British actor Jeremy Irons can add a new award to the long list of honors he has received throughout his career.
On Oct. 28, Irons will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Savannah Film Festival.
Following a screening of Adrian Lyne's 1997 adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel "Lolita," he will participate in a question-and-answer session.
"I became interested in the theater by reading theatrical biographies," Irons says. "My father gave me my first, of Charlie Chaplin, and I would collect secondhand prints of actors whenever I found them.
"I wrote in the Leaver's Magazine that I was going into histrionic art, though I had little clue what it meant," Irons says. "I just knew I wanted to spend my life with a different sort of people to those amongst whom I had been educated."
Irons won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Claus von BÃ¼low in "Reversal of Fortune." He also was awarded Golden Globe and Emmy awards for "Elizabeth I," and his onstage performance in "The Real Thing" earned him a Tony Award.
"I've never once wanted to give an award back, but I'm not sure they really make much of a difference," Irons says. "They are always an honor to receive, but I don't think they generate better work, or better opportunities for future work.
"Some, like the Tony, the Emmy and the Oscar, may encourage people to employ you in the hope you might win their project an award, or even a nomination," he says. "I suppose they are a sign that your work has touched people, and since that is what I am out to do, they must bring some satisfaction."
During his career, Irons has appeared in such films as "The French Lieutenant's Woman," "The Mission," "M. Butterfly" and "Dead Ringers." He also provided the voice of the evil lion Scar in Disney's "The Lion King."
On television, Irons is known for his work in "Brideshead Revisited." More recently, he has starred in the Showtime historical drama series, "The Borgias."
"Each role, while you are rehearsing and playing it, is the most important in the world," Irons says. "Looking back at all of them, some gave me more fun than others, and some perhaps kicked my career forward a little more.
"The older I get, the more I value the experience of working being a happy one," he says. "I used to be a real worrier, and a bit of a perfectionist. Now I realize there is no such thing as perfection."
Irons began his career onstage in 1969, after receiving classical training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. It took him a while to realize he wanted to be a professional actor.
"I first acted in my last year in school at the age of 17," Irons says. "They were stuck for someone to play Mr. Puff in Sheridan's 'The Critic.'
"I had always wanted to be asked to be in a play, and was too dumb to know that there was a list put up at the beginning of each term for those who were interested in being cast," he says. "I played this wonderful character by the seat of my pants, just using my personality, and as a result had no time to revise for my exams, and so failed most of them."
At one point, Irons earned his living by doing social work and busking.
"After school, I became a social worker, earning most of my living by singing with my guitar on the streets," he says.
"After a while, I realized I was not selfless enough to be a social worker. I needed a bit of comeback.
"I answered an ad on the back of the stage newspaper for an acting assistant stage manager at the Marlow Theatre in Canterbury," Irons says. "That rather fancy title really meant general dogsbody, both on stage and behind the scenes."
But Irons had found his calling.
"I reveled in it," he says. "I loved the smells, the hours, the company - in fact, everything about it.
"But since I knew nothing about acting, I thought I should audition for drama school," Irons says. "My father was very understanding."
In fact, his father was willing to pay the fees if he found a place at drama school.
"Fortunately I am a second son, and he had worn himself out trying to persuade my elder brother to follow an economically credible path," he says.
"He was more lenient with me, and having advised me that actors rarely found it easy to keep a marriage together, he said that he supposed if I didn't give it a try I would never know whether I might have succeeded, and would always blame him for not supporting me.
"He agreed to pay my fees if I found a place at drama school, but made clear I would have to work in the breaks to earn my living costs," Irons says.
It wasn't easy getting accepted to a school.
"I auditioned for four drama schools, and the first three suggested I reapply in a year's time, clearly not convinced my zeal was burning enough," Irons says.
"But the principal of the Old Vic recognized something glowing which he felt might be blown into a flame, and announcing that I had the figure to carry clothes well and would always look well at the side of the stage, took me on," he says.
"I joined a great and motley group of students, and supplemented my holiday earnings with the profits from trading in secondhand furniture and pictures bought at the local auctions," Irons says. "I also met and moved in with my first wife."
But Irons didn't shine.
"I think I showed little promise," he says. "Most of my colleagues assumed I would go into the antiques business, and were as surprised as I was when I was one of the five selected to join the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company on our graduation.
"The theater school was a great place to spend two years, and I must have learned something," Irons says. "But for sure, I have gone on learning throughout my career, and still have a way to go."
His London theater productions include "The Winter's Tale," "Macbeth," "Much Ado About Nothing," "The Taming of the Shrew," "Godspell," "Richard II" and "Embers."
Covering multiple genres, other films starring Irons include "Kafka," "The House of the Spirits," "Die Hard with a Vengeance," "The Man in the Iron Mask," "The Merchant of Venice," "Being Julia," "Kingdom of Heaven," "Eragon," "Appaloosa" and "Margin Call."
There is more to come, he says.
"I have been on the road publicizing the documentary 'Trashed,' which I produced and appear in," Irons says.
"This is about the dangers inherent in how we deal with our garbage on a global scale and has meant much global travel. I leave for Indonesia next week.
"I have also been publicizing the next movie to appear, 'Night Train to Lisbon,' directed by Bille August," Irons says. "But with 'The Borgias' finished, I have been enjoying my first summer off for as long as I can remember. I am now reading and planning my work for next year and beyond, both in theater, film and possible film production."
Previous Lifetime Achievement honorees include Stan Lee, Oliver Stone, Sir Ian McKellen, Bobby Zarem and Malcolm McDowell.
Irons is looking forward to accepting the award.
"I shot some of 'Lolita' in Charleston and took a trip to Savannah one afternoon," he says. "I saw enough to want to go back for longer."
While in Savannah, Irons will speak with students.
"That is on my schedule, though as yet, I don't know what I'll talk about," he says. "That's really up to them, I suppose. I've always believed that talks should be two-way meetings."