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Lindsay's Parisian affair
6:00am Saturday 19th October 2013 in Celebrity Interviews
Lindsay Duncan sticks to what she does best in new movie Le Week-End, playing a strong-willed but utterly engaging woman. The film also sees her 'married' to Jim Broadbent once again. Sophie Herdman discovers the secret behind their je ne sais quoi.
Lindsay Duncan looks super-chic as she enjoys a spot of lunch with Jim Broadbent. Wearing a black buttoned-up dress, black pumps and with her hair scraped back, she looks graceful yet strong.
The pair play a married couple in their late fifties who have decided to spend the weekend of their 30th wedding anniversary in Paris, in their latest film Le Week-End.
From the start, it's clear that Meg (Duncan) feels unfulfilled and finds her husband Nick (Broadbent) irritating, despite a few tender moments of affection.
"She's just a little bit angry," says Duncan, 62. "She's wanting more and wondering how much time is left. She still feels like a woman with appetites and she wants her husband to keep up."
Though Meg is only human, a free-spirited but frustrated woman who knows her own mind, she's also quite a hard character to like.
Duncan agrees. "I do stand by her though," she says. "I think she's real, and I'm very lucky to play such a complex woman who I completely believe in."
While the subject matter might not be particularly joyful, the movie is charming, touching and sharp (as well as funny, particularly the scenes with Jeff Goldblum, who plays an egotistical American writer) - and filming in Paris was a delight, says Duncan.
"We were seeing the city every working day - we were on the streets and shooting in restaurants, so we could never forget where we were. It was heaven," she smiles.
It wasn't her first visit to the city of love, of course. One year she spent Christmas there with her husband, the Scottish stage actor Hilton McRae, and says it was one of her best Christmases ever.
"We had been together for a few years and we sort of ran away from family responsibilities and stayed in someone's garret in Paris," she explains.
It sounds like Duncan has a bit of Meg's free-spirited, fun-seeking side? "Well, I don't think I'm very sensible," she admits, laughing.
This is the second time Duncan has played Broadbent's wife. The first was in the TV film Longford, in which Broadbent played Labour peer Lord Longford, who spent years campaigning for the parole of Moors murderer Myra Hindley. Duncan played Lady Longford.
In Le Week-End, the pair look very at ease with one other. So much so that I wonder if they were sent off together for a day of bonding. Duncan laughs hysterically at the suggestion.
"No. We know each other and we get on very well. We try not to make too much fuss about it," she says, no-nonsense.
Relationships in the later stages of life have been the subject matter for a string of films and TV shows in recent years (think The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and TV's recent Love And Marriage).
It's a theme that's interested Hanif Kureishi and Roger Michell, writer and director of Le Week-End respectively, for some time.
While their first project, The Buddha Of Suburbia, looked at a young boy's relationships, a later film, The Mother, told the story of a grandmother having an affair with a man half her age who is also sleeping with her daughter.
And when the writer and director teamed up for Venus it featured an elderly man who develops a relationship with a teenage girl that's verging on romantic.
"They've always been ahead," says Duncan. "But it's not about wanting to take a position, this is just what interests them."
She believes there's a simple explanation for the increased demand for relationships of a more mature nature on screen.
"There are a lot of us [grown-ups] about," she notes. "And we go to the cinema and still have quite high expectations for our lives, we're that generation."
An increase in the number of older faces on screen can only be a good thing for an actress aged 62. Having said that, it will probably make little difference to Duncan's working life.
She has referred to her film career as a sideline because she's better known for her stage work, for which she's won numerous awards, and her TV roles.
Duncan, who spent most of her childhood in Birmingham, first became interested in drama, as many actors do, through school productions, and aged 21 was accepted to study at London's Central School of Speech and Drama.
She started working immediately after graduating in repertory theatre, and soon transferred to more mainstream theatre, as well as landing small TV roles.
Her breakthrough was in Caryl Churchill's infamous play Top Girls in 1982, which later went to Broadway.
In 1985 she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, where she met her husband, and the couple have a 22-year-old son, Cal.
Since then, notable stage roles have included the Marquise de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Maggie in Tennessee Williams's Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Amanda Prynne in Private Lives with Alan Rickman, and many collaborations with Harold Pinter.
Being an actor, Duncan says, means living life on a whim, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
"We get a lot of surprises in our lives and we absolutely lay ourselves open to that," she says. "That's the choice we've made."
Extra time - Lindsay Duncan
:: Lindsay Duncan was born on November 7, 1950, in Edinburgh.
:: She was awarded a CBE in 2009 for her services to drama.
:: In 2012 she appeared as a guest in the New Year special of Absolutely Fabulous: she played Saffy's favourite actress, Jeanne Durand.
:: She portrayed Margaret Thatcher in the 2009 TV film Margaret, for which she was nominated for a Scottish Bafta Award for Best Actress.
:: She tried for the role of Anakin Skywalker's mother in 1999's Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as her son was a huge fan. She didn't get the part but was offered the voice of a droid, TC-14.
:: Le Week-End is released on Friday, October 11
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