Joanna Lumley says she left film over ‘squalid’ script
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Joanna Lumley, 74, has become one of Britain’s finest actresses of her time, starring in blockbuster films to hosting her own travel shows around the world, but the star recalled one film she turned down immediately, which left the producers fuming. Describing the script as “filthy” and “squalid”, Joanna remembered thinking there was no way she would be taking part in it.
I looked at it and it was so foul and vulgar!
Chatting to Dame Esther Rantzen on the That’s After Life podcast, produced by Captive Minds, the host wondered if she had ever experienced any form of sexual harassment during her successful career in the limelight.
Referencing the Me Too movement, Esther asked: “Did you ever suffer from the casting couch, sexual harassment and all those other things that were going on?”
Joanna revealed she was put up for a part in a new film, but turned it down after she realised that the part of the script she was given for the audition was just sex-driven.
“I can remember a casting list of people for a film to be made called Shaft, which became a big hit,” she explained.
“And one of the greatest casting agents Maude Spector, had put our names down.”
Shaft went on to become a film series, with the original released in 1971, followed by Shaft’s Big Score! the following year, then Shaft in Africa (1973).
There was a remake in 2000 and then another in 2019.
The actress admitted they weren’t given much to go by but she soon got a sense of what her part in the film would be.
“We were given two pages to look at before we went in to audition with the producer and director and I looked at it and it was so foul and vulgar!” she shook her head.
“I can remember saying, ‘I can’t do this! I can’t read this I’m so sorry, I’m going to give it back to you.'”
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But her refusal didn’t go down very well at all.
Joanna continued: “They were furious!
“She followed me out of the studio and said, ‘What do you call yourself, an actress?!’
“It was just filthy, squalid, sex addicts, sex worker stuff and I thought, ‘This is no part of a film.'”
She believed it was just full of more sex themes – that was quite relevant at the time – that meant girls had to have their tops off at some stage during a movie.
“Mens bottoms are always funny because all bottoms look the same,” Joanna pointed out.
“You never saw the front of a man, but you always saw women without their tops off!”
After reeling off some of her celebrity pals who had to strip off for the camera, she added: “It was part of the titillation of the times.”
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