It’s Imelda Staunton as you’ve never seen her before.
As newly-single Sandra in “Finding Your Feet,” the 62-year-old BAFTA-winning actress dances her way through London’s Piccadilly Circus, goes viral online and lets loose in a way “Harry Potter’s” malevolent Dolores Umbridge could scarcely dream.
With a career spanning four decades across stage and screen, Staunton finds herself in familiar company for Richard Loncraine’s latest film, which hit theaters Friday. She’s joined by similarly-beloved Brits Joanna Lumley, Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie in a rom-com that’s been made to appeal beyond the baby boomer demographic.
amNewYork recently spoke with Staunton about the film and how the Londoner’s love of her hometown impacts her career choices.
What drew you to “Finding Your Feet?”
Well, I found it quite a page-turner, which always helps. And purely for my own personal reasons — it was going to be filming in London. I didn’t have to go anywhere, which was lovely. And with people that I know, another box ticked.
There’s a bunch of iconic British film veterans in this movie. Had you worked with them before?
Well, Celia Imrie and myself and Tim [Spall], we’ve all known each other since the mid-70s. So we didn’t have to work hard at having relationships, and being sisters was easy. . . . I hadn’t worked with Jo Lumley, but I’d met her, obviously. And David Hayman, I’m a huge fan of his, but I hadn’t worked with him. So that was very nice. But on the whole, with Tim and Celia, it was just easy, so easy.
How much dancing had you done before this?
A little bit. But still, it was complicated stuff, but it was good fun. We had lots of lessons and things like that. And that’s, again, a nice quality to have in the film, that it’s not just about older people talking about how bad their backs are. That actually there’s a bit of fun to be had.
One of your most iconic roles on screen is Professor Umbridge in the “Harry Potter” movies. How did that role change your career?
It didn’t — Mike Leigh’s “Vera Drake” did that. And I think without “Vera Drake,” I wouldn’t have got Umbridge. Because it raised my profile.
You’re known worldwide for your screen work, but in the U.K. you’re famous on stage, too. Which do you prefer?
I love them both. There isn’t one I prefer, funnily enough. I think a lot of theater actors say they love the theater more; I love the fine detail of filming, as well. And I love the quiet moments between action and cut. I love those bits of concentration.
Your West End resume is impressively long, but you’ve never come to Broadway. Why?
Yes, well, I think I’m probably the only person who’s said no to doing “Gypsy” on Broadway. We did it in London, and then they wanted me to go to New York. But the commitment was too long. I don’t want to be away from home that long. So I said no to that. I’m so naughty, I want jobs to be done at the end of my road . . . And I don’t want to go away to do any filming.