Before ‘The Crown,’ Imelda Staunton Played Commoner Vera Drake – The Hollywood Reporter

Imelda Staunton will become the third actress to portray Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix hit on November 9 crown (and for the first time in her role since her death), came to Hollywood’s attention in 1998 as Gwyneth Paltrow’s nurse Viola. Shakespeare in love. But it was her turning point in 2004 Vera Drake That established Staunton, then 48, as a talent to be reckoned with.

British author Mike Leigh’s film tells the story of a modest woman living in 1950s London. Her day job is housekeeping; But on the side, and unbeknownst to her husband and children, she performs abortions on young women. She takes no money for the act (to her knowledge – one of Vera’s collaborators charges clients behind her back), which she performs through a risky technique involving a syringe, carbolic soap and disinfectant. As she tells the inspector after her arrest, the women “need help. Who else should they turn to? No one.”

As with all of Leigh’s films, the script only came together after six months of improvisational rehearsals. The actors who played Vera’s family members didn’t know they would have an abortion in the film – not until they rehearsed a police raid on the family home. The performance earned Staunton an Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe nomination, a BAFTA and a Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival.

“It’s a very exciting thing,” Staunton said THR Before the release of the film. “It’s so personal and private and complex and emotional. This film looks at this impossibly sad subject with compassion from both sides. There’s no religion or politics; it just looks at the facts. Legal or illegal, abortion has been with us for centuries. It will always be with us.”

Stanton has since worked steadily in film, TV and theater but is best known to audiences worldwide as Dolores Umbridge, the villainous Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who terrorizes Hogwarts in 2007. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

THR’s review of Vera Drake said it “fully envelops the audience in its period authenticity”.

The Hollywood Reporter

This story first appeared in the Nov. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Leave a Comment