SXSW Interview – Max Irons – Condor

Max Irons is the star of television series Condor, which screened at SXSW. While in Austin, I had the pleasure of speaking with Max about his role. I have interviewed Max a few times before for his film, The Host, which released in 2013. He reunites with his co-star in The Host, William Hurt, in Condor.

Sarah: How did you become involved or cast in this role?

Max Irons: Not a particularly interesting story, the typical way. I got sent episode one. I’d seen the film (Three Days of the Condor, 1975) but too young to appreciate the significance of it, so I watched it again, reread the script, did the audition, sent it off as you do from England, send the tapes off and cross your fingers. Then a couple of weeks later, I got a call from Todd [Katzberg] and Jason [Smilovic] to fly to out to LA and do a screen test, exhaustive screen tests, and then I got the part.

Sarah: Amazing.

Max: Yeah, it’s good when it all works out.

Sarah: How do you think you have made this role different or better than Robert Redford?

Max: (Deep breath) You know, Robert Redford is… Firstly, the film is a Cold War film. It came out at a very fortunate time, and then Watergate followed it. Robert Redford has charisma to spare, so, for me, to linger too much on his interpretation of Joe Turner I think is an unhelpful way of looking at it. So, I watched it, I watched it again, and then I watched it again, and then I vowed not to watch it again. The work is sort of done for you in that the environment that my Joe Turner is operating in is vastly different to what the political environment to Robert Redford’s version of Joe Turner. The work kind of does itself. What is good about our show, what was good about the film and is also good about the show, the film is two hours, so you don’t have time to get into who everybody is and where they come from, their political leanings, which is what lent sort of mysterious quality to the film, so you came out feeling slightly unnerved by that movie, which is exactly what it should have achieved. Whereas our film, our show, we have more time to go into people’s origins, political leanings. And I think I get to do that with Joe in a way that Robert Redford didn’t get to do. You get to explore that with him, and I think in some ways Joe is a bit of a device. I think I hope it will speak to the majority of the audience watching it.

Sarah: You are doing an American accent again.

Max: Again. I hope it’s okay.

Sarah: Five years since The Host, what was it like to work with William Hurt again?

Max: It was as great as it was the first time around.

Sarah: I feel like you had more screen time with him this time around.

Max: We were joined at the hip this time around. William is great because with TV you are shooting ten pages. You’ve got a shit ton of producers who basically just need to get it done and make sure you get it done and get it processed. So to have someone like William who has a theatre background and has held onto that theatre background in spite of his vast library of film work, he comes to set, he wants to sit down and get into what the coming scene is about even if it takes up time, knowing as actors do know that investigation of what a scene is about pays off in time and in quality, and he has the gravitas and experience and the power to say, “No, we are going to take this time to finesse this scene.” And as a young actor, you can’t do that. I can’t comfortably fight that fight. William setting that example is so inspiring.

Sarah: Did it give you courage to do that in scenes he wasn’t in?

Max: Yeah. I think when someone like him… It’s almost like a company leader, but when you have someone demonstrating with enough compassionate power and force, everyone else follows suit. I think that is something really cool, and something you don’t often see. It’s almost en vogue at the moment to not care so much, so when you get someone who will just wing it, sometimes out of necessity, to have someone who will fight to investigate a scene is so good.

Sarah: I have only seen the first two episodes, but do you have any scenes with Brendan Fraser?

Max: That makes two of us. I don’t have any scenes with him, and I am sad to say that I have only seen him in the flesh twice.

Sarah: Where did you shoot the series?

Max: Toronto, all over Toronto.

Sarah: So it wasn’t DC?

Max: It was DC. We did days in DC. All of my shitty running…

Sarah: (I laughed way too loud at that.)

Max: That was too much of a laugh. That’s too big of a laugh.

Sarah: What was in that backpack?

Max: Nothing!  Can you tell?

Sarah: No!

Max: It was bouncing around on my shoulders. There was nothing in there. But maybe that’s what I’ll do; I’ll blame all the dodgy running on my shitty backpack. I’ll say someone put a lead weight in there and it was banging my spine. I couldn’t run any better.

Sarah: Would you rather do a television series or a two-hour film?

Max: I think every piece of work is its own case. This particular piece of TV, Condor, is wonderful because these ideas are complex and nuanced. They are not open and shut, so to get to explore them, it goes to back what we were talking about. You want the time to explore these ideas and multiple approaches. The problem with seeing in the world, not just the left and right in America, but also the cultural division we are seeing all over the world. For example, Islamic terrorism vs. politics in the western hemisphere, that they are at odds. And the reason for the division is a complex, fucking argument, one that needs and demands time and attention. So to have ten hours to do that from multiple points of view, from Joe’s point of view, from William Hurt’s, from Bob Balaban’s character, they are very different but all present in the American political zeitgeist. That’s what you need, right? I think we need to be hearing those different conversations and if we can be doing it in an entertaining, thrilling kind of way, then even better.

Sarah: There is so much new content coming out, streaming or on TV, how do you think Condor will compete?

Max: I don’t worry. What I mean is that I don’t concern myself.

Sarah: Your job is done.

Max: My job is done. I put my all into it, and I am proud of it. I think the people who are interested in our material will find it. In terms of Netflix, Amazon, DirecTV, Hulu, and all that, firstly, I don’t understand it, and I kind of don’t care. I stand behind this piece of work and hopefully people who want to see it will find it.


Sarah resides in Dallas where she writes about films and trailers in her spare time when she is not taking care of her animals at the zoo.

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