Miriam Margolyes is medium Madame Arti

  November 18, 2003 at 5:42 PM ET
  grae     Godric's Hollow (via The Age)

Fans of the Harry Potter movies know her as Professor Sprout - but veteran actress Miriam Margolyesopens in new window has made quite a few notable film and TV appearances over the years, including Romeo + Juliet, The Age of Innocence, and Blackadder, just to name a few. Currently she's in Australia for a stage production of Blithe Spirit, which opens tomorrow, where Miriam will be taking on yet another magical roleopens in new window.

She's had a busy year, shooting several films set in the 1920s and '30s, playing among others, Gertrude Stein and Peter Sellers's mother - all with the same period hairstyle. Now her hair's in 1920s-style finger-waves again, this time in the Melbourne Theatre Company production of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit.

Margolyes plays Madame Arcati, the hapless medium who inadvertently brings back the ghost of a man's late wife to haunt his new marriage. After Melbourne, Blithe Spirit goes to Sydney: when it finishes in April next year, she's not sure what she'll be doing next.

"This year, I've had five films, and it's been a fascinating experience, but next year I may have absolutely nothing. You have to develop an equanimity about such things. I turn down quite a lot, because I'm 62 and I'm jealous of the time I've got left. I want it to be fruitful. I'm aware now that it's finite. I don't do crap. I might have done crap, but now I don't."

"This holds true for all the English roles. Class is terribly important in England: it was and still is. It's the basis of all social comedy. I am very interested in class. I'm Jewish and, therefore, technically speaking, an outsider in English society."

"I'm quite mischievous. I do things with a smile, I hope, but I won't be bullied, anywhere," and she's talking about pushy drivers who give her a hard time as well as directors who throw their weight around. She doesn't care for actors who pull celebrity rank, either. Speaking about a performer with a reputation for being remote on set, she says briskly: "Goodness me, the man needs a smack. If I worked with him, he's not going to be remote with me, or I'd be off the picture."

But Margolyes is quick to say she has plenty of examples of actors who are the reverse. "In my very first film in Hollywood, I Love You to Death, I had a scene with Kevin Kline, and he rang me up and said, 'We've got a scene together, do you want to meet and talk about it'. What a mensch, what a lovely guy, what an actor. And it was one of the best scenes in the picture."


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