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My teacher told me I was a rubbish actress; Kristin Scott Thomas , 57, on being told to give it all up before her career had even started, shunning the movie industry, working with Prince, and playing Mrs Churchill.

I was told, 'Forget it, you're rubbish', by a teacher at drama school. It was upsetting as I'd dreamt of doing this all my life. I moved to France to act as I thought they wouldn't notice how rubbish I was in a different language. Before my role in A Handful Of Dust, my first job was in a drama called The Investigations Of Commissioner Maigret. I was the second hairdresser, I still get 25 euros a year in royalties. People would say, 'You should make movies'. I thought, 'God, no, I don't want to make movies, I want to be on the stage. I want to be a proper actress'.

1988 I just thought Four Weddings was fantastic. It was screaming at me, 'You have to play this part!' Things changed enormously for me after this. People started actually wanting me without me having to beg. But what happens is you make a film that's very successful, then people want you to repeat the same thing over again, because they know it works and they'll get their money's worth. I got asked to play a lot of rather less good Fionas, so I went to do a film in Romania instead.

Prince's Under The Cherry Moon was my first proper film. My acting was appalling. To work with a living god in music was extraordinary. He fired the director after two weeks, rang me in the middle of the night and said, 'Hello. Mary has been fired, I'm now going to be the director'. What can you say? But Prince gave me my first proper film and I will never forget that. He remained a loyal supporter. He came to see me in The Seagull and he loved my movie I've Loved You So Long and wrote a song about it.

1998 It was pretty fantastic to work with Robert Redford on The Horse Whisperer. I enjoyed that, but I didn't enjoy Hollywood. I didn't like the size of everything. It was all too big, and there were always too many people to please. I never knew who I was working for: The director? The producers? Publicists? I found that quite disconcerting. I prefer 15 people on the Isle Of Man, or something.

2007 I was starstruck by Lauren Bacall. I mean, I think if you weren't starstruck by her, she'd have struck you. She was quite something; she had a hackneyed expression but had such presence. I try to pick up tips and hints from people like that. Also I was pretending to be American in The Walker, which is always a bit sticky and makes me quite uncomfortable.

I was obsessed with the book of The English Patient. So I said, 'I'll do anything on that film I'll be a runner'. But they said, 'Would you read for Katharine Clifton?'. I've never had so much fun in my life as in the audition. I walked in, and there was Ralph Fiennes. I'd never met him before and we sat down, read it, and when we looked up, there was the director Anthony Minghella beaming and he said, 'Ooh, can we do it again?' It just felt so brilliant and right and it was obvious that this should happen.

1996 Gosford Park was heaven, absolute heaven. The director Robert Altman would tower above everybody, push people around and shove the camera operator. With the actors, he would give us all a lecture in the beginning, and then he'd look around the room and say, 'One of you is the weakest link', which is always reassuring when you're with all these Dames and Knights and what-have-yous. But he was so clever with dialogue and characterisation and he was a really, really brilliant director. 2001 Darkest Hour is not the first time I've been asked to play Churchill's wife.

I thought, 'God, yet another character in the background - all "Have you got your coat, darling?"' But I was persuaded. To understand Churchill, you have to see his emotional turmoil and the best place to show his conscience is in his marriage with this intelligent, strong woman who knew him backwards and was unafraid of him. Working with Gary Oldman was a revelation -- he's absolutely extraordinary. When I first met him, I didn't meet Gary Oldman, I met Winston Churchill, because he walked into the first rehearsal in full Churchill gear. People stood up. I never saw him out of Winston's suit. Gary just sort of dissolved into his skin.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 28, 2018
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