(Simon Hattenstone’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/13.)
Cheers,’ says Vanessa Redgrave. She clinks her glass of elderflower pressé against my coffee. At 79, with those cornflower-blue eyes and that great silver streak of hair, she looks as striking as ever. I tell her that my daughter loves watching her niece Jemma in the TV soap Holby. As compliments go, it’s not up to much for the woman who was proclaimed by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams as the greatest actor of their time, but she responds gracefully. “Oh, does she? How sweet! I’ll pass that on.” She could not be more charming.
Then we start the interview. Every question is dissected for falsehood, insult, bias, innuendo and booby traps. She is the bomb-disposal expert of interviewees.
We are sitting in the front row at the empty Almeida theatre in north London, where she is rehearsing for Shakespeare’s Richard III. I ask if the stage scares her. “Scared?” she replies, as if it’s the most ridiculous question in the world. “Scared? What about?” Going on stage? “No, not really.”