JEREMY IRVINE IN LONDON, MARCH 2015. PHOTOS: MATT HOLYOAK. STYLING: NIC JOTTKANDT. GROOMING: ATHENA SKOUVAKIS AT FRANK AGENCY USING BUMBLE AND CLARINSMEN. PHOTO ASSISTANTS: SAM WILSON, JACK DONCASTER, JOSH HOCKNEY. STYLING ASSISTANT: JULIA LURIE.
Jeremy Irvine could have had a very different career. After making his film debut as the protagonist of Steven Spielberg’s War Horse in 2011, Irvine was purportedly offered roles in blockbuster franchises like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Instead, the British actor chose to work with some of the most revered names in the film industry, from Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter in Great Expectations (2012), to Robert Duvall in the independent film A Night in Old Mexico (2013), to Colin Firth in The Railway Man (2013). His selectivity has paid off; Irvine’s fans might not scream quite as loudly as those franchise-friendly, but he has Oscar-nominated actors like Duvall singing his praises.
This weekend, Beyond the Reach, Irvine’s latest film and his second in an American accent, comes out in select cinemas. The 24-year-old spends most of the movie being hunted through the New Mexico desert by another Oscar-winner Michael Douglas.
Here, Douglas and Irvine reunite via phone to discuss their tense two-hander.
JEREMY IRVINE: How are you?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS: I’m great. Catherine just told me some terribly nice things you said about me [on The Talk] with Ms. Osbourne, so I’ll pay you when this is all over, Jeremy.
IRVINE: [laughs] I’d like that—a check in the post.
DOUGLAS: Can you believe it’s been a year and a half?
IRVINE: I can’t! It really does not feel like that long ago.
DOUGLAS: What have you been up to lately?
IRVINE: I’ve been in L.A. doing a few meetings and things. I had some stuff out in January, so the other side of our job. Hopefully we’re shooting the next thing in July.
DOUGLAS: Where is that going to be?
IRVINE: I’m hoping in London.
DOUGLAS: I can’t remember—did you get a new place?
IRVINE: Yeah, I bought my new place when I came and did The Reach. I remember I was going through all the madness of buying a house while I was in the desert.
DOUGLAS: What do you think, is this the toughest picture physically you’ve ever done?
IRVINE: I would say so, yeah. How about you?
DOUGLAS: It was definitely right up there. Did you stay in shape?
IRVINE: Having had to lose a lot of weight before this movie, I found that easier, actually, than putting it on.
DOUGLAS: Anybody new in your life?
IRVINE: No, keeping things on the relaxed side.
DOUGLAS: Loosey goosey?
IRVINE: Loosey goosey. Exactly.
DOUGLAS: Can you say that publicly without any trouble?
IRVINE: There’s girls all over the world who will go “What? I thought…” [laughs] I’m in the clear. Focusing on me-time.
DOUGLAS: I was wondering, have you ever camped out?
IRVINE: I have. As a kid, we used to do a lot of that. I went to a school where we had a strong military side to things, so we’d spend a lot of our summer holidays living under one piece of tarpaulin with the army. And I’d go camping a lot with my parents— my parents were very big on camping.
DOUGLAS: Was it a military school?
IRVINE: Not strictly, no, but it had a strong military side. It was only when I went to drama school that I realized it was not normal for a school to have a machine gun for every pupil. It’s a bit mad thinking about it. When we’d go out, we wouldn’t be given tents, we’d just have two pieces of tarpaulin—waterproof sheeting—and you’d make something called a basher, which is kind of like a tent, but also absolutely nothing like a tent in that it offers barely any protection from any sort of elements. [laughs]
DOUGLAS: You’d actually go out for the summer?
IRVINE: We’d do it in the winter! We’d do it in the winter and the summer. You’d wake up in the morning and your trousers would have frozen in the frost, so you would have to crack your pants to get them mobile again. It was hardcore.
DOUGLAS: Jeez. That’s tougher than the movie.
IRVINE: It is and it isn’t. We were kids and we weren’t doing it for very long. A movie’s two months.
DOUGLAS: And you had shoes on.
IRVINE: And I had shoes on! Which makes a big difference. I think camping is one of those things where if you’re forced into it as a child, you’ll probably hate it as an adult. I’ve been spoiled rotten now, that’s the problem, with the lovely Farmington motels.
DOUGLAS: I remember you used to try to get to Durango on the weekends. You had an inherent outdoors attraction.
IRVINE: I like being outdoors a lot, and I come from a small village that’s fairly remote. Now that, for work, I have to be living in cities, I really cherish the time when I get to be out in the countryside.
DOUGLAS: Your folks are all there?
IRVINE: Yeah, they are. I just got back from a little family vacation to Devon.
DOUGLAS: That’s near Cornwall, isn’t it?
IRVINE: Exactly. Me and my brother spent a few days building a raft and things to take out to sea—boys stuff. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed.
DOUGLAS: Did you have a trailer? Was it a campsite, or did you rent a house down there?
IRVINE: It was a little cottage—a tiny little house. But it was all lighting fires and stuff, which I really love. All my friends are into that as well.
DOUGLAS: Isn’t Devon the only area where there are palm trees in the U.K.?
IRVINE: Maybe in Cornwall, but they are palm trees in a very cold, wet, raining environment. [laughs] It’s nice though; it’s where I shot the movie War Horse, so it’s got a special place in my heart.
DOUGLAS: How long have you been in L.A.?
IRVINE: I’ve been here for two weeks now. I’ve been here quite a bit recently. It grows and grows on me more and more. It’s the complete polar opposite to what I’m used to.
DOUGLAS: You’re comfortable driving around up there now?
IRVINE: Yeah, and if you’re a British actor, then you can get a nice little Jaguar—they tend to be very nice to you. You can drive around in your fancy British cars.
DOUGLAS: Wait, is Jaguar a special deal for British actors? [laughs]
IRVINE: It kind of seems like that at the moment. I love cars, so I have a great time doing that.
DOUGLAS: We got a nice response on the picture. I don’t know if you felt it in your meetings, but they’re very nice—a real positive response from everybody I’ve been talking to. Of course they know who you are, but when I tell them do they remember that you’re a Brit, they can’t believe it.
IRVINE: That’s good. That’s always a worry,
DOUGLAS: When you were at LAMDA, did they work on American accents in speech class?
IRVINE: No, not for me. I wasn’t there long enough. I did a year. That’s something I had to teach myself. Nearly every taping or audition has to be in an American accent, so you don’t have a choice; you just have to get good at it. I’m sure you can appreciate accents—it’s like learning any skill, you have to work at it and work at it and it takes an awful lot of time, until it’s muscle memory and you don’t have to think about it anymore.
DOUGLAS: It’s a phenomenon that I see with young actors—a lot of American speaking parts going to British actors, which is a compliment on how you are doing.
IRVINE: I think we’re fast becoming very unpopular with American actors. [laughs] On the whole, British actors star in theater, and I think there’s something quite grounding about that. There’s certainly something, which I’m missing right now. I was doing a chat show yesterday, and it’s so nice to be in front of a life audience and know when you’re being funny, and when you’re doing something interesting, because you’re getting that live reaction. I just filmed a little cameo in a comedy film, and the only time I’ve ever done comedy is on stage, and I start a joke and nobody laughs! It feels like when you say a joke to someone in conversation and it just dies. It’s that horrible awkward feeling.
DOUGLAS: That’s why I love to go and see the screenings. For me, one of the biggest thrills is going to a theater and going, “Oh, I got a laugh!” Because you never quite get to hear it [otherwise].
IRVINE: It was amazing seeing Beyond The Reach for the first time in Toronto. I had no idea the movie was funny, I really didn’t. Suddenly, being in a room full of people, where every few minutes they’re laughing and they’re going with it, it’s just great.
DOUGLAS: You got to do that with tension pieces—you’ve got to have a little relief. Have you found those two British pubs in Santa Monica?
IRVINE: I have! I went and watched the Super Bowl in one of them so I got to know that pub and the bar staff a bit too.
DOUGLAS: For your soccer games, you’ve got to start drinking at 8 o’clock in the morning.
IRVINE: [laughs] It’s great. I love it. I was doing another interview and they were saying, “What do your friends think about you doing movies?” and I was saying, “The best thing for them is that they get to come to all these parties where there are open bars and they get to come with me to film festivals and have a party for three days!” It’s a very British thing. Each year we go to the Cannes film festival and I tend to have all my friends pile in the back of my car and we’ll drive from London. The poor production company think they’re only putting me up and suddenly they’ve got eight people sleeping on my hotel room floor.
DOUGLAS: So you have another two weeks and you head home?
IRVINE: Yeah, a couple of weeks and then I head home. I’m going to go to New York [before]. My best friend lives in New York. We’re going to go and watch some basketball Monday night, and then I’ll come back.
DOUGLAS: You’re not going to watch the Knicks are you?
IRVINE: I think we might be! Honestly, I think Americans have got sport right. It such a spectacle. I love watching sport here.
DOUGLAS: Basketball is great; no one in Europe seems to believe just how close the spectators can sit to the players. Just as we have a hard time understanding all the hooligan stuff—the soccer thing. It’s hard for us to understand it—not to say we’re a violent country, but when it comes to sport, it’s pretty sacred. [laughs]
IRVINE: It’s kind of put me off soccer. I went to watch the Formula 1 the other day as well, and that was amazing. I had such good fun doing that. I was filming in Montreal and I went to see it there.
DOUGLAS: I wish I’d known. I had a couple buddies there who were in the pit!
IRVINE: Yeah, it was amazing! We went with the McLaren guys.
DOUGLAS: A friend of mine owns it, Ron Dennis.
IRVINE: That’s amazing. Oh man, they were so great!
DOUGLAS: They were having a rough time this year.
IRVINE: This year isn’t going so well for Jenson [Button], [but] I think it’s one of the last truly glamorous sports. The whole scene around it was really cool.
DOUGLAS: Sort of like matadors.
IRVINE: Absolutely. I just go for the glamour.
BEYOND THE REACH COMES OUT TODAY, APRIL 17, IN SELECT THEATERS.