December 1, 2022

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‘Devastated and Vibrant Grandma’: Working with Angela Lansbury, Directed by Neil Jordan | Movies

I I had two Angelas in my life at one stage. Angela Carter (went a long time ago and missed a lot) and Angela Lansbury (she went out of this world last night, missing her just as much). There must be a ghost in your elbow, the sole purpose of which is to remind you how lucky you are.

I was traveling to Clapham Common in south London to work with Ollie Angela, to analyze her short story collection blood chamber To tangled bites and shards of upside-down tales that will become wolves company. I ended up with the second Angela on a sound stage in Shepperton in a woodland made of moving trees designed by Anton Forrest, somehow funded by producer Stephen Woolley.

She would have been 57 or so at the time, and she was too lively to be a grandmother… but then we needed a very unusual grandmother, this is a very unusual movie set. There were trees covered with human muscle, glistening in a viscous dark red; There was a massive oak or elm rootstock in the shape of an elegant high heel; There were dead teddy bears groping the maids of honor; There was a wedding full of overdressed wolves (dogs, in fact, powder malamutes); There was a wolf coming out of the hunter’s mouth.

wolves company
Subversive… Lansbury’s Company of Wolves. Photo: ITV/REX/Shutterstock

And then there’s Angela herself, her grandmother’s head turned into a wax model that was dismembered with a poker and plaster shards smashed on the floor. We had the crew members who had just come out of The Empire Strikes Back and considered what we were doing with some kind of disdain or bewilderment. But Angela always understood. Not only was it understood, but it gave them the feeling that the project might be worth something in the end. She was in pedknobs and broomsticks, after all.

I saw it years later at a reception in Dublin and was surprised at how impressive it was. She finally seemed as if she had played well: a real, devastating, playful grandmother. And I realized I didn’t really have one, until then.

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