She's best known for her ditsy Queen Elizabeth I in Blackadder, but actress Miranda Richardson, 51, has two Oscar nominations under her belt and once beat Meryl Streep to a Golden Globe. Now she is back in period costume, playing Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent, in new biopic The Young Victoria.
Why did you turn down the lead role in Fatal Attraction, the role that turned Glenn Close into a household name?
I genuinely can't do crap. If I don't believe in a role, I can't pull it off. There have been people who have wondered why on earth I would not do that role, but I felt so strongly that it was demonising women. It was a case of, 'Let's present the female character not as a person but as a representation of what women are capable of.' I thought it was hideous and didn't want to have anything to do with it.
Do you ever wish you'd made different choices? You might have won an Oscar by now and have a Hollywood lifestyle to boot.
Maybe, or I might have come a cropper and be back at square one.
Does the red carpet scare you?
I have learned now, pretty late in the game, that the way to survive those things is by going with a group of friends and having a laugh. I wish I'd discovered it earlier.
Would you hate to be under all that Hollywood pressure to look perfect?
I think it's about individual choice, so I'm not going to point the finger and say, 'Look at what they've had done.' There are enormous pressures for the highest earners in this industry to look a particular way. If you’re not micro-managed by a team of people telling you that you are this, that and the other, then it is easier.
Are you happy with your looks?
No, and I defy anyone - especially any woman - to say they are. There is a certain vanity there, whatever part you are playing. When I go into make-up, even if the role requires a dreadful wig and for me to be 80 years old, I just say, 'I would like to look gorgeous, please, I don't care if it's appropriate.'
Are you in a relationship at the moment?
In my industry, everybody wants to know everything about you, and it's just dumb. I think the only way of maintaining some of that mystique is by not giving away too much about yourself. It has served me well so far. I never want to feel up for grabs.
Do you ever regret not marrying and having children?
My pets - two dogs, two cats and an axolotl (Mexican salamander) - are like family. I think marriage would be quite good for me, but I'm not going to just go out and hire someone. I think, intermittently, that you find Mr Right, but you have to get lucky. I don't rule out having a family - it just hasn't happened for me yet.
Does work get in the way of romance?
It's difficult to keep in touch with someone when you're moving around all the time. I've decided that you can have it all, but you can't have it all, all of the time.
Were you a happy child?
Child, yes; teenager, probably not, but then what teenager is? I got into quite a bit of trouble at school, particularly in Latin and French. It wasn't that I planned to be disruptive, it's just that I could do it like that (snaps her fingers). I spent much of my time being bored. I don't think it's useful to go through life blaming people, but I do think my education was very patchy. But I had the fortune to have a wonderful English teacher, who encouraged me to act.
When did you realise you wanted to act?
When I was in junior school, when I moved into a new class. There was a class favourite who had been away in hospital, which made her very mysterious to start with. And when she came back, there was this air about her. The whole class was just drawn to her. I remember thinking, 'What's so special about her?' It's not that I wanted to actually be her, I just wanted to be her for a little while. I've never lost that. I'm quite happy to be other people for a bit, getting into someone else's mindset. And the bonus, of course, is that you get to be called anything but Miranda Richardson. For a little while, at least.
What's wrong with your name?
I just don't like it. It doesn't sound right. You know when you say a word like, well, 'crab' and it sounds like the silliest thing in the world? That's how I feel about my name. It's the same with the word 'actress', it makes me cringe. It's the idea that when you say 'actress', people think of an airy, floaty, no-brain person, which of course you can't be if you are an actor. It is an unfortunate word, which is why, for a time, I hung on to 'actor', because it just seemed more workmanlike, you know, like you say 'woman doctor' not 'doctoress'.
Playing Queenie in Blackadder must have been great fun?
Fun? Yes. No. Well, eventually. I didn't really enjoy it at first. I agonised too much over the script. I think I investigated the role too much.
Well, over-analysed it, I suppose. You need to think about who a character is, even one like that, because it does have to be based on a kind of reality. It has to have a truth about it to connect with people. It's not just all bonkers.