Jeremy Irons has apologized for remarks made about same-sex marriage, abortion, and sexual assault.
The Berlin International Film Festival, also called the Berlinale, stirred controversy last month when it named the Oscar-winning actor as president of its international jury. Critics slammed the choice, as Irons has made past controversial stances on these issues, which are also taken on topically within this year's film slate.
In a 2013 interview with HuffPost, Irons suggested that same-sex marriage would "debase" the institution and could open the door to intergenerational incest. "Could a father not marry his son?" he mused. A follow-up letter released by Irons after the uproar attempted to hedge the remarks -- Irons was referring to the possibilities of inheritance tax loopholes, he claimed. But he also reiterated that he didn't "have a strong feeling either way" about marriage equality.
Irons, in other interviews, has defended the Catholic Church's right to classify abortion as a sin and made light of sexual harassment. "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 told Radio Times in 2011.
Following the backlash to his past comments, Irons expressed regret at a Thursday press conference and affirmed to reporters that he did not want to be "a distraction to the Berlinale."
"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," Irons said, reports Variety. "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," he added. "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."
Irons is an acclaimed English actor who has the rare distinction of winning an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony. His work includes The Man in the Iron Mask, The Lion King, and most recently, HBO's Watchmen.
The 2020 Berlin International Film Festival concludes March 1.