Who is Imelda Staunton, last Elizabeth II of “The Crown”?

After Claire Foy and Olivia Colman, Imelda Staunton is the new face of Elizabeth II for seasons five and six of the hit Netflix series, The Crown. Accustomed to roles featuring women of power, the British actress will use her know-how to portray the late sovereign in the next chapters of historical fiction.

She is the other iron lady of the UK. On this side of the Channel, Imelda Staunton is credited with the sarcastic laughter and psychorigidity of a certain Dolores Umbridge, repressive Under-Secretary of State for the “Ministry of Magic” in JK Rowling’s hit saga, Harry Potter. We also remember the scathing lines of the intractable Lady Bagshaw, the character acting as a counterpoint to the emblematic Violet Crawley, camped by Dame Maggie Smith in the film Downton Abbey. There’s no doubt: the British actress is used to slipping into the shoes of powerful women on the big screen. This fall, she is embarking on one of the biggest challenges of her career: playing the role of Elizabeth II in seasons five and six of the hit Netflix show, The Crown.

For this season 5, Imelda Staunton slips into the guise of Elizabeth II, who, in the 90s, went through many storms, both in her private life and in her public life.
For this season 5, Imelda Staunton lends her features to an Elizabeth II caught in the storms of the 1990s. © Netflix

A big bet, because the chapter to be published in the coming weeks will focus on the years from 1992 to 1997, with the main theme, the drift of the marriage of Charles III, then Prince of Wales, and Diana. In an interview given to the magazine varietyImelda Staunton shared her feelings, halfway between apprehension and excitement: “It’s damn intimidating. I’m sure it was just as much for Claire Foy, when she started playing this role. is enough for the three of us to say to each other [avec Olivia Colman, ndlr] : “I must not wallow!” It’s a kind of relay. I have cut out. It’s terrifying and exciting at the same time. It’s a huge responsibility and I can’t wait to get into it.”

From boards to the big screen

If it is on television and in the cinema that she has met her greatest successes, it is nevertheless on the boards that Imelda Staunton begins her career in the 1970s. Freshly graduated from the Royal Academy of Art drama, where she shared the benches with Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall and Juliet Stevenson, the young woman joined the Royal Shakespeare Company where she distinguished herself in many emblematic roles of the time: Dorothée in The Wizard of Ozthe baker’s wife in let’s wander in the forest or even Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls… The year 1982 saw the consecration of her career as a theater actress: she joined the National Theater and was nominated for the very prestigious Oliver Award, for her role in thebeggar’s opera.

In 1986, Imelda Staunton signed her first film role in the film Comrades by Bill Douglas. She camps the character of Betsy Loveless, sister-in-law of George Loveless, main character of the feature film. A secondary role, but which confirms his great qualities as an interpreter. In the years that followed, she multiplied her appearances in many successful productions: Viola de Lesseps’ nurse in Shakespeare in Love (1998), Lady Brown in Bright Young Things (2003), Mrs. Blatherwick in Nanny McPhee (2005)…

The British actress becomes a perfectly identifiable character in pop culture. But it’s the role of Vera Drake that will truly reveal the extent of her abilities. In this drama by Mike Leigh, Staunton portrays an exemplary mother of the 1950s, who secretly helps the women around her to end their unwanted pregnancies. Her fine acting earned her a first Oscar nomination in the “best actress” category.

Downton Abbey
The cast of the film Downton Abbey, in which Imelda Staunton played the role of Lady Bagshaw. © 2018 FOCUS FEATURES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

On the strength of her new radiance, Imelda Staunton shares the bill with Hillary Swank in Write to exist (2007) before giving the reply to Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in the fifth installment of the saga Harry Potter. During the filming, she notably finds her former friend from the British Royal Academy, Alan Rickman, and meets Dame Maggie Smith, with whom she will shoot in the film. Downton Abbey.

In the skin of a sovereign

In the season five trailer of The CrownImelda Staunton opens the ball, by portraying a devastated Elizabeth II, wandering through the ruins of Windsor Castle, after the fire of November 1992. To succeed in slipping into the skin of the sovereign, the actress spent long months to study his subject: “I did a lot of research, on the writing of his character in the series, but also on his life. So I am spoiled for choice in terms of sources of inspiration”, confided the British actress to the magazine variety.

In addition to her research, she was able to rely on her personal experience, because the interpreter of Lady Bagshaw met the mother of Charles III on more than one occasion: “I sang for his ninetieth anniversary. The other artists and I were invited to have tea. The queen was present”, she confides, still to Variety. “I think I first met her in 1986. She came to see one of my performances at the theatre. Queen Mum came to several of my shows. I met her at a ceremony where I have received the Order of the British Empire and Prince William has presented me with the title of Commander of the Empire. It is strange to think that I will play this role. But my job is to ensure that I deliver a more than credible performance.” Successful bet ? Verdict on November 9, 2022.

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Who is Imelda Staunton, last Elizabeth II of “The Crown”?