After inheriting the acting bug from his father Jeremy, Max Irons has already starred in this year’s Hollywood blockbuster The Host. Now he’s playing King Edward IV in the BBC’s sweeping drama The White Queen (BBC1, Sunday), a 10-part show adapted from Phillipa Gregory’s bestselling novel series ‘The Cousin’s War…
This series takes place during the Wars of the Roses – one of the most chaotic periods of British history…
“It’s an absolutely crazy time to be English. Bring the King and keeping your throne was a tough job and Edward was one of the very few kings at that time who managed to do it relatively successfully. For a guy who’s only just turned 20, it was even more impressive.”
He had some powerful friends though didn’t he?
“He had help from his cousin Warwick – the ‘Kingmaker’ – but they fell out over his relationship with Elizabeth Woodville, a common girl he meets in the first episode. People thought that Warwick was the real power behind the throne and I think that ultimately, Warwick wanted to be the puppet-master. But as Edward gets older he starts to show that he has a mind of his own, a political mind, a military mind.
“His decision to marry Elizabeth was massive and it’s the beginnning of the end for his relationship with Warwick, because the consequences of that marriage were massive. Not only was she a Lancastrian – as opposed to Edward who was from the House of York – but their relationship destroyed a potential allegiance with the French which would have stabilized Edward’s position entirely.”
Did you enjoy filming the battle scenes?
“The story is scene through the eyes of three women, so there are lots of battles which you don’t see on camera, but I did get to do some sword-fighting, which was a lot of fun. They’re the days when you forget that you’re being paid to be there.”
Did you pick up any injuries in battle?
“The armour gave me back problems and I actually dislocated my shoulder during a battle! The armour wasn’t actually metal, it was rubber but it was still heavy. I went to swing my sword to the side during one scene and my pushed my arm to a funny angle and it popped out! It went back in on its own, but my shoulder was agony. I didn’t even get the rest of the day off!”
Did you read Phillipa’s novels before you started filming?
“I was keen to read them, but I was advised not to. We decided it would be better if we went from the script and not from the book, because there’s a huge amount in there which doesn’t make it to the screen. Emma Frost (the screenwriter) has adapted three books, The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter into one series and the three stories overlap in the show, rather than coming one after another.”