Film festival bosses blasted for choosing Jeremy Irons as jury head despite controversial views on same-sex marriage

Jeremy Irons Berlin Film Festival

The Berlin Film Festival has been slammed for selecting British actor Jeremy Irons as president of its international jury despite his past comments on same-sex marriage and sexual harassment.

Irons, who is bet known for Brideshead Revisited and for voicing Scar in The Lion King, has become a controversial figure in recent years for his bizarre comments about same-sex marriage. But this didn’t stop bosses of the Berlin Film Festival selecting him as president of the international jury.

“With his distinctive style Jeremy Irons has embodied some iconic characters that have accompanied me throughout my journey in cinema, making me aware of the complexity of human beings,” said the festival’s artistic director Carlo Chatrian.

“His talent and the choices he has taken both as an artist and as a citizen make me feel proud to welcome him as president of the jury for the 70th edition of the Berlinale.”

Irons, meanwhile, said it was a “great honour” to be selected as president.

“Being in Berlin for the festival will be a treat giving me the opportunity not only to remind myself of that great city but also to watch this year’s crop of films chosen by the festival, followed by the opportunity to discuss their merits with my fellow jury members.”

German media outlets have hit out at the Berlin Film Festival for selecting Jeremy Irons as president of the jury.

German media outlets have expressed concern over Irons’ appointment, with tageszeitung and Der Tagesspiegel quoting a Radio Times interview he did in 2011 in which he said: “If a man puts his hand on a woman’s bottom, any woman worth her salt can deal with it. It’s communication. Can’t we be friendly?” Screen Daily reports.

Meanwhile, Andreas Busche wrote in Der Tagesspiegel: “If one had just simply typed the words ‘Jeremy Irons’ and ‘MeToo’ into the internet search engine, the [Berlinale] management would have come across a number of articles about his statements from the recent past within half a second. This kind of vetting actually belongs to the standard practices for every job advert nowadays.”

His quotes at the time were also taken out of context. He has again reinforced that his comments back then do not represent his position and way of thinking.

Responding to the criticisms from tageszeitung, artistic director Chatrian said: “Regarding the comments, we know that [Irons] already revised and announced his regret in the past and that these comments don’t in any way correspond his actual position.

“His quotes at the time were also taken out of context. He has again reinforced that his comments back then do not represent his position and way of thinking.”

Irons has come under fire for his comments on same-sex marriage.

In an interview with HuffPost in 2013, Irons suggested that same-sex marriage could lead to fathers marrying their sons to avoid inheritance tax.

“Could a father not marry his son?” Irons asked host Josh Zepps.

When reminded about laws preventing incest, Irons replied: “It’s not incest between men,” because “incest is there to protect us from inbreeding, but men don’t breed”.

Later, speaking on Hardtalk, he backtracked slightly, claiming: “I didn’t have any opinion about gay marriage… I don’t actually have much opinion about heterosexual marriage, except I possibly think it might protect children and make it easier for children, that’s why I married my wife.”

“Gay marriage is not something I have any feelings about at all; I’m quite interested in what it does to marriage, which is why we were having this rather bizarre conversation.”

He continued to say that same-sex marriage would “change” the institution and said it had historically been about “procreation”.