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A Minute With: Max Irons on class divide, all-male banter

TORONTO (Reuters) - Max Irons may come from an illustrious acting family and has already had a taste of Hollywood, but he is very conscious of the empty and fleeting nature of fame and fortune.
/ Source: Reuters

TORONTO (Reuters) - Max Irons may come from an illustrious acting family and has already had a taste of Hollywood, but he is very conscious of the empty and fleeting nature of fame and fortune.

That awareness helped the British actor with his gritty role in new film "The Riot Club," out now in UK theaters. The film explores the violent excesses of an elite university society, inspired in part by Oxford University's Bullingdon Club.

Irons, 28, a relative newcomer to film and television, is the son of Academy award-winning English actor Jeremy Irons, and Irish actress Sinead Cusack.

The cast got along well, but unlike his easy-going character, Irons confessed to being "terrified" at first.

"I thought, what if we're all competitive and trying to out-do each other?" Irons told Reuters.

"I've never been good at all-male banter. I sort of clam up and go spend a lot of time going to the bathroom, standing outside smoking cigarettes, anything to get away from it."

While attending Toronto International Film Festival for "The Riot Club" premiere, Irons spoke with Reuters about Britain's class struggles and working on the film.

Q: What drew you to "The Riot Club"?

A: When I first read the script I actually didn't like it, because I just found it so unpleasant. And I know a couple of people like that and I find them unpleasant.

Q: Why did you ask to play the role of Miles?

A: I understood his problem, which was being seduced by being invited to the top table and everything that would mean for the trajectory of the rest of his life. It was only upon being inside it that you realized it wasn't fulfilling. That in fact, it's quite dark and corrupt.

Q: What is it about class and privilege that makes it such an enduring theme in cinema?

A: The divide we have in society seems to be getting wider and wider ... I think people need to start thinking about that.

Even though this is a fictitious take ... the fact that our Prime Minister (David Cameron), our Mayor of London (Boris Johnson), and our Chancellor of the Exchequer (George Osborne) were all in this club ... I want to know about that. I do. They weren't young, they were at a fairly discerning age at 22, 23.

(The film is) a non-judgmental look into a room that exists. Now, if they don't like what is inside that room, then they shouldn't be doing it. We're just opening the door, as film often does, as literature often does, as art often does.

Q: Why is the film's ending important?

A: I think it's incredibly important to show how it really unfortunately is. We had the riots in London ... I think they have cause for grievance. Opportunities are few and far between. Yet, when they smash a shop window, they get three years in prison, to be made an example of.

If what we hear is true about the Bullingdon Club and what they get up to, they're doing the same thing, at a more discerning age, after being given every advantage known to man, but yet, they can just pay it.

Q: What was it like working with director Lone Scherfig?

A: She's amazing - to have a woman like her on set. She has such a keen understanding of the class system, the class struggle. But also, she was so capable of controlling 10 energetic actors ... It could've been a nightmare.

Q: You did a lot of theater work before film. Would you go back to the stage?

A: I want to do a play every year. I it's very important. It's how I trained ... (Theater is) terrifying; it's thrilling. It's the most exciting thing that you can do. It's live and there's no room for error. You have to do it. You can't turn up to set two hours late. No retakes. Just do it, so it keeps you on your toes.

(Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Lisa Shumaker)