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An Interview with Miranda Richardson

An Interview with Miranda Richardson

5 August 2017 |

She’s an Academy Award-nominee whose CV bears the names of some of Britain’s best loved shows, but for Miranda Richardson it all started at Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre School, as Culture Calling investigates.

With a career that spans over three decades on stage and screen, there could be a whole number of roles for which Miranda Richardson is recognised on the street. But one character in particular has clearly left a lasting impression on the British public – and not least because it came about in one of the most well-loved comedy series in the nation’s history, the brilliant Rowan Atkinson-fronted Blackadder.
 
“Easily Queenie over all else, which is a fascinating exercise in its own way,” laughs the 59-year-old when recounting her most famous on-screen creation. “It's 30 years since we first worked on that and still, the legacy ever remains. It taught me that television offers a personal ownership, far more extending than film for the individual. We own these characters so much more, and you're sort of seen that way by that audience, no matter what else you do, I find it extraordinary.”
 
While Richardson may be recognised for her riotous interpretation of Queen Elizabeth, she’s no stranger to the silver screen either. Academy Award-nominated turns in 1992’s Damage and 1994’s Tom & Viv add a certain sheen to her packed CV, and a recurring role as the capricious Rita Skeeter in two Harry Potter films showcase her franchise potential. In spite of such a varied résumé, Richardson is never one to rest on her laurels.
 
“I'm probably in a state of panic about it, always gently there,” she smiles. “Apparently we're all meant to be planners in this job. Rubbish! You can't. You can try but you'll fail. Maybe you can, I certainly never saw it that way. I like doing different things, I like keeping it exciting and new.”


 
This artistic adaptability, Richardson says, is a lasting impression of her dramatic education at Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre School, where her fellow classmates included Judge John Deed’s Jenny Seagrove and recently retired Hollywood legend Daniel Day-Lewis.
 
“Much of that has to do with my rather workmanlike training at Bristol, sort of this instilled 'where do you want me, what do you want me to do? I can do it all.'” Richardson agrees. “Rather than, 'this is what I want to do and what I should be doing.' I never possessed that mind set. Yes, it's important to work on things that capture my interest but paying the bills and the mortgage, that's a priority too.”
 
Yet another important part of Richardson’s career is the veritable pantheon of acting greats – from a young Christian Bale to Sam Neill and Brian Cox – with whom the star has taken to the screen alongside.
 
“My remit has always been the people involved,” she agrees. “Good people who I can surround myself with and learn from. I like to be frightened by the work. I like to approach with trepidation, it fuels me. Once you're in it, it's the process that propels you, you leave behind those fears.


 
“My favourite line when asked about my career, is a great quote by a friend of mine who used to be a casting agent. She said, 'I don't believe there's any such thing as a career now - not now, not today. We're all trying everything, we're all doing everything and anything we can. Which makes it all far more, it grants a freedom that's liberating and panicking at the same time.”
 
The gradual erosion of traditional cinematic careers and the containing rise of ambitious TV to rival its silver screen counterparts – including Richardson’s latest project Churchill – is no bad thing. As a veteran of the industry, Richardson is very much a member of the cinematic cadre that prides performance over profit.
 
“Things are changing rapidly, there seems to be far more moving parts than before,” she agrees. “Hollywood is no longer the epicentre of the industry like it was and that can only be a good thing, it breeds diversity and it breeds a move away from the ludicrous trend of spending $700million on a film. Just that amount, my god, it's shocking.”
 
But what of a certain wizarding franchise that broke contemporary records with a series of increasingly blockbuster budgets?
 
Potter was different,” Richardson staunchly remarks. “Potter was a wonderful anomaly, in that there was pots of cash thrown at it, obscene amounts, but it always felt like an intimate production and you were always part of this small, caring family.”
 

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