Joanna Lumley has had quite a marvelous career, starting out as model in the 1960s before bravely moving into acting (a career move seen as bold and risky at the time), finding particular success in comedy, with her portrayal of man mad, gin-swilling fashionista Patsy Stone on “Absolutely Fabulous” winning her BAFTAs in 1993 and 1995. More recent acclaim has come her way in the form of documentaries and travelogues. On Sunday, she was awarded the most prestigious prize of her career yet, with the BAFTA Fellowship Award.
Not surprisingly, she was in a joyous mood backstage, handing her BAFTA to a young member of the press to free her hands to sip on champagne. I was lucky enough to interview her briefly, asking her who she should give a Fellowship Award to if she could, and why. “Oh God, you’ve bounced that on me – I don’t know. Jennifer’s got one already,” she said. The Jennifer at hand is, of course, Jennifer Saunders – Lumley’s long time friend and collaborator of “Ab Fab.” Saunders was awarded her Fellowship in 2009, jointly with her long-time comedy partner Dawn French.
“I think it would have to be somebody of a certain age. I think it comes with age,” she continued. “And now that I’m 71 and I’ve been in the business for 50 years, I think they look at you and go ‘wow.’ When you look at it, I’ve been in three pages, close written, of all the stuff I’ve done and have been doing – they think maybe that’s okay.”
Indeed, Lumley’s first screen credits date all the way back to 1969. She had three in the same year: an episode of “The Wednesday Play,” a film called “Some Girls Do” and a small role in the Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Since then, she’s amassed a further 94 credits in both film and TV, including parts in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The New Avengers,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Trial of the Pink Panther.”
“So it would be somebody who’s a long runner, but the person I would choose might well already have got one. So I don’t really know what to say about that,” she elaborated. “I think I’ll come back to you on that,” she said, before going dead pan and pausing. “Do give me your phone number.”
The room burst before I managed to mutter “it would be a privilege,” and Lumley laughed. “I’m sure the next recipient will be awesome. It might be a man, who knows,” she said. I replied with: “Maybe me?”
Lumley then looked at me, smiled, sipped champagne and said: “Do you know darling… probably not.” She smiled again and I joined the boom of laughter before Lumley took her BAFTA back from the young member of press, winked at him, and left to rejoin the party.
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