You're about to appear at the Samuel Beckett festival in Enniskillen. (http://www.happy-days-enniskillen.com/) What are you performing?
I'm doing a monologue called Enough, and I'm going to read it at 7am in a boat to Tully Castle on Lough Erne. The organisers said: "It might be too early for you…" And I said: "No! It sounds great." I'm not sure what state I'll be in, but it will probably be slightly surreal.
The line-up for the festival includes Frank Skinner, Clive James and a film performance by Julianne Moore. What does this mix of performers say about the appeal of Beckett?
That he covers humanity and he's exciting. I don't think he's overdone either, which is terrific. A number of pieces are repeated with good reason – they're fantastic – but there are other things in the canon that are worth looking at. I love doing new or unvisited stuff; often there's baggage that comes with the other pieces.
Hasn't that been a feature throughout your career: do you prefer new or little-known writing to classic texts?
What happens as you go on in your career is that there may be a tendency to be less directed, and we all need direction. People assume you can do it. They think: "Oh, we'll get so-and-so to do it, that'll be good." I'm paraphrasing, but that's my fear. "She'll know what to do." I think famously Judi Dench feels like this. We all need help, and if somebody hasn't got a great idea about why they want to revisit a piece that's pretty frightening.
You've just been chair of judges for the Women's prize for fiction. Would you recommend that someone sat down and read 145 novels?
I wouldn't wish that particularly on anybody. I'm very glad I did it but I don't know how people do it and work as well, and have families and all that, if you're doing it responsibly. Obviously there are going to be some books that grab your attention and there were very few that made me angry. I think there was one I threw across the room.
AM Homes's May We Be Forgiven won in the end, but the main controversy surrounded the inclusion of Hilary Mantel on the shortlist. You were outspoken in her defence – why?
It needed to be said, I think. I found the whole attitude pretty disgusting, and the misinterpretation of her speech [on society's treatment of royal women]. Are we that bored that we have to hang her out to dry, having misinterpreted her? It just annoys the hell out of me really.
Was your issue with the British response to success or that she was being demonised as a woman?
No, it's about success. It can happen to the men as well. I just think it's a British attitude: "You've had enough now, we're sick of you, we need somebody else. Don't think you can start telling us how to live our lives just because you've won a couple of prizes." It's true across many professions; the only thing it's not true of is our attitude to sport and athletes. They are our heroes now.
Outside of work, have you deliberately tried to keep your public profile low?
Well, I don't personally do anything like Twitter or Facebook. I don't know how people find time. Who wants to hear "I've just had toast for breakfast Lol"? Anyway, I'm too boring, I don't think there's anything people want to know.
Your two breakthrough roles in the mid-80s – as Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, in Dance with a Stranger and Queenie in Blackadder II – were so different. Did you choose them because of that?
No, I never gave it much thought. I'm one of those fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants people. There was quite a trawler net out for Blackadder, and somehow I just poked through. I think they were looking for someone who wasn't known. It was probably cheaper that way. The scale of fees at the BBC always amused me: they always said there were special lows and special highs. That was probably a special low.
But no, it wasn't a deliberate ploy to go: "How radically different can I be?" You want to be used; you want to try different things.
Talking of different, you were the guest host on Saturday Night Live in 1993, when Chris Rock, Adam Sandler and Mike Myers were in the cast. How nerve-wracking was it?
I didn't really know what I was going into. I remember feeling sick before the show and there was a silence in the dressing room and I said: "Oh, I feel very odd." Suddenly it all came upon me, it's a very quick rehearsal period, but I think most of the sketches sort of worked. I probably took it more seriously than I was meant to: "How can I get a proper characterisation into this sketch?"
You have a long-standing interest in falconry – how did that start?
When I was 12, I had a random first encounter with a kestrel that had flown into some wire at the tennis club. I sat with this bird all day, and it was on the toe of my boot and then it was on my shoulder and then I stood up very carefully and it was very satisfying because I watched her take off and join her mate who was circling round the church tower. Now I go down to a centre that breeds and trains falcons. I trained a bird last year and I go there when I can. I love them, they're fascinating, and there is a bond; it's not the same as a dog or a cat but they do get bonded with specific people.
One of your new projects is Maleficent, a spin on the Sleeping Beauty tale with Angelina Jolie and Peter Capaldi. Was that a good experience?
I'm completely unrecognisable, like seven hours in prosthetics, that sort of madness. Lenses, teeth, ears – I looked like a ginger-haired bad little fairy with attitude. Pretty frightening. Peter Capaldi, the new Doctor Who, bless him, went through about the same amount of pain in hair and makeup. And after all that, you have to do some acting. It's wearisome.
Not what you got into acting for?
If I had to do that for three months I think I'd kill myself, but I wasn't on it for that long. It's a very odd profession.
Miranda Richardson will appear on Thursday and Friday at the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett festival (22-26 Aug) in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland