04/06/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT
"I'VE NEVER WORRIED TOO MUCH about whether the audience liked me or not," says Jeremy Irons, 49. That's an understatement; but after a career playing sickos (Dead Ringers
), psychos (Die Hard with a Vengeance
) and the just plain weird (his Oscar-winning turn in Reversal of Fortune
), why would he play the good priest Aramis in The Man in the Iron Mask
? The location didn't hurt. "You always get good dinner when you get back from a day of shooting in Paris," Irons laughs. But director Randall Wallace says Irons was ideal because of his "brooding intelligence and the sense that more is going on there that he is not letting everyone else see."
In the film, Irons displays his equestrian skills: Offscreen he's an accomplished horseman, not to mention an avid motorcyclist. He also got to work with Leonardo DiCaprio
, whom Irons calls "an extraordinary young boy. He wasn't allowing any of the adulation to affect him. He knows that [fame] is a very transient thing."
Next up for Irons, who lives near London with his wife, actress Sinead Cusack, 50 (Stealing Beauty
), is another art-house role in Chinese Box
, about China's takeover of Hong Kong. Irons might be a superstar if he had played James Bond, a part he was considered for around 1980. But heroes aren't for him. For instance, "Macbeth," he says, "is a terrible man! But it's a great role, and that's what I go for."