Interview by Paul Salfen
Max Irons in Condor. Photo credit: AT&T Audience Network
Max Irons plays Joe Turner in Condor, a AT&T Network Audience adaptation based on the movie Three Days of the Condor, an academy-award nominated 1975 American political thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, and Max von Sydow.
In this new 10 episode direct-to-TV series which airs June 6th, Irons plays young CIA analyst Joe Turner, whose idealism is tested when he stumbles onto a terrible but brilliant plan that threatens the lives of millions. Turner is an idealistic millennial who secretly joins the CIA hoping to reform it from within. But when everyone in his office is massacred by professional killers, this brilliant analyst is forced out of his ivory tower think tank and into battle with the most dangerous elements in the military-industrial complex.
Irons, son of noted actors Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack, talked to us at SXSW for the heavily promoted premier of Condor, which kicked off by taking over 78 Rainey Street with a fully interactive activation titled “CONDOR Headquarters” where guests took part in a series of authentic CIA-experiences utilizing physical and digital technology tactics. Visitors underwent authentic skills tests including RFID Technology, EEG Biometric (lie detection), Rear Projection and Touch Display technology (environmental analysis). We sat down to talk about Condor, what it’s like to fill Robert Redford’s shoes, and his take on fame in the Driskill Hotel, a SXSW favorite “haunt.”
AMFM: Welcome to Austin!
Max Irons: I’ve never been here before for this. I know nothing about Austin.
AMFM: You know this hotel is haunted?
Max: This hotel? By anyone in particular?
AMFM: There’s apparently an elevator attendant, which they haven’t used for decades.
Max: Blimey! That’s kinda cool. That’s a reason to stay here.
AMFM: We’ve been seeing your face on posters all around town, isn’t that bizarre?
Max: It’s super bizzare – the signs with the faces on it, the cars with the faces on it? We had an activation suite this morning where we had to go through a CIA training initiation. It’s kind of cool fun!
AMFM: What was it like training for the role?
Max: Training for this was mostly reading about what they’ve been doing for the past 75 years. There’s a great deal of stuff, but there’s some things you just don’t know, and won’t be released for hundreds of years. It’s safe to say that their influence stretches around the globe.
AMFM: Is there anything neat that you’ve found out that’s new, or would you have to kill me if you told me?
Max: Hopefully I won’t have to kill you during the interview. But neat? I think frightening is the word. There is a reason the American economy is so prosperous. There is a reason America is so influential. There’s a reason you have so many allies and military bases around the world, so many trading partners. There is a reason for that, and the CIA is at the bottom of it.
AMFM: So what can you tell us about the show without killing me?
Max: (laughs) First of all I saw the film when I was younger. And when the script came my way, I was like “Oh My God, if this is the genesis material this is fantastic.” And, as is often the case, you will read something and be disappointed. But that was not the case with this. I thought the material was wonderful and skillfully written, but most importantly, and you have to bear this in mind when you sign on to a show like this, because you sign on for five years; politically do I want to associate myself with this? Is this going one side or the other? That’s what I like about this, it poses a lot of questions to the audience, but it doesn’t ask them for you, it doesn’t thrust any particular view or history down a person’s neck. I think that’s neat.
AMFM: This material is kind of politically charged, does that make you nervous? Are you waiting for the call from Robert Redford?
Max: Geez, there are so many reasons to be nervous. Robert Redford has charisma to spare. It’s wonderful source material, but they had two hours to tell that story, which gave it something, because a lot of what was mysterious about it was you didn’t know who anyone was. They just came in and they interacted, did what they did, and remained mysterious, which is true to CIA operatives. However we have 10 hours. So We get to extend the questions that were asked in the film and open up a few more avenues of thinking, character development, and expand the argument. Which is great.
And then to have two skilful writers like Todd Katzberg and Jason Smilovic who don’t have a political axe to grind, who are open-minded and mind-bendingly clever, it’s kind of cool.
AMFM: Well, now you get to debut this to the rest of the world, that’s got to be exciting.
Max: Exciting and terrifying.
AMFM: People certainly know your father’s work, did he give you any advice on the business?
Max: He didn’t want me to be an actor, initially. My mother is also an actress, but more theater. They said to me early on, “Don’t take a look at us and think it’s necessarily going to be the same for you. We came up in a time when there were frankly less actors.” There was more repertory theater. You learned your craft over the course of ten years in a way that wasn’t exposing. You could tour England and do little Shakespeares and learn to become a great actor without anyone knowing your name. Whereas now it’s different, your career can be sharper and shorter.
So they said don’t look at us and think of us as an example, this is a difficult road you’re going down, with guaranteed highs and guaranteed lows, financial insecurity. Geographically…you’re away from the people you love.
But in England we’ve got a drama school, and you do things a certain way. I did things in that way and at a certain point they realized I was serious about it. They kind of backed off…and they don’t micromanage me.
AMFM: What would you say to other kids who are looking up to you?
Max: Firstly, what do I know. But my advice would be the celebrity, fame and superficial side of it…none of that’s real. It’s kind of like junk food. It fills you up and makes you feel like you’re satisfied, but in fact it’s taking something from you, and it’s just vapid.
If you really want to do it then just work.