OSCAR-WINNING star Jeremy Irons has revealed he gave up the chance of a gritty role in the hit cowboy film, Unforgiven, so that late Irish acting legend Richard Harris could take the part.
Irons had long wanted to get a role in a Western flick so he was delighted when Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, who directed the movie and also starred in it, offered him the role of gunslinger English Bob.
But Irons, who is now 60, read the script and believed he was too young for the role at the time the 1992 film was being made.
Instead Irons, who has now landed his first cowboy role in new Western adventure Appaloosa, thought the more mature, Limerick-born Harris, who died in 2002 at the age of 72, was ideally suited for the brutal role.
Irons has no regrets about being left out of Unforgiven which went on to win four Oscars including Best Picture and was nominated for five more.
But he said he is thrilled to finally be in a Western, playing an antagonistic American cattle baron opposite Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger and Ed Harris, who also directed Appaloosa, which opened in the United States last Friday.
Irons said: "I've always ridden horses and like most people, I was sort of brought up on Westerns.
"They don't make many now and although Clint Eastwood had asked me to do Unforgiven I said 'No'."
Irons, who was 44 at the time, revealed: "I'd read the script, and I thought, 'I think I'm too young for this.
You should ask Richard Harris', which Clint did.
"Of course, Richard made a great success of it and I think was a lot better than I would have been.
"When Ed asked me to do Appaloosa, I'd just finished doing a play in London, and was feeling like doing a movie.
"I could see that he had this dream to make this picture and Viggo was on board, and Renee was on board. And I thought, 'Oh, we'll have fun'."
Since finishing Appaloosa, Irons has been appearing on the London stage, but he said: "Really, the stage-work is because I haven't found the compelling work in film.
"I think it's something to do with getting older.
You know, there are a lot of us chasing the roles.
"If you think of people like Bill Hurt, Kevin Kline, Dustin Hoffman, they don't work that often, because there aren't that many roles around, which they really, really want.
"You know, in your 30s and your 40s, that's when the roles come."
Irons also believes the fact that living in Ireland and England means that he is not immediately thought of for roles: "I'm not part of the film community. I think that is a slight disadvantage, because out of sight, out of mind, a little bit."
The actor has revealed he now owns several homes in Ireland - as well as a couple in Britain - and his empire is expanding.
So much so that he bashfully admits he has to take on some roles simply for the cash.
He added: "I have two homes in England. And five in Ireland. So it is sort of crazy."
Irons, who is married to second wife Irish actress Sinead Cusack explains: "We have a place in Dublin, because my wife has a Dublin son, and a grandson, she likes to get over and see, and she wants to have a home there.
"I have the castle down in West Cork, which I did up over six years, which I adore. I also have a little cottage where we used to toil before.
"I love property. I love doing up property. And that's tended to be where I put my money."
Irons confessed that he does not sell properties: "I find these wonderful places and can't bear to get rid of them."
He says he has his acting career to thank for his love of property: "The great thing about filming is that you have these gaps.
"You go off and you work for four months, and then you can afford to do nothing the next four months."
He also admitted that he took his starring role in the 2000 adventure fantasy Dungeons And Dragons because it represented yet another brick in his Irish castle.
Irons said: "I need to earn my wages. What I hadn't realised was that the director of that picture was very inexperienced, and therefore it wasn't going to really work.
"But I'm afraid I had my palm crossed with silver. And so there's an element of pragmatism."