With a career like yours, people assume that success had to come quickly. Were there moments when you struggled to find a job as an actor? galactichero
Oh, absolutely. I left school and worked for Boots, and joined an amateur group in my hometown. Someone suggested that I go to drama school, and since I got tired of working in a shop, I thought, “Okay, I’ll try.” And I got a place. With the help of one of the managers from Boots, I received funds to go to Rad [the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art] from the Cheshire County Council. After I left drama school, I got a job right away, doing two or three plays in Worthing and then in Crewe.
I was almost out of work for three years then. Keep in mind, I did various other jobs. I got married at the time and we lived in Swiss Cottage [London], so I did everything I could to get that I made some money. I worked in stores. I had an office job – I got fired because of it, I don’t know why. I was very lucky in the parts I had the opportunity to work on, and the people I worked with. When the job is done, I have always firmly believed that I will never work again and that feeling will not go away.
The whole world is a stage, and political actors are some of the most untalented tespians. How for the sake of an accomplished, intelligent, world-wise womann such as you deal with them? acwinterburn
I think that is a gross insult to politicians and actors, honestly.
You were moving naked in a train car 1971‘s The Music Loversand they were shadow transport secretary under Tony Blair. Did the first role help prepare for the second? cavecanem
Not at all. I remember clearly filming that scene. The wagon set rocked back and forth, and the luggage fell out of the rack onto me. I can still hear [director] Ken [Russell] saying, “Oh, she’s fine. She is not a bruise. Come on, get her up. ” There were about three separate minor accidents, and they were all treated not as if they had harmed me, but as delaying the actual shooting of the film.
Glenda, which is the fakest – Tinseltown or Parliament? Micktrick
None of them are games. They are both real. In a way, it is a compliment to actors and politicians, but also an insult.
What was your relationship with Vanessa Redgrave during production Mary, Queen of Scotland? Was there an element of professional rivalry and does it improve performance when you play antagonists like Mary and Elizabeth? Wallace85
We actually had very few scenes together, which was a big disappointment because I had – and still have – a great admiration for her. But her political position was completely different from mine. So when she made various suggestions, it was all a bit like that… well, I wouldn’t say hard, but of course it was a privilege to work with her.
Your breakthrough Women in Love from 1969 dramatized a society in which traditional gender roles and expectations were crumbling. Now we seem to be going backwards, if nothing else … Are women still cutting back to adjust to the world? wifinomad
I think that basically, when you talk to a woman of this profession, that is not true. And the age limit for women still tends to be somewhat young. As this is my whole life experience, I will not say that I am used to it. This is something that is expected and unfortunately our expectations are usually met.
What made you want to get involved in politics? mrblancmange
I worked a lot, while I was still acting, for Rad party. There were several requests asking me to stand up. We had Thatcher, so I said yes, never thinking I would really be elected. Honestly, I don’t know if I would do something different because it’s something you learn while you have to do it. I think it’s wonderful to have more female faces these days. They are all much younger now than when I was first elected in 1992. But don’t make me start thinking about the current government, please.
Given how Brexit has changed policy in the UK, how can the current culture in Parliament be compared until when were you an envoy? IscoBusquet
Oh, that has changed dramatically, because the electorate itself has changed drastically. The view of what is acceptable in politics has become much more individual. Experiences at the individual level engaged many more people than when I first had the right to vote. I think there is a true realization of what it means to be a human being in a political sense. And that is a big step forward.
Are you sending Tony Blair a Christmas card? FowerCloud
I wouldn’t send him anything!
It’s never Christmas until I see Morecambe and a sketch of the Wise Cleopatra. Was it as fun to work as it is still to watch? Do you prefer to play straight / classic drama or comedy? Mattyjj and JFBridge
I mean, what a treat to work with those two because they were so professional; they worked so hard and expected you to do the same. It was just a privilege. Do I have any special memories? My own difficulty not laughing during filming. Comedy is much harder. Making people laugh is very difficult to do well.
What is the most embarrassing thing you can admit now? BustaBates
The most embarrassing thing? There I am a little spoiled by choice!
Eileen Atkins lost from you at an audition for [theatre director] Peter Brook. She tells the story in her autobiography from 2021 Will she do it? Brook asked you to undress, which you did immediately, and Atkins thought she had heard wrong, and Brook then said, “That that’s why I’m taking Glenda for you. You tend to question things, and I want obedience. ” Should student actors be trained for obedience today? thesighman
I don’t remember that. But I was always obedient to instructions. I accept that completely. If it was a director you trusted or really needed the job, you would do whatever is asked of you – to the limit.
Are there directors you’d love to work with who haven’t? Hooplehead1967
I’m pretty sure there were. But my memory of movies goes back a long way – long before I even started working. So don’t ask me to name them because I can’t remember them.
Do you support the football team? davidhuse
No. Well, I guess I did. I was born in Birkenhead. Whenever they ask me if I support a football team, I always say … which team is from Birkenhead? Tranmere Rovers. When was the last time I went to a Tranmere Rovers game? I’ve never seen them play. Where are they in the league? I have no idea. Do I know what color they play? no.
What was it like working with Oliver Reed? navvee
I don’t think it was a great meeting of minds. Although it was difficult at times, it never intervened in the business. You were never quite sure what it would be like, physically. But even when he drank too much, he was always very professional when it came to real filming.
In which career do you think you have done the most lasting good: politics or acting? davidabsalom
How could you define that? I was re-elected – 23 years in parliament? Looking back at their films, some were really surprisingly good, and some that I thought were really extraordinary weren’t that good. So maybe it’s just my lack of taste.
Would you describe yourself as happy and purposeful, and if so, what is the secret of your happiness and vitality? IgnacioJReilly
You tell me!
During your stay in Westminster, have you ever watched a play or a movie and thought, “It’s such a great role, I wish I could play it?” CraigR
You know, I don’t think I went to the theater or the cinema all the time I was a member of parliament. I must have watched movies on television, but I don’t remember going to the cinema, and certainly not to the theater, because you worked so many hours. Am I going to the theater and the cinema now? No. There is a difference between going to the theater to have fun and actually working in it. What do I think about the upcoming Glenda Jackson series on BFI? I’m surprised there are so many movies! What happens if I watch TV and one of my old movies comes on? Well, they usually show my old movies late at night. So I’m probably in bed and hope to sleep.