Max Irons

Although he comes from acting royalty, Max Irons is no spoiled scion—he’s just playing one on the big screen. This fall, the 28-year-old actor stars in The Riot Club, which will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Irons plays the good initiate in the thinly veiled story of a secret society of undergraduates at Oxford University and an initiation night that goes disastrously wrong. “A lot of people don’t know about this club—it’s largely unreported,” he says. “If the film does anything, I hope it will make people ask more questions.” 

While the decadence of young, posh Brits makes for riotous movie watching, Irons had a far more grounded upbringing. He is the son of famed actors Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack, although his parents “actively discouraged me from being an actor,” he reports. “They said, ‘Our careers were a collection of 20 to 30 lucky incidents. Don’t look at us and think it will be the same.’ ” Their warnings didn’t dissuade him. After leaving drama school in London in 2008, Irons made a splash in a number of big-budget projects, including the film Red Riding Hood (2011), playing the romantic antihero, and the Starz 15th-century drama series The White Queen, playing a lead role as King Edward IV. Irons exudes a troubled, mercurial innocence onscreen, and he prefers to unravel more complex characters than the usual Hollywood offerings of teen comedies and Twilight clones. “I never got many teenager parts,” he says. “A couple years ago, I went out for a franchise that’s been and gone. The guy said I was too old and not good-looking enough.”

For his next film, Woman in Gold, he plays a Jewish refugee who helps fight to reclaim Gustav Klimt paintings stolen by the Austrian government in the 1930s. “There is a lot of running away from Nazis,” he says. “And I had to speak German and sing ‘Don Giovanni’ in front of 200 people.”

In his own life, Irons is surprisingly subdued. “Networking makes me nervous,” he says. “I don’t like to go to parties, and it’s odd to me how much Twitter and Instagram have become integrated with the business of being an actor. I used to be on Facebook, and all it did was make me stressed. I felt the need to advertise my likes falsely. If I were honest about what I like—submarines and airplanes—it’s not a good look.”