Categories Last of the Haussmans Print Media Tributes

Stephen Beresford Remembers His Friend Helen McCrory

Helen McCrory Was a Great Actor — and a Great Human. The Playwright Stephen Beresford Praises his Friend’s Restless, Curious Nature

by Stephen Beresford | The Times | April 22, 2021

             Kindred spirit: McCrory in Beresford’s play The Last of the Haussmans DONALD COOPER/ALAMY
My first “in the flesh” sighting of Helen was on a spring morning in 2012. She was hunched over a pouch of rolling tobacco on the low wall beside the National Theatre’s stage door. She was giving off an air of “don’t notice me”, which is a tricky thing to pull off while wearing a fedora. Anyone who knew Helen recognised that crouched, industrious position of hers; a swift, practised kinesis, ending with a bravura lick of the cigarette paper and a head tilt; half provocative, half playful, as if to say: “Well now. Are you going to be interesting?”

There was no possibility of my being interesting. I was too terrified. It was the first day of rehearsals for my first play, and it was happening at the National Theatre. I was about to walk into a room full of people I had long admired: Julie Walters, Howard Davies, Rory Kinnear, Nick Hytner — and, of course, Helen.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” she said, sliding her arm into mine as though we had known each other for 40 years. “I’m terrible at read-throughs.”

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Categories Interviews Last of the Haussmans Print Media Skyfall

Helen McCrory: ‘Now it’s 43, I call my body art’

Why Helen McCrory is Happy Doing Bond and Baring All

Helen McCrory’s dressing room is a grotty bedsit high up in the National Theatre. She says that, on first nights, the actors in the other bedsits rattle their windows, which sounds terrifying, as if they were all in prison and protesting against Chekhov. I reject the cage as an interview venue, so we slope onto a balcony. She looks odd in sunlight, because she is so gothic, a dark Bambi with huge eyes and a huge mouth, sitting on the body of a small, frenetic doll. Mostly she is still. Sometimes she vibrates.

I have seen her twice before. Once on stage in The Last of The Haussmans, where she glittered, pulsated and stole the play; and again in a sluggish Q&A about the play, where she was nervous and prickly, out of her comfort zone. She seemed to fold into her chair, intent on playing a cushion, as the elderly female audience cooed over her co-star Rory Kinnear and semi-ignored her. She said things like: “It doesn’t matter to me how other people view my career.” When a woman asked her if she had received a gift she left at the stage door, she replied “Yes”, very coldly, and turned back into a cushion.

She is not like this today. She is excitable and joshing, playing my best friend. I am here to discuss her role in Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, although we don’t get far with that. She teases my tape recorder, booming like a refugee from Malory Towers — “Nice and loud and clearly, shall we?” It quickly becomes obvious that McCrory, who prepares obsessively for every role, chose acting, at least initially, as an act of control. I decide it is this Helen, the pilot Helen, who is in charge of all the other Helens — the cross Helen, the principled Helen, the funny Helen and so on. As a child, she moved around: her father was a diplomat. Storytelling, she says, helps “to make sense of your childhood — Africa compared to Norway compared to Paris. ­Everything is logical in that world of the play”. She has the otherworldliness of the British child brought up abroad, a kind of tidy cleverness that sometimes collapses into swearing, or shrieks.

She knows how good she is, which pleases me. I’m sick of actors saying how grateful they are, and how fame fell on them like a surprise boulder. “I often read articles where actors say, ‘I know I’m a fake, I’m just waiting to be found out,’” she says slowly. “I’ve never thought that.” Her voice changes, slurring from estuary when she is excited to RP when she is making a serious point. She swears constantly. Sometimes she sounds like Celia Johnson, sometimes like Ray Winstone. A waiter asks us to move, because there is a private party. “Okay,” she says. “We’ll move in a minute.” Exactly one minute later, she does. I wonder if she timed it.

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Categories Last of the Haussmans Reviews

Review: The Last of the Haussmans

Hippy Dippy

By Michael Billington | June 20, 2012 | The Guardian

Plays about the legacy of the 1960s are becoming increasingly common. After Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love and Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Apologia, we now have this debut from Stephen Beresford. As an actor himself, he knows how to write whacking good parts and has all the benefits of a meticulous National production, but he rarely makes you feel the family he portrays can provide a metaphor for a generation.

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