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Jeremy Irons on playing a Pope, 'The Lion King' and his voice

By Nicki Gostin, Special to CNN
updated 8:15 AM EDT, Tue May 8, 2012
Jeremy Irons, shown here as Rodrigo Borgia in the second season of
Jeremy Irons, shown here as Rodrigo Borgia in the second season of "The Borgias."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jeremy Irons plays Rodrigo Borgia, a Pope, in "The Borgias"
  • The actor voiced the malevolent Scar in "The Lion King"
  • "Making 'The Borgias' is a great experience, we have a lot of fun," Irons said

(CNN) -- "The Borgias" are back for a second season and according to star Jeremy Irons we can expect even more nefarious plotting and lustful encounters.

The 63-year-old actor has had a long career including an Academy Award for "Reversal of Fortune" and voicing the malevolent Scar in "The Lion King." He recently spoke to CNN about playing a pope and his not-so-secret vice.

CNN: What can we expect this season?

Jeremy Irons: You can expect a good ride, a naughty ride, a good ride. I think you can expect an even more exciting ride than last season. It's perkier; it's faster with a lot of surprises.

CNN: When you first signed up, were you worried that it would be historical soft porn?

Irons: No, because I know Showtime, I know Neil Jordan. I thought that we'd avoid that and I think we have.

CNN: The show is like "The Sopranos" in the Vatican.

Irons: I would say that's right.

CNN: The characters are pretty venal.

Irons: Yes life was more on the edge. Life was not valued quite as highly as it is today. People were used to fighting, people were used to dying. Death was much more a part of life than it is today. Children and women would die in childbirth. Men would die. The whole perception was different.

CNN: You play a pope who has children. Would you be surprised if it was discovered that Pope Benedict has kids?

Irons: Um, not particularly (laughs).

CNN: Your voice is like catnip to the ladies.

Irons: I don't think about it. You use what you've got! Before I was married I didn't sound like this because I didn't smoke so much.

CNN: So smoking is good for actors?

Irons: Well in truth, to be serious, I suppose it's not particularly good, but it does give me huge pleasure and allows me time for reflection. If I did yoga perhaps I wouldn't have to, but I don't. I go outside and have a smoke and I find those gaps in the hurly burly of the film world very useful.

CNN: Is the cigarette accompanied by a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit?

Irons: Often (speaking with a full mouth). There's a chocolate biscuit in my mouth at the moment and a cup of tea but no cigarette. But there will be one in a minute.

CNN: Your son Max ("Red Riding Hood") is gorgeous!

Irons: That's very nice. He takes after his mother.

CNN: I have little kids. I think I've seen "The Lion King" 30 times.

Irons: There's something wrong with you.

CNN: Do you get people coming up to you with your kids?

Irons: I do and the kids sort of look at me so embarrassed. Scar is a lion on the screen for them. They stand there looking long suffering while their parents make me write them an autograph.

CNN: What's your favorite movie?

Irons: It's strange because it's always the experience of making it that's the great thing. Making "The Mission" was fantastic, making "Dead Ringers" was a great experience, making "Lolita" was a great experience. Making "The Borgias" is a great experience. We have a lot of fun, great crew, great cast, shooting in a fantastic city, Budapest. I get up and I'm really pleased to work and that's what I'll remember. In a way, it never has much actually to do with what the movie's like.

CNN: Budapest is a beautiful city.

Irons: I like the youth of the city and it has a slightly crumbly nature about it because they haven't quite got the money to finish everything off.

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