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This blog is for English actress, cakemaker and writer Jane Asher, with many pictures and accurate information of one of the most beautiful rock muses from the 20th century.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Lecture special: Jane Meets Jeremy Irons, 1995

Jane Asher's Magazine, Summer 1995 issue.

Jane meets Jeremy Irons

I have known Jeremy for many years but it had been quite a while since I had last seen or worked with him. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet up with him socially and catch up on all his news.

"What memory do you have of working with me on Brideshead?" I asked the suave and stylish Jeremy Irons. Well, I thought to myself, there must be at least one special moment he's never forgotten; some vision of me all those years ago that has never left him; a mental snapshot of Jane at 33, in a beautiful thirties outfit, leaning fetchingly against a wall of the set, perhaps; or the unforgettable way I had put across a certain nuance of Celia Ryder's character. "You being sick," he answered. "Oh. Yes, of course."

[foto ell gran amb pastís: Smooth touch. "Life goes on – even for the Hollywood star. Just because he's good looking, successful and famous, there's no excuse to get out of sharing the boring bits of life, and with a surname like his, I didn't have to look far for a suitable cake. Cheer up Jeremy – only the collar and another sleeve to go!" 

Although not quite what I had been hoping for, this wasn't as bad as it may appear. Poor Celia – married to Jeremy's irresistible Charles – had become dreadfully seasick while on an Atlantic crossing, and had retired to her cabin in self-pitying nausea, while Charles met, pursued and finally won the beautiful Julia Flyte.
The filming of this sequence was done in two parts – the embarkation and deck sequences on the QE2 and the inside scenes in a studio. All the actors and technicians involved in the ship sequence were flown to New York and then put onto the QE2 to film the relevant scenes on board during the journey back to England. As my character spent most of the journey throwing up in her bed,I only had a couple of hours filming during the trip, and spent most of my time playing deck quoits, winning the on-board tennis tournament and eating and drinking with Gerald and our then, five-year-old daughter Katie. Yes, I had so little work to do we had decided to make a family holiday out of it – it's a tough life, being a Thespian.
When we later filmed the interior scenes, a cabin was built in a film studio and mounted on giant rockers. As I lay, palely made-up and over-acting my nauseous misry in my bed, several strong crew men bodily rocked the entire set to and fro. This was the touching moment that Jeremy has remembered.

Play it again. "Once Jeremy saw the piano there was just no stopping him."

All together now... "Piano duets are enourmous fun – for those playing anyway."

It's showtime! "Practice makes perfect – well, maybe not quite, but it was fun anyway."

Sitting comfortably. "After our enthusiastic piano playing, it was time to relax and take a break."

I first became aware of Jeremy as an extraordinary and special actor when I saw him in the television series Love for Lydia. I remember being very struck by the unusual quality he brought to the screen: "brooding" is a very overused word when it comes to describing an actor's style, but in his case it's the perfect description. He makes us feel that there are some dark secrets lurking behind those intense eyes, and passionate possibilities smouldering beneath that smooth exterior.
Since working together all those years ago we have remained friends, although meeting only occasionally and following very different paths – he to international stardom and Hollywood; I to theatre, cakes, books and – to my enormous pleasure – this magazine.

Sit back and relax. "Jeremy has just finished filming with Bruce Willis in the latest Die Hard movie but still likes to catch up with his friends back in the old country."

He was an obvious choice to be my special guest in this issue; having included in the spring magazine the woman most of England's men are in love with – the fabulous Joanna Lumley – I could only invite the man so many women dream of to join me this time.
His rise to stardom took him completely by surprisem and he feels it was triggered through the lucky combination of being seen in TV serial Brideshead Revisited and the box-office hit The French Lieutenant's Woman at the same time.
"I had no idea while we were making Brideshead that it was going to be the start of something so extraordinary. It wasn't until we had finished filming and editing I became aware we were onto something special; and the fact that The French Lieutenant's Woman was to be shown almost at the same time as Brideshead was a piece of extremely fortuitous timing. I remember waking up one morning and looking a the papers in the week that both were to be released. My face was on the cover of three of the colour supplements. 'What is this?', I thought. It was exciting and frightening at the same time, and I knew then that everything in my life was going to change.
He may give credit to luck: he still claims that there were any number of excellent actors in Brideshead, any of whom could have gone on to achieve his success – but there is no question that his special talents have taken him to the top. He is more used to his fame now, although it obviously had its drawbacks at first. "I remember I was swimming in the sea off the coast of Australia, completely alone and miles from anywhere, when it first struck me just what I was going to have to get used to. Out of nowhere a voice said 'Hi Jeremy!' and I looked up to see a couple smiling and waving at me from the back of a boat. I realised then that the world was now to be my village, with all the advantages and disadvantages that that implies. I would enjoy the feeling of community and friendship, but would miss the anonymity and freedom."

[foto gran piano: A change of scene. "Actor always enjoy the chance to get together and gossip about the latest news."

When I rang Jeremy to tell him the exciting news that he was the lucky person to be picked to have a cake made for him for my summer issue he was generous and immediate in his acceptance. Iknew that we were to meet socially in the near future so  suggested that it would be the perfect occasion on which to present him with his cake. "Can I keep it?", was his only query, and when I told him that of course he was to take the cake away with him and share it with his family, he was delighted.
Jeremy's image is one of suave sophistication, so the idea of a dinner jacket cake was the first idea to spring to mind, but I soon decided to add a little humour to it and (never being adverse to the odd pun or two), made instead an ironing board with a jacket on it, so that I could utilise his unusual and punnable surname. I thought his beautiful and talented wife Sinead might like the idea of him doing the ironing in any case – and I love the picture of him in his shirtsleeves buckling down to this mundane task. The remains of blond dye in Jeremy's hair are left over from his transformation into his most recent character. He has just returned from America where he has been working on the lastest Die Hard film with Bruce Willis. Knowing how impressed my two boys would be by this information, I couldn't resist asking the obvious question: "So what is Bruce Willis like to work with?" "Great," was Jeremy's immediate reply. "Lots of laughs and a keen party man – he loves to dance." "And are you the baddy?" He gave me a wry smile and twinkled a bit. "Well, I don't think so. I like my character. But yes, I was on the other side from Bruce, so I guess you might see it like that."

Fond farewells. "Jeremy took his special cake home to share with Sinead and his children."

I love the way actors can always find some sympathy with the characters they portray (very important if the part is to be played with conviction). I suspect Jeremy will prove to be playing someone very bad indeed, and with his blond hair and blue contact lenses, I look forward to a chilling encounter.

His huge, and well deserved success, means he is constantly in demand, (one of my favourite characters of those he has played recently is his magnificent and deliciously wicked Scar in the Lion King) and next he and Sinead are off to Italy, where they will be filming with Bernardo Bertolucci, not playing husband and wife, but family friends. 
I always feel very proud when one of our home grown actors becomes an important star, particularly when it's a friend, and I have feeling Jeremy is going to remain in that position for a very long time to come. He may even be too busy to keep up with his ironing.

Role Model. Jeremy played the part of Charles Ryder, with Jane taking the role of his wife Celia, in Granada TV's Brideshead Revisited, which was one of the most successful dramatisations ever screened on British television.

Black tie cake
Suave actor Jeremy Irons appreciated the humour of this amazing cake and looked forward to tasting it.

25cm/10in square cake tin
450g/1lb self raising flour
340g/12oz softened, unsalted butter
340g/12oz caster sugar
6 eggs, size 3
3 tsp vanilla essence
1 quantity of buttercream*
40.5 x 30.5cm/16 x 12in cake board
2.5kg/5lb white roll-out icing
a little icing sugar for dusting
assorted food colours, including black and silver
small amount of royal icing* for stricking
1 quantity of petal paste*
liquorice wheel

Buttercream
250g/½lb butter
250g/½lb icing sugar
few drops vanilla essence

Cream the butter until soft. Sieve the icing sugar, then gradually beat it and the vanilla essence into the butter until well mixed.

Royal icing
1 egg white, size 3
200g/8oz icing sugar
few drops lemon juice

Whisk the egg white until well broken and slightly frothy. Sieve and stir in a little of the icing sugar. Beat well. Gradually add the remaining icing sugar, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon juice and beat the mixture well until smooth and glossy.

Petal paste
100g/4oz icing sugar
½ tsp gum tragacanth
½ tsp powdered gelatine
2½ tsp cold water
1 tsp white fat
½ tsp liquid glucose
½ egg white, size 3

Sieve the icing sugar and gum tragacanth into a bowl and stand it over hot water. Dissolve the gelatine in cold water in a cup, then stand it in a pan of hot water. Add the white fat and glucose and allow to dissolve. Mix in the egg white, then add to the warmed icing. Beat by hand for 5-10 munites, using a wooden spoon. Leave the paste in a plastic bag in the fridge for about 30 minutes before use.

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