JANET McTEER & HARRIET WALTER: THE TONY QUEENS

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Maria Tucci, Janet McTeer, Harriet Walter
Theater Mary Stuart
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FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Queen to Queen’s sofa. Your move.

JANET McTEER and HARRIET WALTER bookend the couch in JANET’S dressing room. The two British actors are both nominated for BEST ACTRESS TONY AWARDS and, while they’re both pleased by the honour, neither likes the idea of competing.

“It’s not nice. It’s no fun,” JANET remarked. “But we would, both of us, absolutely adore it if Phyllida got one because she’s a genius.”

She is, of course, talking about PHYLLIDA LLOYD, the director of the critically acclaimed BROADWAY drama MARY STUART.

HARRIET WALTER plays ENGLAND’S QUEEN ELIZABETH I and JANET McTEER takes on the title role of MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS. Their competition next Sunday at the awards ceremony will be HOPE DAVIS and MARCIA GAY HARDEN (both for GOD OF CARNAGE) as well as film legend JANE FONDA for 33 VARIATIONS.

JANET has already picked up this year’s DRAMA DESK AWARD for her portrayal of the doomed MARY. She has a previous TONY for her performance in A DOLL’S HOUSE in 1997.

She also received a well deserved ACADEMY AWARD nomination for
1999’s TUMBLEWEEDS but decided not to pursue a big time Hollywood career at that juncture because she wanted to focus on being a private person with a very happy personal life.

Also, her breakthrough came late by Hollywood’s harsh standards – she was in her late 30s.

“They just give those kinds of leading roles to somebody pretty and younger and whatever,” observed Ms. McTeer, who can be seen this week in HBO’S INTO THE STORM as WINSTON CHURCHILL’S wife CLEMENTINE.

HARRIET WALTER has appeared extensively in England with both the NATIONAL THEATRE and the ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY but sporadically in films – 1981’s THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN among them.

“I do regret I haven’t shown what I can do in terms of versatility on screen…and now there’s the ageism,” she stated.

Ms. Walter got into acting not because she’s – get this – the niece of Christopher Lee, Count Dracula of those Hammer Horror films two generations ago and, more recently, Count Dooku in the STAR WARS prequels and Saruman in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

It’s because she was inspired by the original THE PARENT TRAP (1961), starring HAYLEY MILLS.

Both actors quickly dispense with the notion that there might be offstage enmity since they are so phenomenal in portraying a clash of strong willed queens.

“Nobody would ask us that if we were men,” JANET said.

“It’s happened the other way around, when you play great lovers and you can’t stand the guy,” HARRIET replied.

They both laughed, then JANET wondered, “Has that happened to you? That’s never happened to me.”

HARRIET answered, “It happened to me once and it was deeply ironical and not very fun.”

When did it happen?

“Way back. Someone will do the math,” HARRIET remarked. She isn’t about to serve up her vintage in a silver chalice.

And they both laughed again.

A little later, both talk about some of the play’s serious, mostly political, resonances and HARRIET suggests they’re different from when she and JANET first did the PETER OSWALD adaptation of FRIEDRICH SCHILLER’S classic play in LONDON’S WEST END.

“In 2005, we would have been thinking of Bush and Cheney and Blair and all those people,” HARRIET stated.

“We were thinking about the cooking up of terror in order to justify very sledgehammer reactions to crack nuts. And this time around, I’m thinking very much of Obama’s inauguration address, when he talked about the offsetting of security and freedom.”

In the play, ELIZABETH has one adviser arguing for security, while the other says not to sacrifice her integrity.

“Let’s hope that integrity can win the day,” HARRIET said.

“It’s not going to solve every problem in the world. But it’s going to give spiritual hope to people that emotional intelligence can win – sometimes – over the masculine values of hard warfare and hard currency.”

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