Ahead of the Berlin Film Festival, actor and this year’s president of the international jury Jeremy Irons took a moment to address resurfaced, highly controversial comments regarding abortion, same-sex marriage, and sexual harassment. Per Variety, Irons opened the jury’s press conference with a brief acknowledgment of his role as president before cutting to the heart of the dissent that has surrounded the Berlinale for weeks.
“I should like, not as the jury president, but on a personal level to address various comments that I have reportedly made in the past, and which have resurfaced in certain sections of the press over the past few weeks. I wish I didn’t have to take up time with this, but I don’t want it to continue as a distraction to the Berlinale,” he told the room. Irons went on to address each issue individually:
“Let me make my views this morning entirely clear on these particular subjects once and for all. Firstly, I support wholeheartedly the global movement to address the inequality of women’s rights, and to protect them from abusive, damaging, and disrespectful harassment, both at home and in the workplace.
“Secondly, I applaud the legislation of same-sex marriage, wherever it has been attained, and I hope that such enlightened legislation will continue to spread into more and more societies. And thirdly, I support wholeheartedly the right of women to have an abortion, should they so decide.
“These three human rights are, I believe, essential steps toward a civilized and humane society, for which we should all continue to strive. There are many parts of the world where these rights do not yet exist, where such ways of living lead to imprisonment, and even to death.”
The issues surrounding Irons’ appointment to jury president stem from comments made back in 2011 where the actor said to U.K.’s Radio Times, “if a man puts his hand on a woman’s bottom, any woman worth her salt can deal with it. It’s communication. Can’t we be friendly?” He also defended the Church’s right to deem abortion a sin and suggested in a 2013 interview with HuffPost that legalizing gay marriage could encourage fathers to marry their sons to avoid certain taxation, though he also stated that he “[didn’t] have a strong feeling either way” on the subject. As some of the films entered in this year’s Berlinale address those specific issues, including Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always, there was a concern that lingering sentiments made him an unfit choice for president.
Today, Irons is assuring the public that those feels remain in the past, and that he hopes to put the issue to rest: “I hope that some of the films we will be watching will address these problems, among many others we face in our world, and I look forward to watching films in this year’s Berlinale which will provoke us to question attitudes, prejudices, and worldwide perceptions of life as we know it. I hope that’s put my past comments to bed.”