The Guardian Q & A
Julie Walters, 58, was born in Birmingham. After training as a nurse, she studied drama at Manchester Polytechnic, then joined the Everyman theatre in Liverpool. At 33, she landed her first film role, in Educating Rita, for which she won a Bafta and her first Academy Award nomination. She has since starred in films including Calendar Girls, the Harry Potter series and Mamma Mia! She is married with a daughter, Maisie, and lives in Sussex. Her autobiography, That’s Another Story, is published next week by Orion.
When were you happiest?
Seeing Maisie’s face for the first time.
What is your greatest fear?
Every mother’s fear: something untoward happening to her child.
What is your earliest memory?
The smell of the hood on my pram when my mother wiped it with a damp cloth.
Which living person do you most admire?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
The desire to please.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Having a dutch cap fitted and the woman saying, ‘I know you, don’t I?’
Aside from a property, what’s the most expensive thing you have bought?
A RAV4: I live on a farm.
What is your most treasured possession?
Things Maisie made when she was little.
Where would you like to live?
Where I live. We’ve been here 13 years, farming organically.
What makes you depressed?
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My round shoulders – although they have been very useful at times!
Who would play you in the film of your life?
Tracey Ullman, because everyone used to confuse us.
What’s your most unappealing habit?
I do it only when I am on my own – eating like a pig and licking my plate.
What is your favourite book?
The Borrowers – it got me reading.
What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?
A nun. Then I could wear the habit and smoke and drink… I went to a convent.
What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
When my daughter was very ill when she was two, we were at a fete and someone came up and said, ‘Is this the famous daughter with leukaemia?’
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
What do you owe your parents?
Drive, sense of humour, bravery.
To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
To my family, for being totally stressed half the time.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Maisie and my husband, Grant.
What does love feel like?
It puts everything in perspective. It can also be painful.
What was the best kiss of your life?
Grant’s first one. I met him in a bar in Fulham 23 years ago.
Which living person do you most despise, and why?
It used to be Thatcher. I suppose Bush.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Ian Charleson, a lovely man who died. Also my mum and dad.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
‘As the actress said to the bishop.’ It comes out like a nervous tic.
What is the worst job you’ve done?
Testing ill people’s stools at a hospital.
What has been your biggest disappointment?
I don’t go in for disappointment.
How do you relax?
Soaps and the Guardian crossword.
What is the closest you’ve come to death?
I was with a friend in Corfu, swimming to a rock off the coast. A storm whipped up, it was really choppy and when we got there I was too exhausted to get on the rock. I thought, ‘I’m going to drown’ but this bloke pulled me out.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who was good.
Where would you like to be now?
On holiday with my family, lying on a beach with nothing to do.
Tell us a joke.
An elephant met a mouse in the jungle and the mouse said, ‘Bloody hell, you’re absolutely enormous.’ And the elephant said, ‘Well, you’re really, really little.’ And the mouse said, ‘Yes, but I haven’t been well.’
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