Irons first attended the event in the Moroccan capital fourteen years ago in the wake of 9/11, he recalled in his speech.
“The world was still reeling from the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, and the Americans were loathe to celebrate film in this part of the world,” he said. Since then, he’s attended as a juror and seen the growing importance of attending the festival and promoting cross-cultural understanding through film.
“Let us hope even in these times, when television news broadcasts daily man’s inhumanity to man, that our films and this celebration of them will still serve to remind us of the best of which we are capable,” he said in his speech aired live throughout the Moroccan kingdom. “Only with a mutual understanding will we make our way forward into a better world.”
Asked about the tone of his speech by The Hollywood Reporter in a follow-up reporter session, Irons said that film can promote understanding and smooth some diplomatic edges. “I never wanted to go into politics because it seems such a terrible world, but I think culture can be an ameliorating influence upon situations,” he said.
“I’m not saying the arts can deal with the Middle East, but the more examples of reasonableness can be in the world, the better.”
And even if he does the occasional Hollywood blockbuster, the industry’s agenda is different, he added. “I don’t think it’s the film industry’s business to preach in any way, especially in Hollywood; it’s about the buck. It’s about making money. They want to get into China because it’s an enormous emerging market, not because they want to change China,” he said, citing James Cameron‘s Avatar as a film with a specific point of view that also worked as a money-making movie.
Irons wouldn’t divulge much about his upcoming role as Bruce Wayne’s right-hand man in the big-budget Batman v. Superman, but called his Alfred “not a large role” due to the many characters in the Warner Bros. film. “He is quite a different Alfred than we have seen so far. Zack Snyder had very clear views about what he wanted,” he said. “I would just say he’s more hands-on perhaps than just a butler.”
Though he’s known for smaller, artier films and theater, working on a blockbuster like Batman is “not that different than Die Hard” added the onetime Bruce Willis nemesis (Irons played the villain in 1995’s Die Hard With a Vengeance). Even a big-budget bomb like Dungeons and Dragons was worth it for “the obscene amount of money,” he joked.
The Lolita star also said the industry’s obsession with youth for women is now affecting both genders. “I think it’s harder now for the young actors to develop a strong, stable career. Certainly for the young men, it seems to be more like it was for the young women, where you knew they would get a chance because they were young and lovely, and most of them wouldn’t have the experience to carry it through,” he said. “There is such a large youth market now that’s bigger than when I started, and that market needs to be fed with young actors, and therefore the falloff rate seems to be quite high.”
Irons cited Robert Pattinson, Ben Wishaw and Eddie Redmayne as young actors building varied careers. He also praised Redmayne’s portrayal of scientist Stephen Hawking in the festival’s opening night film The Theory of Everything. He added: “I was crying about four times through the film.”