Jeremy Irons is smitten with Savannah.
"I'm very pleased I'm here and don't have to fly in one day and fly out the next," Irons said. "I got here Friday and I'm not leaving until Wednesday."
On Monday, Irons was given the Savannah Film Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award. It was presented by Savannah College of Art and Design president and co-founder Paula Wallace, who called Irons "brave and brilliant."
View a slideshow of photos from Monday's premiere featuring fans and more.
"Tonight we honor a masterly actor, a man who's delivered some of the most indelible performances in the modern cinematic canon," Wallace said. "In the course of five decades, Jeremy Irons has played hopeful heroes, shrewd schemers, and I must say, his signature baritone can make for an excellent villain.
"Beyond the big screen, Jeremy has brought life, breath and his inimitable gravitas to starring roles in Shakespearean comedies, histories, and, by my count, one tragedy," Wallace said. "He's the kind of actor who transitions seamlessly among mediums, inhabiting his roles fully and turning every word to poetry."
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.
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" and "The Borgias."
"While some established leading men may rest on their laurels, Jeremy is busy expanding his multi-hyphenate repertoire," Wallace said. "Take last year for example - he returned to his Golden Globe-nominated run as the evil Rodrigo Borgia in Showtime's epic drama, 'The Borgias.'
"He starred in several films, including his turn as a debonair bad guy in the Oscar-nominated financial thriller, "Margin Call," Wallace said. "He took to the stage in four plays, and executive produced and starred in an environmental documentary. All in one year."
Earlier in the day, Irons met with SCAD students to discuss the acting process.
"I told them they have to be interested in everything," he said. "That makes for a more interesting life."
Although he doesn't have the opportunity to meet with students often, Irons said he does love teaching.
"They ask questions that make you find answers within yourself," he said. "I'm always interested in talking to people. I communicate through storytelling and I like to get feedback."
On Monday afternoon, Irons attended a screening of Adrian Lyne's 1997 adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel, "Lolita," in which he starred. Afterward, he participated in a question-and-answer session with the audience, who wanted to know not just about "Lolita," but about Irons' career.
Although he is equally adept in stage, screen and television, Irons said he doesn't have a favorite.
"The garden is always greener," he said. "Although the nice thing about theater is getting to recreate it another night."
No audience is ever quite the same, which keeps live performances interesting, Irons said. There are many reasons one audience may be quiet, while another lively and loud.
"It may be the day of the week, the barometric pressure, all the things they have to handle," Irons said. "It may be the temperature, the time of day.
"Maybe they don't want to see it, but their wife wants to see it," he said. "It will always be something. There are endless variables."
Acting isn't Irons' only passion. He also works toward saving the environment, and his recent documentary, "Trashed," was screened at the festival, followed by a question-and-answer session.
"Trashed" demonstrates the damage being done to the planet by garbage and landfills. Irons visited countries around the world to make the documentary and is now traveling around the world to present it.
"It really seems to be helping with the situation," he said.
While in town, Irons will speak to historic preservationists. A devoted preservationist himself, he restored Kilcoe Castle, built circa 1450, in County Cork, Ireland, or as he modestly puts it, "I did up a medieval building."
It's a heavy load for one person, but Irons said he feels it is every bit as important as his acting career.
"With every enduring character, in every magnetic utterance and iteration, Jeremy mislays no narrative stone," Wallace said.
"Still, in the end, his style and substance leave us wishing for one more scene, one more monologue, one more line."