Vera Drake Star Shines
When the Oscar nominations for best actress were announced last month, it was no surprise to see Annette Bening, Hilary Swank and Kate Winslet on the list. But art-house moviegoers were thrilled to see two lesser-known worthies — Vera Drake's Imelda Staunton and Maria Full of Grace's Catalina Sandino Moreno — instantly catapulted, if only temporarily, onto Hollywood's A-list.
Unlike Moreno, a fresh-faced newcomer in her early twenties, the 49-year-old Staunton has spent years paying her dues across the pond and awaiting this level of individual recognition for her work. "Well, [Drake
director] Mike Leigh
and I were having Chinese takeaway in the publicist's office and I was quite surprised, I have to say, that I did get nominated," she says. "I thought I was going to get squeezed out. So I was very surprised, and then absolutely over the moon Mike got his two nominations [for best director and best original screenplay], which I think is quite right."
As the title character in Vera Drake
, Staunton plays a cleaning lady in impoverished post-WWII Britain who secretly moonlights as an abortionist to "help out young girls" with unwanted pregnancies. Funny how such an unglamorous role should propel Staunton — who just won a BAFTA (the British equivalent of an Oscar) — into the glitzy world of awards-show season. How has the sudden fame (and the possibility of collecting a trophy at Sunday's Academy Awards) affected her?
"I've changed," the movie maid deadpans. "Totally changed. I won't do any domestic duties at all now. It's helped me enormously to realize what I really should be doing, which is just, you know, having slaves."
All jokes aside, the Oscar nod could well do wonders for her career prospects. "Well, I bloody hope it does!" she laughs. "I hope it does something. Otherwise, I've spent a lot of money [on awards-show clothes] and it's not going to get me anywhere.
"It's very hard for me to project what will happen," Staunton adds. "You hope you'll get a couple more scripts. I hope... it'll give me a little step up. I'm so proud to be part of this film, and then, I have all this [celebration] on top of it, so it ain't bad."