Miriam Mar­golyes

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Contents -

In an age when celebrities tend to be care­ful about what they say, fa­mously out­spo­ken ac­tress Miriam Mar­golyes can be some­thing of a sur­prise

Screen leg­end Miriam Mar­golyes is known for her witty asides and hon­est views on life. When we call her for a chat, she’s warm, wry and on form. ‘I oc­ca­sion­ally say some­thing in or­der to shock be­cause it’s such fun!’ She re­veals. ‘But mostly I say things be­cause I be­lieve in what I say and I want to say it.’

Miriam, 76, is star­ring in The Man who In­vented Christ­mas, a film about how Charles Dick­ens wrote A Christ­mas Carol. Af­ter read­ing English at Newn­ham College, Cam­bridge, this is a dream for ‘proud book­worm’ Miriam.

‘It’s very good to read,’ Miriam says. ‘It’s the sign of education and so­phis­ti­ca­tion and I’m very sorry for peo­ple who don’t read. When I go into a house and there are no books, I’m afraid I make judg­ments.’

Though she’s star­ring in a film about A Christ­mas Carol,

‘I hope this film will make you want to read his books

– if you read Dick­ens you feel alive’

Miriam re­veals that she’s stuck on de­cid­ing her favourite Dick­ens novel. ‘It’s be­tween Lit­tle Dor­rit, Bleak House and Great Ex­pec­ta­tions. Ev­ery time I come back to Dick­ens, I al­ways think that he’s bet­ter than any­body else. I hope this film will make peo­ple want to read his books – if you read Dick­ens you feel alive. It makes you feel ev­ery­thing.’

Down­ton Abbey’s Dan Stevens plays Charles Dick­ens in the film, who Miriam re­veals was ‘de­li­cious’ to work with.

‘It was fun,’ she says. ‘He loves to laugh. And he loves to have a chat. He was very busy as he was play­ing the main role, but when­ever we had any moments to­gether at meal­times, or while we were wait­ing around, he was gen­er­ous, funny and open. He’s a delightful hu­man be­ing.’

Miriam might be a fan of Dan, but in her trade­mark out­spo­ken way she’s doesn’t hide the fact that she wasn’t a fan of Down­ton, in which he played Matthew Craw­ley, re­fer­ring to it as a ‘rather in­fe­rior soap opera’.

‘I hated it, It was pre­tend­ing to be a so­cial doc­u­ment and it wasn’t.

I mean all the peo­ple in it were my friends – but

I just thought it was so nakedly for­mula. It wasn’t gen­uine for me, so I didn’t watch it,’ Miriam says.

Though she’s star­ring in the most Christ­massy of films, Christ­mas Day isn’t a big deal with Miriam. ‘Be­ing Jewish, Christ­mas had no re­li­gious sig­nif­i­cance for me,’ she ex­plains. ‘so I don’t cel­e­brate it. I do dis­ap­prove of the amount of money that peo­ple spend on presents that they can’t af­ford, for peo­ple they don’t like and I’m not in­ter­ested in the sen­ti­men­tal twad­dle that peo­ple talk about. I think if they want to be nice to peo­ple then they should be nice to them all year round.’

How­ever, while Miriam might take a dim view of the mod­ern-day com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of Christ­mas, she def­i­nitely does con­nect with its deeper spirit of good­will. This year

‘Harry Pot­ter wasn’t fun and it wasn’t a laugh – it was rather a se­ri­ous busi­ness to get it right’

she’ll be help­ing out at Age UK Lam­beth, who are hold­ing a Christ­mas lunch for el­derly peo­ple in her Lon­don bor­ough.

‘Christ­mas is a time when peo­ple who are alone feel more alone than ever. Be­cause of that, I’m go­ing to be help­ing out at a party for the el­derly. It means I spend some time with peo­ple who oth­er­wise might be quite lonely.’

Miriam’s well known for her role as Pro­fes­sor Sprout in the Harry Pot­ter films, but does she ever tire of talk­ing about it?

‘It was a lovely job!’ She says. ‘I loved the peo­ple and I en­joyed it. It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t a laugh – it was a rather se­ri­ous busi­ness try­ing to get it right. It’s brought me a lot of money and hap­pi­ness and I’m very grate­ful to it. Do I think that JK Rowl­ing is as great as Dick­ens? No I don’t. But I think she’s a bloody good writer.’

Chat­ting to us on the phone from the house she shares in Tus­cany with her part­ner, Heather, a re­tired Aus­tralian univer­sity pro­fes­sor, Miriam, once breaks con­ver­sa­tion to let her part­ner know that she’s al­ready fed the cat. Next year, Miriam re­veals that she’s look­ing for­ward to cel­e­brat­ing their 50th an­niver­sary.

‘I don’t like par­ties,’ she says. ‘But we’ll have one. Next year is our golden ‘some­thing’ – though we didn’t get mar­ried. I was lucky to choose a perfect per­son. I think that some­times life is sweeter shared. But only if you find the right per­son – there’s no good be­ing with some­body who makes you un­happy.’

As Miriam wishes us a warm good­bye, we get the feel­ing that this is a lady who will never stop be­ing ex­cited about life – and want­ing to learn more.

‘Never stop read­ing,’ she ad­vises. ‘Books will de­light you and in­form all parts of your life.’

The Man who In­vented Christ­mas is in cinemas from 1 December

Miriam plays Mrs Fisk and Dan Stevens (right) is Dick­ens in The Man who In­vented Christ­mas

Pro­fes­sors Sprout (Miriam) and McGon­a­gall (Dame Mag­gie Smith)

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