Eileen Atkins

  1. Jim Broadbent, The Avengers, 1997. In the TV series, John Steed’s M was Mother – playedbya guy, Paul Whitsun-Jones.So for the film – ho! ho! – it was Father played by a woman.Except Eileen didn’t get the joke (no one got any jokes in this tawdry exercise). Shepreferred inheriting Alice (and her machine-gun) when Diana Rigg(the original Mrs Peel in the TV series) fled the proffered cameo.
  2. Helen Mirren, Gosford Park, 2001. Robert Altman knew which part she wanted (Maggie Smith’s aristo) but gave her the housekeeper – adding there might be some shifting about, “part-wise.” His team then apologised and told Atkins: “You’d make a better cook.”
  3. Joanna Lumley, Marple: The Body in the Library, TV, 2004. Various veteran actresses – including Eileen and Annette Crosbie, both 70 – were listed for Dolly Bantry, the friend of the new Miss Marple: Geraldine McEwan, 72. Joanna, a “die-hard Christie fan,” was a mere 58.
  4. Vanessa Redgrave, Venus,  2005.  “I think he’s genuinely crazed. It’s like dealing with a six-year-old. He is clearly under the illusion that he is a genius. Alas, his last good film was 20 years ago.” Notting Hill director Roger Michell’s diary notes about Peter O’Toole’s final film. And he didn’t  want Atkins around.   “It’s either her or me!”  She  split to a  Broadway play.  O’Toole objected to her suggested sub, Penelope Wilton, voting for Redgrave. “He made the whole process… as miserable as possible from practically the first moment,” wrote Michell, who even discussed replacing O’Toole. “Don’t see the point of juggling yoghurt with this mad fucker any longer.”
  5.  Joanna Lumley, The Wolf of Wall Street, 2012. Aunt Emma was first offered to Atkins before passing to Lumley – as Absolutely Fabulous as ever in Martin Scorsese’s fifth vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio. And nothing to do with the 1929 film with the same title – first US film, as Scorsese would tell you, to have one actor (Paul Lukas) dubbed by another (Lawford Davidson).


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  5