In Interview: Jeremy Irvine

by Maryann O'Connor on 31/07/2015

Review-Beyond-the-Reach

Beyond the Reach, an adaptation of a young adult book published in the 1970s, pairs the somewhat unlikely duo of freshly squeezed Brit actor Jeremy Irvine and Hollywood royalty Michael Douglas as hired guide Ben and rich businessman Madec respectively, the latter coming to the American wild west looking to bag an out-of-hunting-season prize. While they are out there all alone in the desert things go a bit awry and Ben ends up having to use all his knowledge to stay alive.

New Empress spoke to Jeremy about the making of the film, trophy hunting and most importantly, what he’d had for lunch.

So…what delights did you have for lunch today?

My lunch is conversation about films! It’s not so bad really, I know some actors says they hate doing press but I don’t think that…come on, you get put in a nice hotel, you get treated nicely and you get to talk about, hopefully, a job you like doing. It’s not working down the mines, is it? I’ve certainly had worse jobs.

Though Beyond the Reach looked like it was pretty tough to make, was there any fun?

It was great fun because I was spending two months in the desert with Michael Douglas and Michael Douglas is a lot of fun, but physically I’m hoping this is the toughest role that I have to do for a while. I read the script and assumed that it wouldn’t really be that hot during the day…it was brutal, really was 110 degrees plus during the day and freezing cold during the night, with snow a couple of times. I was having three and a half hours of prosthetic make up every morning and I had to do quite a big physical transformation because I’d just lost a lot of weight for The Railway Man.

Was that because you had to do a lot of wandering around with your clothes off in this film?

Well I was very skinny, I’d lost about 35 lbs and the director (Jean-Baptiste Léonetti) phones me up one day and says we’re going to be looking at your torso for 90% of the movie (Beyond the Reach). I think his exact words were (puts on french accent) ‘Jeremy, you must have ze abs’! I had to start getting up at 4am and eating egg whites and going to the gym twice a day, yeah that was tough. I’m not a gym person so I was a bit miserable.

Did you learn any survival techniques for being out in the desert or did you just follow direction?

Well I’ve always done a lot of camping out and stuff, every family holiday I ever had was camping out in the middle of nowhere but I learned to rock climb (for BTR) and I’ve never rock climbed before, that was intense.

Michael Douglas plays the ultimate pantomime bad guy in Beyond the Reach. Do you think that was meant to make the whole film a bit more lighthearted?

It was. When I first read it, the script was very dark and a lot of the darker stuff wasn’t in the final cut. I think it gives itself a bit of a tongue in cheek feel, the movie has a few laughs at itself. It’s Michael Douglas doing what Michael Douglas does best.

You do a lovely American accent for the film, was that because you’ve done quite a lot of work on it for a few previous films?

I really haven’t worked in my own accent for a while, that’s just the way it is. If you’re a British actor working in Hollywood it’s not a matter of can you do it, you have to do it. I like doing accents, it’s a good way to get into character in the morning. I did a movie in North Carolina (breaks out said accent) and I’ve done a few different American accents now.

Is it hard remembering to stay in the accent?

No..accents take an extraordinary amount of time to learn properly, if you’re forgetting to do the accent then you haven’t spent enough time working on it. You have to keep doing it until it’s second nature.

Time for a random question..on your IMDB profile. It seems to me that plenty of actors manage their own pages, especially what is written about them, and your picture is quite cheesy in the style of Danny Zuko – did you choose it?!

I don’t know what picture is on there. I’m on IMDB now..oh I’m IMDBing myself, that’s awful! Yeah, god, I just look a bit pissed off, wonder what I was so angry about. It was from a photo shoot about 6 months ago.

So it’s not your selfie pose then?

Certainly not! I don’t walk around brooding with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth.

Back to the film then – it’s a bit different to the usual sort of action film. It’s a bit western, a bit cat and mouse and seemed to have an anti-hunting vibe, did you get that?

No, I didn’t really get that. I was doing press with Michael a couple of weeks ago, and Michael’s been fairly outspoken on his opinion that gun control in America should be tightened up and people were asking what about in this movie and he said, ‘I just like the movie’. Michael actually bought the material for this with the idea of playing my part when he was my age. For me, well you’d be surprised how many scripts you get sent which are basically rehashes of something else that has been successful recently. I hadn’t read a script like it and that is very appealing to me.

I think I got the anti-hunting vibe from the discussion between the two characters and Ben was very dismissive of Madec’s trophy hunting.

Trophy hunting is wrong; if you’re killing an animal just so you can put its head on your wall..I don’t know how you justify that. If you’re going to eat it that is slightly different but I don’t feel wonderful about that either. You see these photos on the internet, some fatcat who’s gone off to Africa to shoot a giraffe or something…you just think, does that make you feel big and powerful?!

You’ve done quite a variety of films (War Horse, Now is Good, The Railway Man), is that a conscious thing or are you just good at sifting through those scripts that seem very similar?

It is a conscious decision, mostly because there isn’t a specific genre that I go after. It normally comes down to if you’ve finished the last page and you just have shivers down your back, or you’re still thinking about it a week later…that’s a sign of a good script. BTR was a fun film and every now and again you make a film that’s hopefully more than just a movie.

Like Stonewall?

Stonewall, when I read it, well first I found the script very moving and it made me cry, always a good sign, but then it finished with the fact that 60% of the homeless population in America today are gay and when you think about that and realise what it means, how relevant the story of the Stonewall riots still is today. I think things are going in the right direction but there’s still a long way to go, here (the UK), in America and the rest of the world in terms of gay rights and equality. So it felt like an important film.

Is raising awareness of equality issues important to you?

I think I’ve been very lucky in growing up in London and being in such a liberal industry; it is very easy to forget that there are parts of the world that aren’t like that and I was certainly very shocked when I started travelling round and coming into contact with people who didn’t feel the same. Any awareness that the movie can bring to that can only be a good thing.

Beyond the Reach is in UK cinemas and VOD from 31 July

Stonewall is released in the US in September 2015

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