Writing about Helen Mirren reminds me of my chance meeting with Dame Eileen Atkins, originally summarized in a LiveJournal entry on February 16. 2007:
Yesterday I was dropping my theatre resume off at a North London theatre (the Almeida, where The Shape Of Things originally premiered). As I was leaving the building, I noticed the actress Eileen Atkins, who has the lead role in their current production, casually standing outside the theatre.
I thought for about a millisecond, and then looked right at her and said “I love your work!”. She then said “Are you American?” — funny how she could tell instantly, though I had read that she likes Americans and working in the USA. We proceeded to chat for a 10 mins or so genuine conversation first about theatre work at the Almeida; she seemed genuinely interested in my theatrical aspirations and suggested that I approach the artistic director in person and thought he might need some assistants…?!
I then asked her a little bit about her career, which she was happy to share including a new film she’d just shot in Rhode Island. She quipped “you seem a bit young to know about my work” but then I explained that Cold Comfort Farm is one of my favorite films, and she smiled and agreed, also adding that she had originally been up for the grandmother role, not the cousin part, but John Schlesinger made a last minute casting switch and had let her know while she was performing a Virginia Woolf one woman show. It was coincidental and inspiring to be able to just chat with someone like her, and definitely keeps me in the “right location, right time, right liveliehood” frame of mind heading into the weekend.
And meeting Diana Rigg on November 26, 2004, also originally posted on LiveJournal (I later had the pleasure of seeing her act onstage at the Old Vic three years later)…
Am still on a high from meeting Diana Rigg this evening. She is by far my favorite British actress and getting to meet her in person, even though it was just a brief conversation, is the icing on the cake for the whole experience here. Her daughter Rachel Stirling had a starring role in the second show I saw today called Anna and the Tropics and she clearly inherited her mother’s strong stage presence, easily rising above the material that was already dramatically rich. Earlier today I’d had a feeling that Diana might attend the performance…was surprised that turned out to be correct! She was sitting just two rows ahead of me in the theatre and I recognized her instantly, although the rest of the people sitting nearby were either being blissfully ignorant or courteous of her, so I followed their example even though I really wanted to say something of admiration as I walked out for the intermission right behind her. Once the show ended it became a “now or never” moment. I went out again only a few feet behind her but then she sat down in the foyer, probably to wait to congratulate her daughter. So I went ahead but was thinking “should I or shouldn’t I?”, having heard via the Avengers.TV forum that she sometimes prefers privacy over recognition. But once I saw an older woman go up to cordially greet her and Diana receiving her very warmly, that sealed it. I went back over to her table and kept it simple, saying “your daughter was excellent. I love your work.” (That’s all there is to say, really.) She seemed genuinely appreciative, giving me a warm smile and saying “thank you” in a friendly theatrical tone to me that gave a sense of her stage experience even through voice. It was enough to send me running to the bus stop (and I could have gone on down the street home) with a huge smile.