Jeremy Irons in Taormina: 'Nothing More Dangerous Than a Man, a Stage, and a Microphone'

Jeremy Irons Oscars Party - P 2012
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Jeremy Irons Oscars Party - P 2012

At the festival, the 64-year-old Oscar winner drew rave reviews for his wandering and personal interactions with fans.

TAORMINA, Sicily -- Jeremy Irons stole the show at the Taormina Film Festival Wednesday, after a meandering and well-received Tao Class discourse for local students, journalists, and other onlookers. Then, at a Teatro Antico prize ceremony, he playfully wagged his finger at previous presenters whose slow-moving remarks pushed the start of the evening’s main screening, crime drama Java Heat, more than an hour behind schedule.

Irons, 64, was at the festival in connection with Trashed, a documentary he produced and starred in, about the worldwide problem of waste. The film, Irons' debut as a producer, screened earlier in the day to a small but enthusiastic crowd.

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The actor's Tao Class discourse drew a bigger crowd and was even better received, as Irons opined on a wide variety of topics, ranging from acting ("The profession is now 10 percent acting and 90 percent trying to sell the work," he said), to over-confidence ("If you believe you are good-looking, have a good voice, are a good actor, it only screws you up."), to the European debt crisis ("This is Germany's third attempt to take over Europe in the last 100 years. We should say to them, 'We're sorry, we don't have your money. You were stupid to loan it to us, but now it's gone' and leave it at that."). He addressed the crowd in a very personal manner, at one point sitting atop the back of his chair -- and nearly tumbling backward -- so that the burgeoning crowd could see him better.

Irons was the guest of honor ahead of the evening screening of Conor Allyn's Java Heat, which tells the story of a Muslim detective and an American student who team up to pursue the person behind a terrorist bombing in Indonesia. But the prize ceremony preceding the film was delayed by more than an hour by a slow-moving prize ceremony for a local journalism honor marked by long remarks from the honorees and presenters.

When it was finally time to honor Irons with the festival's Taormina Arte prize, the man that festival artistic director Mario Sesti called "one of the greatest living actors" took some small jabs at those who preceded him onstage. "I'll keep this short," he said, "because I have learned tonight that there is nothing more dangerous than a man, a stage, and a microphone," sparking laughter in the crowd of more than 1,000.

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Irons also said his visit to Taormina was his first since shooting period-drama Nijinsky in 1980, and he was nostalgic about seeing the picturesque cliff-side town again after so many years.

With the day's activities, the 59-year-old festival enters the home stretch. Starting with the screening of Zach Snyder's Man of Steel, his interpretation of the Superman saga, last Saturday (with Snyder and most of the film's stars on hand) and closing with Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger this Saturday, Irons was one of the mid-festival highlights, along with Meg Ryan, who has yet to arrive.

Twitter: @EricJLyman