On the second day of the 14th edition of the Marrakech film festival, Jeremy Irons received a career tribute, presented by French actress Laetitia Casta.
The ceremony was followed by a gala dinner, with Irons seated next to his Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid, the president of the Marrakech film festival foundation.
“Dear Jeremy Irons,” Casta began during the tribute: “You follow in the great tradition of British acting, of talent without frontiers. They say that the British are the best actors in the world, and you follow in the footsteps of great British actors such as Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Cary Grant, who conquered Hollywood.”
Casta emphasized the fact that Irons has brought his talent to auteur films and blockbusters, and has also brought stage plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company to Broadway.
She then named some of the many great directors with whom he has worked including Barbet Schroeder, Steven Soderbergh, Bille August, David Lynch, Bernardo Bertolucci, Louis Malle, Ridley Scott and John McTiernan. She also referred to how Irons brings dark and disturbing introspection to morally ambivalent characters, such as Humbert Humbert in Adrian Lyne’s “Lolita” and Claus Von Bulow in Barbet Schroeder’s “Reversal of Fortune,” for which Irons received an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1991.
Finally she referred to the many social causes that Irons defends, including the fact that he produced and starred in the environmental documentary “Trashed,” by Candida Brady.
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Greeted by a standing ovation, Irons began his address by stating that, “As an actor I have had the chance to work with some of the most talented directors and actors in our industry and in the process I have discovered some of the most exciting people and places, whilst taking part in interior journeys associated to the many fascinating characters that I have had the chance to play.”
He then revealed that his first visit to Marrakech was during the first edition in 2001, soon after the 9/11 attacks in New York.
“The world was still reeling from the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York and most Americans were loathe to celebrate cinema in this part of the world,” he recalled. “But I realized that it was very important to honor my invitation, and it is now a great honor to receive this tribute in such different conditions.”
He stated that since 2001 he has returned to Marrakech on three occasions, as president of Marrakech’s short films jury in 2003, and then as actor in “And Now… Ladies and Gentlemen” by Claude Lelouch and in Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven.”
“It’s wonderful to be back in this hospitable environment, celebrating the best of Moroccan and international cinema.”
He concluded on a serious tone, stating: “Let us hope that 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. Through film we can foster patience, kindness and fairness, in the certain knowledge that only with a mutual understanding will we make our way forward into a better world.”
The 14th edition of the Marrakech international film festival runs Dec. 5-13.