but I sort of weirdly knew that I would be. I never saw Red Riding Hood 2 happening. I never saw that billboard in my imagination.
It’s not my job to think about the consequences of the work I do and I think it’s unhealthy to think abut the consequences. You know, I’m an actor. What I want to do is act. The fame side of things, it’s consequential. It’s superficial and you know or you should know as an actor that if you’re hot one minute, you’ll be cold the next. That’s the way it goes. It goes that way for everybody. You know, you think of an actor last year who was the hottest thing and then you see this year, he’s still here, but he’s not the hottest thing. That’s the way it goes. People have a hunger for that.
Do you find that it’s tricky to start out young, because of the way, like young actors never get nominated for Best Actor Oscars--
Nor fucking should they…forgive me.
Well no, that’s true too.
In England we have the BAFTAs and you have the best newcomer award. Who was that is 9 years old this year being nominated?
Hey, that’s nuts, I’m sorry. It’s unhealthy for her. It’s bad for her. Let her have her fucking childhood.
But in answer to your question, yes, I think it’s dangerous being a young person in Hollywood these days. I think Twilight has changed things. I was got asked by the Hollywood foreign press--
The Golden Globes guys?
The Golden Globes guys who are, you know, they don’t pull their punches. They ask you the first question off the bat and they said, “Ok, you’ve done well, you’ve done a couple of films, a couple of TV things, but it’s been a gradual rise for you, why do you think that is?” And the way he phrased that, it was sort of, it felt like a snipe.
Like, “Why haven’t you exploded already?”
Why haven’t you exploded already? And I was quite hungover that day and didn’t really want to be there and so I was sort of irritated by the question. But then I though about it and I thought what he’s actually asking me is why I haven’t exploded in terms of fame and pay and notoriety like the Twilight model, like the Hunger Games model and that’s what people seem to want...phenomenons. If you shoot up in terms of pay and fame, it’s quite hard to maintain that and perhaps disproportionate to ability. And I put myself in that camp entirely. I’m still learning how to do this and if you can’t sustain that, which is a hard thing to do, you can be thrown under the bus. And God knows there are a hundred other young actors to take your place like that.
When you look at the great actors. I like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, things like that and you go back through their CV, you see them popping up in little things here and there, not leading roles, supporting roles, but working the script with good directors and they’re learning their craft.That model isn’t quite as respected as it once was. And I saw an interview with Al Pacino the other day, and they, some sort of silly question came up along the lines of, “Were you always great?” and he said, “No, I was terrible for the first ten years.” We all learn and I think giving an actor an opportunity to learn or fail in private is a luxury. I was watching TV the other day and Twister was on. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is in Twister. He’s got this tiny little role.
I read about an actor this morning - I’m not going to say his name - who got offered an amazing part but turned it down because it wasn’t the lead.
Oh, I know. I read that too. I know exactly what you’re talking about.
It’s like, “Are you fucking nuts??” If it’s a great part, play it. It should excited you. It shouldn’t be about being the lead. It should excite you creatively.