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The BFI Radio Times TV festival: Joanna Lumley interview | BFI


– We’re here to talk about
your extraordinary career, particularly your extraordinary career as one of the most accomplished and indeed adored people
of British television. But unusually it began for you not at drama school but at Lucie Clayton. – In those days, anybody could be a
model, literally anybody. I mean if your head was
stuck onto your neck, you could be a model. (laughter) And so coming up to London,
completely unqualified, one thing I knew I didn’t want to do was go to university. I did not want to go on learning. I wanted to wear red lipstick and have an open top car and drive around Italy. That’s what I wanted to do. That seemed to me a much better way than getting a job and learning. As for going back to
school, university, no. And now actually, just to follow this on, I tell all school children I meet, don’t go to university. (laughter) Because I think actually it’s three years of your young life wasted. And just pass that on to yours, particularly when they do badly in exams. Congratulate them,
they’ve sprung the trap. Anyway, so I came up to London I thought, what do you do, what on earth do you do? And I had a very nice aunt and she said, we’ll take you along to
an advertising agency. And I got there and the head man of J. Walter Thompson
said, what can you do? And I said, be nice? And he said, no obviously
no job for you here. Can you type? And I went, no. I said, I could answer
the phone sometimes. So anyway, so I thought I’d be a model. So you had to go to Lucie Clayton and learn how to be a model. – Was it getting in and out of E-Types and all that kind of thing? – Getting out of E-types
without showing your pants, putting on what they call street make-up, which doesn’t sound quite right nowadays. But it meant stuff that you would wear not in the evenings but in the day time, probably walking down Bond Street to buy something rather
lovely from Chanel. And it would be a touch
of little blue eyeshadow on the corners of your eyes
and a touch of pink lipstick. But at the time, Mary Quant, whose great exhibition
is on now at the V&A, was holding sway in London. And the Ginger Group, the clothes in rust and
black and lace stockings and long eyelashes and daisies painted on your faces, was something that we all did ourselves. Although Lucie Clayton started me off, a way of walking nicely, which I never had to use again, I walked nastily after that. – Nastily. That gruff walk of Joanna Lumley. – And then I just thought
I’d busk my way through, I didn’t really want to be a model, but it seemed okay. – But you did have a great professional relationship with Brian Duffy, who was one of the great photographers of icons of that era. – Very, Brian Duffy. They were called the unholy trinity, there was David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy, and I worked mostly with Donovan and Duffy, you never called them by their real names, you never call, you’re
bound to meet him tomorrow. David Bailey, call him Bailey. That shows you’re on the in thing, never call him David. And Donovan was Donovan
and Duffy was Duffy, and they even signed the pictures, Duffy. – And being in front of a camera was a place you found congenial? You took to it? – Ghastly. (laughter) Honestly, why do one do it, why do we do these things. I mean, even now in front of the camera, you go, why am I doing
this, I look so ghastly. And those people say, Would you like to see the rushes? You go, no, don’t show me. And quite a lot of the films I’m in I never go and see them, for fear of looking up at the
screen and seeing yourself. (laughter) Usually acting very badly and with spots and looking awful, and you go. I thought, ’cause in your mind, you’re a cross between, I don’t know, Briggitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn, with the brilliance of Helen Mirren and you know, Meryl Streep, and you just look at this you. It’s still you no matter what you’ve done, you’re, there you are again. – Is it the equivalent of hearing your voice on the answering machine, isn’t it, just sounds not what you think. But, I mean, I think it stood you in very good stead, because, when I think of The New Avengers, you’re one of those very rare actors, I can only think of two actually, who, character’s name
was given to a hairdo. There’s the Rachel, and of course there’s the Purdey. – Yeah. The Purdey cut was my
idea, because I had hair a bit longer than this when I got the job, and it was sort of
brownish, and I thought, this is gonna look awful, it’s horrible hair, my hair is horrible. But I thought, if I cut it all off and she was a sort of agent, she was a tough working kind of police kind of girl, she wouldn’t mess around having soppy hair she had to curl and everything. And just thought I’d have it just cut off, and they said, this’ll be a disaster. and I thought, no it wouldn’t. And so I went along to, I couldn’t afford a proper hairdresser, but you could go to the
assistant hairdressers and get a cheaper haircut. So I went to Leonard’s and got one of the cheaper boys, and he spent ages cut, cut cutting, lovely black-haired
boy, cut, cut, cutting, a little red-haired boy holding kirby grips for him. Cut, cut, cut. And by the end of it I said, Oh that looks alright. The black-haired boy was John Freida. – Wow
(laughter) – And the red-haired boy was Nicky Clarke. (laughter) So we all started together. – Let’s remind ourselves of Purdey in The New Avengers. (clapping) – I haven’t seen that, really, since the day we did it, but that was Jim Dowdall, who was one of the great stuntmen. I’ve always attained
a great affinity with, and love for and affection for, and admiration for the stunt performers, who make all our films so dazzling. And Jim has remained a good friend all through the years, he
looks sadly young there. – Also, it’s very hard to be menaced by someone wearing flared corduroy trousers now, isn’t it, don’t you think? I mean at the time–
– I was in, I’d been locked out of my flat because London had been put to sleep, some ghastly kind of
vapour had been spread over London, everybody was asleep, except for The Avengers who’d been injected against it, of course, and the bad people. And I was locked in my flat in my pyjamas and a pair of ballet shoes. (laughter) – I mean, so many things, The Avengers, one of the excellent things about, Brian Clemens, I think was the writer, producer of that.
– Yes. – Purdey was, in lots of ways, a sort of prototype
feminist hero, wasn’t she? Because, not only was she, sort of swannier and marvellous, but also she had
formidable kung fu skills, didn’t she, and she was often bashing out the baddies. – I was the fourth. There was Honour Blackman, then there was Diana Rigg, then there was Linda
Thorson, the Canadian girl who did more episodes than all of us. And then finally, ten years after Linda, there was me. So all of us were actually tough women. We all could hold our own,
we were all feminists, we all could give as good as we, we all could fight, we could knock a man out with a haymaker. Bosh. We could fight, it was
good, I like those people. I’ve always been auditioning to be James Bond actually. (laughter) – But you are, well of
course, it’s just so obvious, that casting, it’s almost too obvious. You have been a Bond girl
– Yes. – For about five seconds. – It was such a thrill. And this year, strangely enough, I’ve got to miss it, ’cause I’m going to be filming abroad. They’ve got the 50th anniversary of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, up on the mountains, up on the Schilthorn, George Lazenby’s going to be there, a sprinkling of some of
the girls who were in it, the Bond Girls, of which I was one, of the 12 angels of death, which Blowfeld was grooming to spread germ warfare around the world. God they were great days! It was thrilling, you know, it was a tiny part and we were on the film for two months. Nowadays you could be headlining in a film and it’ll all be over in two days. So those were the great
glamour days of filming. – Centred also with
television at that period was that, now in order to get something off the ground, you have
to get 27 signatures from people.
– I know. – And it takes forever
to get a project going. In those days, it’s something like, you sort of bumped into
people outside Biba, and said, I fancy making a film, and they said, are you free on Wednesday. – Yeah. (laughter) I mean it was literally like that. And have you got any
money you can put into it? And you go, yeah, well you could use that, you could film some of that in my flat, I mean, it was practically that. It was so easy. Everything was easy, and if you just opened a door in the King’s Road, and hung a frightful dress on a hanger and called it a shop, you’d sell the dress and then shut the door and that was the end of the shop. (laughter) I mean, but there were no policemen, and one of the things
which I gave to Patsy, later on in Absolutely Fabulous, was this thing of parking
your car on pavements, get it off the road so it’s not a hazard, and people can walk round it, you know. But nowadays, everybody’s so cross about stuff, you know. (laughter) – Diana Cooper used to do it, didn’t she, if she was Piccadilly traffic jam, she used to just drive along the pavement, and people would get out the way. But do you think it was
a sort of a golden age? That there was something,
so little constraint on creativity in those days for all sorts of people to do all sorts of things. Lots of them nonsense, but lots of them were kind of, immensely good fun and very distinctive
and very characterful, in an era where eccentricity, on the part of writer, producer or star, was not sort of ironed
out in the process of compliance.
– And the freedom of the people who were
commissioning things, because you’d go along and say, I’ve got this great idea, and they say, well go and do it. Nowadays they want to see who it’s going to be aimed at, how much it’s gonna be, who you can get, they want to see the cast in place before, and then they want to do audience research on that cast, they’ve got to see whether the title’s right. And by the end of it, it’s beaten so flat, like a hat with a shovel,
you get so worn out. But in those days it really was, I mean it’s very dangerous, because there was a mass of stuff. In those days there were maybe, well to begin with, two channels, then BBC2 came on and that was huge. Then ITV and everyone, well, we won’t know what to look at, we got a choice of four. And now you just, we just scrolling through 800 channels and counting, and then everything on Netflix, and now Disney have got this new channel, and now everything in the world is available all the time, which means that we none of us all watch something altogether. So none of us can say,
did you see last night? ‘Cause none of us saw it last night. We all saw it at some time, or haven’t seen it yet, or we’re gonna watch it in the future. So it’s completely changed, we can’t say, there’s less creativity, or less availability of enjoying things, but there was something so innocent, there was a naivety
about it, that I loved. – And also, of course, because everybody watched the same thing at the same time, you’d be on at, I don’t know, teatime on a Thursday, and 18 million people would watch it. And so Purdey, you became a household name and a hairdo, in the same week, really. – Well. – I mean, what was that like? – Look, we weren’t paid very much. And so, even at the end
of making 26 episodes, I still hadn’t managed to pay off my small bank overdraft, ’cause we weren’t paid very much. I don’t moan about that, because actually, nothing could have put me in that place of being Purdey in The Avengers. But I was queuing in a
bread shop up in Crouch End, where my boyfriend lived,
and some of the people in the queue knew it was me. (whispers) And the woman behind me didn’t know it was me, and she said, Oh, you look like that, no don’t tell me, oh you look like, oh, you
look like that Purdey, you look like Joanna Lumley. I mean, yeah, and the queue went like. (laughter) And the woman said, I bet you wish you had her money. (laughter) – Of course, The New
Avengers, it did open doors. And one of the most interesting ones, was a programme, again it
was one of those things, I can’t imagine it would get made now, Sapphire and Steel, which was your first, I think, your first non-human role. Is it your only non-human role? – No, I’ve been, the very first film I ever did, I was a non-human, well I had a sort of bolt through my neck. (laaughter) But Sapphire and Steel,
it sort of pre-dated The X-Files, because, Sapphire and Steel had been selected from
outer space to bring some kind of order, and set things right on the troubled parts of this world, the things that had gone
wrong, or fighting evil. And David McCallum, who was the most sensational choice,
’cause he was trailing– – He was steel.
– Clouds. He was Steel, trailing clouds of glory as Illya Kuryakin, absolutely adored with his floppy ironed-straight hair and just so fabulously clever and wise, he was a very clever man. And Sapphire, whose eyes could turn blue, and she could just stop time, and turn herself into different things. It was a very complicated, P.J. Hammond. – Yeah, wrote it. – He wrote it, he was a brilliant man, quite troubled, but a brilliant writer. Remember that everything we do, everything that you see, we do, is written by somebody. So even when we have wonderful lines which we appear to do brilliantly, somebody wrote those lines. So P.J. Hammond, who wrote these extraordinary stories, which weren’t really for children, although it was put at
a kind of children’s time of day, they were scary stories. There was a young soldier who had been killed just
after the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day, you know, he was killed
and he couldn’t get over the resentment, because he was shot, and he couldn’t visit his loved one. There was a ghost, there were animals that had been killed and all blood on, it was dark stuff. – Incredibly complicated as well, I watched it the other
day, and they’d explained that what you did, you were entities, based upon elements or mineral deposits of some kind, and that you would through the crystalline structures
of the universe, create a corridor into time, through which time itself could come and feed on time, to create meta-time. And this was at tea-time. (laughter) – God, Richard, I think actually that, (clapping) that is awesome, I’d forgotten that, but they made it quite
clear, when they said, Sapphire and Steel had been, we saw these sort of whirling balls, I mean it was terribly low-tech. But once you followed
it was like all stories, it doesn’t matter who’s telling the story, once you’ve decided to
listen to the story, you’ll forgive anything, ’cause the story takes you along. – Shall we have a look? – Yeah, oh have you got some? – Yes, Sapphire and Steel. – Can I stand back,
’cause it’s so terrifying. (laughter) (clapping) – I must have seen it then, but I’ve never seen it since then. – Lot of costume changes, we love that about time-lapse dramas. – I like the way they could talk in their heads too. – Yeah. I mean the thing you notice about that first of all, is the quality and the distinctiveness of the writing, very high, and then the sort of production
values, not so high. And it’s the other way round now really, isn’t it, where everything looks absolutely fantastic,
but sometimes the script sounds like it’s written on the back of a beer mat, doesn’t it. – Yeah, I know. – Yeah. – I know, and it was, they were slower. Stuff was slower then. If you can imagine that being made now, it would be, cut, cut,
cut, cut and brilliant and sort of done, which
might make it better. I think they’re doing
Sapphire and Steel again, I heard this, apparently they’re going to make it again. – Please, are you Sapphire? – Without. – Oh. (laughter) – I’m happy to announce that, I’m going to be Sapphire actually. (laughter) If only. – Richard identifies as Sapphire. (laughter) – Well I would, obviously. Of course it was ITV, and it was really ITV’s attempt to kind of
move into the territory that Dr. Who would
have, because of course, Steven Moffat, Dr. Who, a fellow member of you in the Radio Times Hall of Fame. But it didn’t quite have the durability, well it didn’t have the durability of Dr. Who at all, did it? – Well no, it didn’t. I think it was just a
spooky series of stories. P.J. Hammond became ill
during the writing of it, and as he was the only one that wrote it, he couldn’t go on. Sapphire and Steel were marooned in a petrol station in the sky, and we’re still up there. (laughter) I mean, they never wrote the series that got us down from there. It was really odd, I loved it. We worked on it for two years. – Think of all the whiskey tumblers you’d have collected by now, after 40 years in a
petrol station in the sky. – It was lovely. It was lovely doing that. – We talked about the non-human origins of Sapphire, not the first non-human. Perhaps the TV character with whom you’re most associated now is, of course, Patsy Stone from Ab. Fab. Well her origins, too, are mysterious, aren’t they? I mean no one would
doubt that they’re human, but she’s a very mysterious character. – Well, she was born in France, so long ago nobody can remember when. (laughter) To Eleanor Bron, playing her mother, who was a ghastly woman,
and when she gave birth in some atelier in Paris, filled with wandering kind of poets and people plucking away at guitars and speaking existentially about stuff and she was groaning
away on the bed saying, Let’s get rid of this frightful child, and the person saying, Hurry up and have that baby. And eventually she got the child out, gave it about 17 names, Eurydice and Clytemnestra.
– Clytemnestra. – I remembered all of them at one stage, but I’ve forgotten now. And then she just said, take it away, bring me another lover. And so we saw some glimpses of Patsy as a little tiny girl, pulling at her mother’s
skirt, always saying, remember me, remember me. So Patsy started off tragically, which is always the best part of anything in real life, which is you follow the true, true story of who they are, then you can be funny. If you just make up funny lines, and none of it’s real, it doesn’t work. – It’s the pathos, isn’t
it, of Patsy and Edina and particularly their
relationship which makes it such a compelling one, I think. – Also, Patsy had had all
her insides taken out, she had no organs left. (laughter) So she was approaching kind of pretty weird anyway, I think, you know. – And she was actually a man for a while in the 60s, that’s a bit– – She was gender-fluid, yeah. (laughter) She could be anything. I mean I think that’s why we, and I’ve got to put myself in this, why we love Patsy, because she was like the Road Runner, or something, you know, she was like Wile E. Coyote, whenever she smacked down or
everything had gone wrong, she’d spring up again,
still red lipstick on, nice hairdo, wearing some Betty Jackson clothes or something, she’d be fine until she unravelled the next day. But, I just adored her, and she was rude to people and she didn’t seem to care. What she did care about was Edina, Eddie, her best friend. – And also her source of Bollinger. – Bollinger, and money obviously, yes. – It was an interesting relationship that some would characterise
as co-dependent, as if that were a bad thing, but then of course, love is sort of co-dependency isn’t it. And it’s a sort of touching– – Yeah, I think
co-dependency is rather good. I think we all are, getting married is hoping to be co-dependence, you can’t knock it too much, really. – No. And of course, written
by Jennifer Saunders, who has such a formidable ear and eye for, oh I don’t know, the gap between what we wish to achieve
and what we actually achieve, which is where satire lies. – She just pushes it further, she’s like a hoover. She goes round just
listening, she just listens to stuff, she just mops stuff up and then bends it and pushes it, bends it. Some of the stuff I said, I can’t say this. And she’d say, say it. (laughter) And it was always Patsy who came up with these horrifying things, Saffy and the knitting needle, I said, no don’t, not the knitting, she said, The knitting needle. So eventually Patsy was going, The knitting needle. And I mean, oh it was horrifying. But of course as Patsy, I could say and do anything. Once you’ve jumped into
the skin of a character, you can speak and do,
exactly as that character. – And also Jennifer struck me, thinking about this, was that
Jennifer Saunders shares with Morrisey, a kind of lively sense of the kind of female icon of the 1960s. The fascination with Lulu, and also parts of Patsy are kind of
loosely based on your own experience as being of the swinging 60s, if I can put it that way. – Yes, Patsy had been a model, very unsuccessful one, but we saw, one scene, she was stoned out of her mind wearing lots of Zandra Rhodes clothes, and tipping through the
back paper and falling all over the place when she was being photographed. She also claimed to have hung out with a lot of rock stars, she, quite a lot of her voice was based on Mick Jagger after a heavy night, and she maintained that she’d slept with all the Rolling Stones. I don’t think she had,
I think she’d been found in a cupboard with Keith Richards once, but I mean I don’t think, she claimed, and she was always
following Stella McCartney around, going, Stella,
Stella, Stella, Stella. (laughter) Give little Pauly my love. You know, she was sickening really. – But she claimed to
have slept with a Beetle but she couldn’t remember which one. (laughter) – She’s so unbearable. I utterly adore her. The thing is, she can’t be destroyed, I don’t know why, they couldn’t, Jennifer, I hope I’m not
saying it out of turn, but Jennifer said, Shall we just kill them off and bury them? And something, I wrote back the fastest email return I’ve ever
written back, I said, No, we’ve promised the
world we will never die. Anyway, I think I made that up, but I just said no we can’t. We can’t die, don’t you think? Pats and Eddy we can’t, we’ve seen them aged a million, with
sort of intravenous drips of voddy and still smoking away, baldy hair and little saggy tits and frightfully gibletty neck. We’ve seen them like that, so, you know. I don’t think they die. – Let’s have a look. – Oh, you’ve got them. – Oh, I don’t know about that bit, we’ve got Ab. Fab. (clapping) (laughter) – It was Eddy’s father. It was Eddy’s father’s
funeral, and they got out and got absolutely
slaughtered and had missed the beginning of the funeral, they knew they were supposed to be somewhere, and they dug this grave. We actually shot this up
near Highgate somewhere, not Highgate cemetery,
but somewhere up there. And they said, it’s a grave, it’s not gonna be used
’til this afternoon, (laughter) Little bit tactless there, and they said, we’ve got some stunt cushion, you know, some mattresses in the bottom, so you won’t hurt
yourself when you fall in. But it was a funny day. Some of us are a bit
spooked, we get spooked, actors, by things like black magic, by death and funerals. You can’t joke about it too much and coffins we don’t
like, and lying in graves. So I was a little bit anxious about lying in that grave. – Whereas clergy, and funeral directors joke about death and funerals all the time.
– All the time. – And do you know, I have had someone fall in a grave. – Have you? – Yeah. I have, it was a lady
who went to put a rose on the coffin, and it
was a wet day and she, – Did she hurt herself? – She did hurt herself, yeah. – Well she didn’t have stunt cushions and things then. (laughter) – No, I mean it was such
an awful thing though, that like good English people we pretended nothing had happened.
– It hadn’t happened. (laughter) Chuck the earth in over the top of her, how awful. – Because the thing about in Ab. Fab, one of the reasons why it was so potent, and so delightful, but again, they were so badly behaved. – They were shocking.
– So badly behaved. – I think we loved it. But I think they were extravagant in a way that we dream of being, I mean, we dream of taking Concord to New York, to photograph a door handle. (laughter) – This is heaven. But this is Jennifer Saunders, this is heaven, I loved it. And we did actually fly and took a photograph of a door
handle and flew back, BBC, thank you so much. (laughter) – Gone are those days. – Gone are those days, far gone, yeah. – The other thing about it, of course, is that Edina and Patsy were both, the lovely thing about it,
about Saffy, the child, being the grown-up, and Edina and Patsy, the grown-ups, being the child. That was very perceptive, I think, about modern manners.
– Yes it was. So many children, I
mean, people who come up and say, my aunt’s like
Eddy and I’m like Patsy, or when we go out, sometimes
show me photographs and some people come up and go, I’m Saffy, I’ve always been Saffy, and you go, sweetheart, I’m sorry. (laughter) Imagine what their parents are like, yeah. A lot of, funny enough, little Saffy and her cardigans and little clumpy shoes, mum, little anxious face,
scrubbed with make up, a lot of men find her very attractive. – Yeah, very interesting. And again of course– – We had Idris Elba on the show. Yeah, he was a rented toy boy. (laughter) – Really. – Doesn’t put that in his CV anymore. (laughter) – Well he should. And again it was for
you, again it’s sort of, you became superstar, didn’t you? I mean the show had such impact. – The show– – And not just here, but in America, all over the place. – I know, that was the shock. We thought that anybody
north of the Watford Gap wouldn’t know where Harvey Nicks was, and so how would they ever enjoy it, what could they ever see to be, we were thrilled that Britain like it. But then to see that it travelled across to America, who loved
it, the gays of New York are actually the people who are smart, they got their finger on
what’s funny and smart and up-to-date, they
took it on board at once. And then our acting community in the States loved it. But for it to go to Greece
and Japan and places like this, this is really strange. – I mean, there’s something just funny about people falling out of a car. Though you don’t need to know anything about Harvey Nichols to
see that’s funny, do you. – I know. (laughter) And also if stuff is well
written, comedy lasts. Remember, we were talking earlier about great things like Porridge and Only Fools and Horses, and any of these giants, Fawlty Towers, doesn’t matter what you name, Dad’s Army, if it’s
properly and beautifully and cleverly and funnily written, it’ll last through time. And you don’t have to be, all this idea that things have got
to be relevant to you, I’ve always poo pooed that. We don’t have to be part
of Only Fools and Horses to laugh at it, we
don’t have to be vicars, to be The Vicar of Dibley,
to watch that and know how unbelievably funny that is. If stuff is written well. This is infuriating
’cause I think this goes into children’s books, I’m going slightly off-piste.
– No it’s fine. – People say, books must be written, children living in tower
blocks can’t be expected, and you go, no, the point of living in a tower block, is that you want to read Treasure Island, you want to read Tom Sawyer, you want to read Heidi,
you want to escape. The whole point of books and what we do as entertainers, is to take you out of who you are, and into another thing. You don’t have to go, that’s not me, that woman isn’t 53, she doesn’t know what it’s like to be cleaning the, you go, oh, come on! Incidentally, I’ve never met these people who say, the public wants. Is rather like saying,
the housewife wants, housewives never want,
we go into the shops and we see if it’s there, we buy it. We don’t go, I want my eggs all clean and scrubbed, we never say it. Resist these terrible remarks. (laughter) – You should follow the live Twitter feed to Radio Four programmes, if you want to take the temperature
of what the nation wants. – Oh God, is it nightmare? – Mostly to do with
grammatical solipsisms, mispronunciation, things like that. Terrible. (laughter) – Is that true? – Well, it’s a self-selecting
group, isn’t it, of people who– – I know, they’re angry, aren’t they, angry of somewhere– – I did a complaints
programme on Radio Five– – Did you?
– I’ve gone so off topic. But people used to phone in and complain, and there was my favourite, was a lady, she’s called Marjorie, and she’s from Hemel Hempstead, and I saw on my screen, it said, Marjorie from Hemel Hempstead, so I said, We now have Marjorie from Hemel Hempstead, And Marjorie, what would you like to say? And she said, I just want to say, I’m absolutely disgusted with everything. And put the phone down. (laughter) Would it matter if we were talking about, It’s the Hogwarts thing isn’t it, Harry Potter had an
extraordinary appeal because it gave children an imaginary world, distant from their own lives, to inhabit, and that was really powerful. – And when you see how
powerful, how warmly received that show’s been in the Far East, in Japan and in China,
their idea of paradise would be to meet Harry Potter. When I said I knew Daniel,
they nearly fainted, they wanted to touch my
clothes ’cause I’d known– – Well you’ve been in it, of course, yes. Well you’ve been in it.
– No I don’t think I’ve been in it. – You have been in Harry Potter. (laughter) – No I haven’t. – You would know. – I’ve been in Paddington. – Oh that’s what I was thinking of. (laughter) It’s the little bear.
– The finger on the button. – The little bear, not the little wizard. I thought you were. – God, I nearly thought I was myself. (laughter) – Dear, oh dear. I think someone needs to correct your Wikipedia entry, Jo. There’s Ab. Fab, there’s a kind of broad, brilliant comedy of
that, but there’s also, I mean, BAFTA nominated, in that extraordinary drama based on the Angela Lambert book, novel, A Rather English Marriage. You were BAFTA, everyone
was BAFTA nominated, you, Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney. Wonderful, wonderful. – It was a stunning piece
of writing about two men, from very different backgrounds, who both became widowed,
and social services though it would be easier if one of them, the humbler one, played by Tom Courtenay, would look after the ex-Squadron leader, played by Finney. And they could be put in the same house and be given money, just to kind of cope, and get on with it. And Courtenay had been a sort of Batman, had been a carer in his life, I think he’d looked after his wife, and those two, as you
know, those two actors absolutely adored each other. Now Albert’s gone, I think Tom will be missing him a great deal. But I was a woman who ran a shop, who inveigled her way,
well, Finney fell for her. And therefore it disrupted the friendship. It’s the most touching, I wish they’d repeat it. Actually when Finney went, I thought, will they get out some of the stuff he did for television, rather
than just big films. I wish they’d show that again. It was enchanting, and
at the end, when the two old boys, ’cause Finney has a stroke, and becomes severely disabled, and then Courtenay has to look after him. The woman disappears. Dancing, taking him dancing
in their sitting room, very slow, I want to take you on a slow boat to China,
these two old boys. Really good stuff. – Let’s have a look. – Have you got it? – We’ve got a clip. – I keep doing this, have you got it. Oh my God. It was very, very sweet, and in the scene where I have to be sad and saying sorry and goodbye, and tears
dropping off my face. When they do it close-up, Finney said, Bless you darling, you don’t have to cry in each scene. And I went, In each take, he said, you don’t have to cry in each take. Wasn’t that sweet of him? – Very sweet. – I did though. Just in case, when
you’re with the big guys, you don’t just sort of
suddenly sit there going, (sniffing) and you’re not really crying. You want the tears to come coursing down. – I’m interested you
say, when you’re there with the big guys, as
if you’re not entitled to that place, but, I think you are, I mean, everyone thought you were and you were nominated for a BAFTA for it. Which must be wonderful. – Tom got the BAFTA, Albert and I didn’t. (laughter) – But nonetheless, – It was thrilling. It was powerful stuff. – And adapted for the
screen by Andrew Davies. – I know, wow. – Who’s no mean writer. – Wow, and Angela Lambert, which who became a very good friend. We wrote some stuff together. We wrote a wonderful film, which has never been made, about a school reunion, of girls at a boarding school going back and some ghastly thing that happened in their past. And we sent it, to
people like BBC and ITV, all said, this isn’t relevant to most of people in the society today, and you go– – [Commissioning Editor] Ah doing! (laughter) – That’s the voice of a commissioning editor I want to hear. (laughter) Just do it, darling. No, I might dig it out. Angela’s gone now, which is awful. And we’re all getting on, you know. We’re all getting on. You sort of go, damn. Maybe I will look at
it, it was a good story. – You are endlessly inventive. I mean, not only are you
doing all the wonderful things you do, but you’ve also become our companion on your global travels, which has been great. And you know, obviously
through your activism which I would love to mention. If I were a Gurkha who’d been serving in the British army before 1997, it would be thanks to you that I would be entitled
to live in England, as indeed the cab driver I had in Maidstone the other day did. (clapping) I’m going to embarrass you even more by saying that you are a, you’ve been a claimed, daughter of Nepal, which is very nice. – It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. – But what a great thing to understand, and also how clever, to use the power that your career has conferred upon you to, really to focus on a thing that you could really really push on. You chased the Minister for Immigration around the BBC, didn’t you? You literally chased him round the BBC and made him do a press conference in which he said, okay. – It looks like that,
because that’s the way it was edited to be, in
fact we talked to him, Phil Woolas, he was the second-in-command of the Home Office, and
he said a lot of things, and then when we went out
in front of the press, he didn’t want to say it. So I only urged him
along, I urged him along. (clapping) I wasn’t rude to him. – No, you weren’t rude at all, but someone I know who was in the room, said you physically pursued him, around the studio, and, well it paid off wonderfully. And that’s partly, isn’t it, because of a tribute to, you were born in India, that’s a huge part of your life, and on your travels you
take us to all sorts of exciting places, not just there, you’ve taken us on the
Trans-Siberian Express, you’ve taken us down the Nile. – Yeah. And across, I mean the
silk road, and Japan. Some of the most extraordinary places, all round Greece, I’m
going this year to Cuba, which I think is an interesting country because we all kind of think we know Cuba, we know about cigars and Fidel Castro, we know about the music, and the boxing, and the dancing, and the Guantanamo Bay and Bay of Pigs, and we sort of, we sort of think we know, but actually, we don’t really know how it all works, or why or how or where. And I think it’s going
to change quite soon, because it’s sort of
opening up to the world, which means that there’ll
be a million high rise hotels along the beaches,
and it’ll be cleaned up and all the shabby buildings
will be pulled down. Everything that has the charm. The danger is, is of going, oh we want to keep old stuff just old and charming, but I have to say that
we’re in danger in London of losing the identity of places. Sometimes you can go around a corner in this beautiful city of ours, and unless they’ve left an old pub there, the buildings, you could be, honestly, in Toronto or in Saskatchewan, you could be out in Japan,
you could be anywhere. You could be in Mumbai. These modern buildings have got no, and we know they’re not built to last, that’s the other thing,
we know they’re gonna come down in 20 years, anyway. So there’s a sort of identity crisis about the world and we want to sit down occasionally and just go, this stays here, this remains. – I sat next to a bloke at a dinner the other night who
worked in construction. I said, what do you do, and he said, I lease facades. So someone builds a tower
block, the regulation’s build for 100 years but they’re down in 20 ’cause of land values, and he, they lease from him the facade which they hang on the front of the building, and then it comes down and they
hang it on another one. – Blimey. – Blimey. Let’s have a, we’ve got one of your– – Hey! (laughter) It could be leased, couldn’t it. I could just schlonk it in, like kind of one of those ones, (laughter) Fabulous. – We’ve got a clip of you on the Nile. – God, I loved that. We followed the Nile
from the Mediterranean, right down through
Egypt, across Lake Nasser into the Sudan, before Sudan had separated and become North and South. Then we connected from Ethiopia and the Highlands up there in Rora Habab, no it wasn’t Rora Habab it was– – [Producer] Bahir Dar. – Bahir Dar. Where the lake is up there and the blue Nile comes up to Khartoum, and then on, on down,
that’s all flowing north. So the Nile, strangely, but for any of the big
rivers of the world, they mostly flow north to south, this one flows south to north. So when you’re going down the map, you’re going up river. To Lake Victoria and Uganda, and on to the mountains of Rwanda. It was ravishing, but
in Egypt, as we sailed, I was on a, called a stone boat, it was one of the hottest
places I’ve ever been, because the stones were like an oven. They’d collected the baking rays of about a 42 degrees sun. And so the ship itself was alive. The most wonderful one-eyed boatman. (laughing) Who had a different belief in how the pyramids were built. – Really? – Yes, he had, I don’t know, and he believed in spooks
and there were lots of terrible devils that haunt the Nile, and things that can go badly wrong. I loved him. – Shall we have a look? – Yes, I like him, I
can watch him from here. – I don’t know if it’s him, but we’re certainly in the Nile. – I bet it’ll be him. (clapping) – You do have a great gift for rapport. I notice it when you’re on your travels, you meet people, do people talk to you on buses and things like that? Yeah, they do, don’t they? – Yeah but they know me know because they know it’s me, and actually where I live in Stockwell. I love smiling, because
when people smile back it’s the loveliest thing in the world to see a face smiling. For some reason people look unbearably beautiful when they smile. And it also makes you feel better, so I go round grinning. I think people go, oh God, here she comes, grinning again. But anyway, I just love it. And so, if you approach people, even in a faraway land where you haven’t got a hope of speaking even a syllable of their own language,
they can usually tell by your demeanour, and your face, that you are a friend. – Yeah. And interested in what they have to say. – And interested in what they have to say. And safe. Not gonna suddenly dig, not gonna dig. Like you, you don’t suddenly dig. – No. Well I’ve only read
your Wikipedia actually, it’s wildly inaccurate anyway, so I can’t– – Is there one? – There is, yeah. – I don’t do any of that,
I don’t do any of that. Principally because I
can’t be bothered to, and I’ve never really
learned how to do it. I’ve got a mobile phone,
but it’s for parking. (laughter) – And also to be phone up with news of demons by
your boatman friend. – No, I said that, I haven’t got a phone, I was just asking if you had one. (laughing) – Rapport and questions. Well we do have some time, we’re near the end of our time. But I’m sure there are
people who would love to ask a question, if you’d like to put your hand up, and we’ll get to you,
we have a few minutes. – Look. That was extraordinary because, because it was presented to me now I’m seen quite often as a kind of documentary maker or
presenter in some way. They came to me and said, have you heard of will.i.am
of the Black Eyed Peas? And I said sure but I don’t, because I’m married to
a classical musician we don’t have a lot of
popular music in the house. And they said, well we
want to make a programme about him, he’s fascinating. Now I’d seen him of course on The Voice, and things like this. But I didn’t really know of him. I read up a bit of him and
I couldn’t wait to see him, I couldn’t wait to get out to Los Angeles. To see him, to meet his family, who were so unbelievably gracious, and I had supper with them, went to see The Projects. Will drove me in his Tesla car, across Los Angeles during the rush hour. Just him and me in the car and we talked our heads off
for an hour and a half. And he’s the most
extraordinary accomplished man. Bright, bright, sharp as a knife. Wizard, people say he’s got ADHD, s a thing long, you know,
you can’t concentrate. Its not that his mind hops and hops. We went to meet his, his English teacher at his old school, which
is a surprise for him, he didn’t know he was
going to see him again. A tall man who looked a
bit like Clint Eastwood. Pretty nice English teacher. (laughing) Who said he was exceptional,
even as a little boy in class, I could tell
his mind was hopping all the time, hopping and hopping. And he’s a sweet sweet man. He’s got a sweet heart, apl.de.ap, who he
befriended as a little boy, adopted with an eye stigmatism
over from the Philippines. Who couldn’t even speak English. It was Will who was his
friend and his champion. They’re adorable and
I’ve met all the Peas. And I just adore them. (chuckling) – All the Peas, – Yeah, I think people write to
me and say, please retire. (laughing) But look the thing is,
is that if I was in a job I hated, or that was
tedious, or tired me out, and was not rewarding and
that I couldn’t wait to get my heart out every
year to get away from it, I’d retire like a shot. But, as all I’m doing is
all I’ve dreamed of doing and being in life, why would I give it up? My husband, who’s a
musician, I said to him once what would life without music be like? And he said, I couldn’t
live, its like breathing and so for him, he’ll never give up music. He’ll never give up
conducting and composing and playing his song, and I could never give up doing what I’m
doing, because I hop around, and if there’s a gap, I can
sneak in through the gap You’ve got to present a moving target. I think if I was waiting
always for a very good part to come along, I’d
be dead in the water. Because I get offered small mad aunts and things like this, which
is not, you know, surprising. (laughing) But you hang on just in case they say Judi Dench, no I don’t think so, lets go for Joanna Lumley. (laughing) It may happen, but we hang around because we love doing
it, we love doing it. – Well we love you doing it too. And actually we’re here to celebrate that. And Mark is going to come on stage and garland you with a laurel. – Joanna Lumley, we love
you, thank you so much. And this is for you. – Oh my, – [Audience Member] Hey! (clapping) – This is that screensaver face. Patrick Lichfield took this photograph of me, of the earlier one,
and then, the later one. And he pretended it was,
I looked exactly the same. I think he cleaned it up a bit. Anyway, I’m unbelievably
touched, Mark, thank you so much. This means more to me than I can tell you. Thank you so much! – Thank you very much! (clapping) (cheering) – Thank you so much!

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