Jeremy Irons reclines in a hidden corner of a restaurant on the grounds of Marrakech's lavish La Mamounia hotel, sipping a warm glass of sweet mint tea.
The sun is sinking, and there's a nip in the air, so he's moved inside from a courtyard where he'd been doing a TV interview. But he admits he's been warmed by the appreciation he received during a tribute a couple of nights earlier at the Marrakech International Film Festival.
"It's always nice to have a tribute -- and to have an excuse to come here," Irons says, in that distinctive baritone. "One understands that it's all part of the structure of film festivals, part of what film festivals are all about. I love Morocco -- the design, the architecture, the people, the food, the weather. I particularly like to go down to the souks and bargain.
"When I was doing up a place in Ireland, this medieval tower, I furnished it with a huge amount of rugs, camel leads and other decorations. When I was working here for Claude Lelouch [on 2002's And Now... Ladies and Gentlemen], we'd finish working at 4, and I'd be off down to the souk to continue negotiations."
Not that he's minimizing the tribute. As he noted in his speech at the official event, he came to the first Marrakech festival shortly after the September 11 attacks in the U.S. and was buoyed by the shared humanity that international film can reveal.
And there are other positives, as well. This trip to Marrakech provided reunions with several people he's worked with in the past, including Viggo Mortensen (Appaloosa) and director Bille August (with whom he worked on The House of the Spirits and Night Train to Lisbon): "That's the great thing about film festivals: You come across old mates. It's great that my work is appreciated in the Arab countries. It's good to be relatively popular, box-office-wise, with as wide an audience as possible."
This interview continues on my website.