Jeremy Irons: To Lisbon, With Love

Sam Emerson / SHFP/C-FILMS 2012

The actor on rediscovering the Portuguese capital.

Q: Your new film, Night Train to Lisbon, which premièred at the Berlinale in February, is based on Pascal Mercier’s best-selling thriller about discovering passion in Lisbon. Did you get a chance to make some discoveries of your own while filming?

A: I was there for four weeks, but I was shooting five days a week, so I just had weekends, really, to get to see Lisbon. I’m a great wanderer of streets. I’d walk to the markets or I’d motorcycle around the town. Travel is an adventure, trying to somehow get inside and imbibe a different way of life, a different cultural heritage. I think you do that by sitting and watching and listening and walking and just letting it work its magic on you.

Q: You were in Lisbon in the early ’90s to shoot The House of the Spirits, by the same director, Bille August. How was this time different?

A: This time I fell in love with the fado. I found some wonderful local bars where one night a week I listened to fado—not touristic at all but from the heart of the place. The music comes from deep tradition; it’s very emotional. It’s great if you’re sitting there with a bit of tapas and a nice wine. And they’ll go to about five in the morning.

Q: And you stay until the end?

A: I can’t because I am normally working. I tend to be in a routine of getting to bed on the right side of midnight.