Berlin: Jeremy Irons Addresses Past Comments on Same-Sex Marriage, Sexual Abuse, Abortion

Antonello & Montesi
Jeremy Irons

The jury president said he hoped to "put to bed" the controversy they had caused.

Jeremy Irons used the opening press conference as Berlinale jury president on Thursday to address his previous comments on the subject of same-sex marriage, abortion and sexual abuse, which resurfaced recently, saying he hoped to "put to bed" the controversy.

"Let me make my views entirely clear on these particular subjects once and for all," he said. "First, I support wholeheartedly the movement to address women’s rights and to protect them from harassment at home and in workplace. Second, I applaud the legislation for same-sex marriage where it has been attained. I hope that such enlightened legislation will continue to spread. Third, I supported wholeheartedly the right of women to have an abortion should they so decide."

Irons added that these were steps to a "civilized, humane society, which we should all continue to strive for," saying that he hoped many of the films in the festival "addressed some of these concerns" from parts of the world where such legislation didn't exist. 

Following an interview with the Huffington Post in 2013, Irons came under fire for suggesting that legalizing gay marriage might lead to fathers marrying their sons to avoid inheritance tax. In another interview around the same time, he suggested that women who claimed they had been sexually assaulted by U.K. TV stars in the 1970s were partly responsible for the attacks, claiming the crimes were "relatively innocuous."

In 2016, he said that while he believed women should be allowed to decide to have an abortion, he thought "the Church is right to say [abortion] is a sin."

"Abortion harms a woman – it’s a tremendous mental attack, and physical, sometimes. But we seem to get that muddled," he told The Guardian. 

At the Berlinale, Irons said that he didn't want his comments, which he claimed had been "refuted and apologized for," to "continue as a distraction" to the festival.

After addressing the comments, Irons and the other members of the Berlinale jury discussed trying to keep an open mind in judging the 18 films screening in competition in the 70th Berlin International Film Festival. Irons said his main criteria would be to find films "which create magic, which create emotions. And I hope one or two we see here will have that same effect."

It was a sentiment echoed by jury members Berenice Bejo and Kenneth Lonergan, both of whom said they would look for films that had a personal impact on them.

"Any film that moves you, even if there's failure, is better than one made in some committee room," Lonergan said. "I've sat in those rooms, and the conversations are appalling."

"What I find interesting is that the films selected by the Berlinale are very different from what the American Academy would select, for example," Irons added. "We are going to see films with very different perspectives than our own. But I think we are wide enough in our understanding of life and of film to be able to rise to the responsibility [and] come to come conclusion about the films we have seen.

Also on the jury alongside Irons, Oscar winner Lonergan and The Artist actress Bejo are producer Bettina Brokemper, actor Luca Marinella and directors Annemarie Jacir and Kleber Mendonça Filho.