On April 25, some 400 “thought leaders, public policy makers, government urbanists and C-suite level executives” convened for The New York Times Energy for Tomorrow Conference to talk about “Building Sustainable Cities.”
The lineup of speakers was impressive. But the speaker who was featured in the full-page ads beforehand in the Times was English actor Jeremy Irons, the star and executive producer of the new documentary “Trashed.”
Conference attendees were invited to view a special screening of “Trashed” the evening before the conference, then hear Irons talk the next day about the mountains of trash he found in exotic locations all over the world.
Irons, who stars as Pope Alexander VI in the Showtime series “The Borgias,” is fairly highbrow on the celebrity meter. He won his Oscar for playing Claus von Bulow in “Reversal of Fortune” and is best known to younger audiences as the voice of Scar in “The Lion King.”
Irons’ big splash in the Big Apple is a nice reminder that the right celebrity with the right messages can not only draw attention but also give a face to an event, cause or campaign.
In it, he echoed Peter Finch’s immortal diatribe from the movie “Network”: “One billion of us – one billion people – suffer from chronic hunger. I want you to get up off your chair and say, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna let one billion people go hungry.’”
Sharon Lee Cowan, chief of outreach for the FAO in Rome, recalls that Irons spent an entire day doing takes and re-takes. “But in the end,” says Cowan, “he nailed it.”
Irons’ spot gave a face to the hunger campaign that was recognizable to international audiences, and his words expressed clearly, passionately and memorably what the campaign was all about and why it was important.
Says Cowan, “I’ll always be grateful to Jeremy for giving that campaign its signature style and personality.”