Max Irons, ‘The Host’ Star, on Fainting Spells, Driving Skills, and Fighting Off the French Hordes
“The Host” isn’t Max Irons’s first go-round at otherworldly romance or a tween-friendly love triangle: The actor (whose father is Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons), was previously in “Red Riding Hood.”
This time around, however, he isn’t dealing with werewolves, but aliens who’ve taken over most of the human race. His character, Jared, is one of the few holdouts, along with Melanie (Saoirse Ronan). All that changes when she’s taken over by an alien host and Jared believes the girl he knew is dead.
Irons talked to Moviefone about why it’s a good thing he’s not wearing the same uncomfortable contacts Ronan had to for the film, why we should be afraid of his driving, and how he’s not going to let fame — even “Twilight”-sized success — change his approach to acting.
Moviefone: You already knew Saoirse before making this film, right?
Max Irons: We got a part together in a movie that never ended up happening for one reason or other. We went through quite a stressful audition process together when she was about 14. It was basically Prince Charming and a sort of Cinderella-y kind of stuff. Between you and me, I think we’re all quite glad it didn’t work out. It wasn’t the finest script we’ve ever read.
You said you kind of blew the audition for “The Host.”
Yeah, I did. It’s often the ones that you really care about. I just kept forgetting my lines, lines I’d known for weeks and weeks. But then it really started to work and there was a real… I don’t want to say chemistry, but it felt easy working with Saoirse, and it felt very natural. She’s so limitlessly talented and her emotional intelligence is incredibly high. I came out with a really good feeling despite butchering the first 10 minutes of the audition.
Saoirse has to wear contacts for most of the film. Is it harder acting opposite someone in contacts?
Not for me. It’s for her, those contacts give you tunnel vision, and we’re in the desert, so you’ve got a lot of dust to contend with. Not fun.
So you’re glad you don’t have to wear them in the film?
I have an extra problem with contact lenses: I wore them in “Red Riding Hood,” and for the first ten days, every time I had to put them in, I would pass out. The way I like to see it, it’s a highly evolved self-defense mechanism: Something unpleasant is about to happen to me, my body just cuts out.
Were you in that much pain?
No! I faint when I go to the dentist every single time. The chiropractor, I faint at that. It just happens. If other people have injuries, I’m completely fine and available to help them, but if my own body gets injured, I just conk out.
You grew up in London, and you’ve said you learned to drive for this.
Yeah, I got my license in Louisiana for this movie. Unnervingly easily. Two lessons are all you have to do in Louisiana, so two hours in total. So then I took my test and I passed.
Should we be a little afraid if we see you on the road?
Yeah, be afraid. I don’t drive in London because the traffic’s so terrible, it takes three times as long to get anywhere by car than it does by Underground. I’ve driven in LA a little and it’s quite scary. They say if you drive in LA, you can drive anywhere.
Are you prepared for this to be as big as “Twilight”?
No, because I don’t think it will be. I heard stories of Robert Pattinson being chased through the streets of Paris by hordes of French girls before they even started filming the first movie.
That doesn’t actually sound so bad.
Hordes of French girls. No, it sounds all right, doesn’t it?
So that hasn’t happened for you?
Not in the least. I could walk two miles that way without being recognized.
People can’t help but compare this to “Twilight.” How is it different?
I haven’t seen “Twilight.” I haven’t read the books. When I saw Stephenie’s name on the script, I wondered, “Oh God, is this just ‘Twilight 2.0’?” But, upon reading it, I thought, “Oh no, this is far more. There’s a huge amount to this.” Yes, it has its romantic elements, but at its heart, it’s a story of survival. It presents science-fiction philosophical ideas that are really interesting.
Jared actually hits Melanie in one scene that fans find pretty divisive.
Yeah, in the book, people didn’t particularly like Jared because he was quite violent and aggressive. I always liked Jared because I thought that he was really human. Imagine the pain you would go through to fall in love in a world where humans are few and far between, but then to have that person die, and then to have her walk back into your life, the specter of her former self, except that the girl you knew is gone. But then you discover that she is there, but she’s trapped and the thing that is trapping her, if you take it out, she goes with it. That’s a nightmare.
The scene that was my favorite scene to film, weirdly, was the scene where I have to hit her. I was really anxious about it, I didn’t know if I wanted to be in the film, I didn’t know if I approved of it, but then when it happened, I suddenly realized it was a microcosmic moment of Jared and Melanie’s whole struggle. Because in that moment there is love, there is hate, there is fear, there is anger, there is confusion — and I really liked that.
Your father was just in another supernatural romance that was heavily compared to “Twilight”: “Beautiful Creatures.”
I haven’t seen him much recently since we’ve both been so busy. I haven’t had an opportunity to see “Beautiful Creatures” yet, but it’s safe to say it’s nice that we’re both working.
Does he give you any advice on choosing your projects?
Sort of. I don’t always listen. I don’t mean that flippantly. I have to make my mistakes and I have to make my own choices and he understands that. We have conversations, but they’re never about acting, they’re conversations about the business side of things. But he knows to let me go and do it my way.
You’ve been quoted as saying, “The problem with Hollywood is that, for actors of my age, you don’t really have plenty of choices. You have to wait until you are 30, 40.”
I didn’t exactly mean that. I meant that I think Hollywood’s a dangerous place for guys our age at the moment. I think we’re very disposable, and a lot of parts are quite similar. Once you get to a certain age, the parts start to widen, which is sort of a nice prospect.
Who do you model your career after?
I really like what George Clooney does, the films he chooses to develop. Philip Seymour Hoffman is a really good example, not that I’m putting myself anywhere beside him. He does great work. I think it’s a mistake to think just because you’ve done a movie, that stops you from doing a little piece of independent theater. Real success is working, just keeping those muscles growing. You look at the greats and they all did that.