In the romantic comedy “Finding Your Feet,” Oscar-nominated English actress Imelda Staunton (“Vera Drake”) stars as Lady Sandra Abbott, a well-to-do woman who finds out her husband of 40 years is having an affair with her best friend.
Sandra decides to start over when she moves in with her estranged sister, who lives in London, and signs up to take community dance classes to keep herself busy. Through dance, Sandra is able to reawaken the spark inside her, especially since the classes allow her to spend more time with Bif (Timothy Stall), a humble furniture restorer who she initially does not like.
During my interview with her last month, Staunton, 62, who is also known for her role as Dolores Umbridge in the “Harry Potter” franchise, talked about starring in a rom com featuring characters of a certain age, how she enjoyed dancing on the film and how she thinks she’d do if she tried to find a date online.
Did you find it refreshing that this is a romantic comedy that centers on characters who are in their 60s and 70s? That’s not something we see too much these days in this genre.
Aren’t we lucky?! This film wouldn’t have been made 20 years ago, I don’t think. It’s great. It’s funny, poignant and serious. It covers a lot of bases and it isn’t just about older people having health problems. It’s about people having things they’ve got to deal with. I think it shows how my particular character deals with her life. Can you change? Can you stop being a stuck-up person that no one really wants to know? Can you break [out of] your shell or not? I think it’s a good journey that my character has to go on.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself on the dance floor? Did you realize you had more moves than you thought?
Well, I also have moves that I wouldn’t put on camera to be absolutely frank. (Laughs) Listen, we had a lot of rehearsal, which we needed. I love the fact that we’re not just old people waltzing around on the dance floor. We’re doing a little hip-hop. We’re doing rock ’n’ roll. There’s tap. It’s a lovely mix of dance styles, which is unusual. But we get to do all that and, like you said, it’s quite refreshing and exhilarating.
I know you’ve worked with your co-star Timothy Spall before on “Harry Potter.” What was it like sharing the dance floor with him this time?
It was great. We’ve known each other since we were in our early 20s. I have such respect for Tim and I admire him. He’s such a funny guy, so we had such a lovely time. And how nice having two people [like us in these roles]. It wasn’t like it was George Clooney and Angelina [Jolie]. We are ordinary people who happen to have this lovely story happening to us. I think it’s rather nice that two actors, who are sort of character actors, get to play these roles.
As an actress, does the art of acting change for you when you’re working on a more intimate film like this in comparison to something that is a lot bigger in scope like the “Harry Potter” films or “Into the Woods” or “Sweeney Todd?”
Each film takes on its own script, so you have low-budget [films], medium budget, big budget. But the bottom line is always the truth of the script, however you do it and however much money you spend. If the script is no good, no amount of money can make up for that. For me, it’s always about doing the best job you can on that day. I think it’s what matters the most.
For someone who finds themselves in the same position as your character – whether they’re divorced or widowed or just alone – what advice would you give them about getting back out there and continuing on with their lives?
I think what one has to do is reach out because you’ve been isolated or, for lack of a better word, abandoned. Don’t stay there on your own dealing with that. It’s always in you. So, I would get out, talk to friends and try and get your life back.
I know you are happily married, but how do you think you’d fare in today’s dating world where everyone is meeting people online and dating with the help of computers and apps? Do you think you’d have any luck?
I don’t think I would have any luck whatsoever. I think I would just have to go meet someone at a garden center; meet someone in person – like a human. Unusual, I know.