Interview: Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley – “Absolutely Fabulous the movie”
Soon to explode upon the big screen, is the enormously anticipated movie of the summer, “Absolutely Fabulous the movie”, starring, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, via Fox Searchlight Pictures in association with BBC Films.
Edina Monsoon, (Saunders), and Patsy Stone, (Lumley), are still leading a glamorous, glitzy life, since the hit series 25 yours ago, racing around all of London’s trendiest spots, shopping, clubbing, smoking and drinking Champagne, until Eddy accidentally kills top fashion model, Kate Moss. It is then their amazing adventure begins as they escape the debacle, the law, and the anger of the public, as they flee to the French Riviera, with the intension of living the high life forever….
The film also stars: Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield, Chris Colfer, Kate Moss, Lulu, Emma Bunton, Robert Webb, Barry Humphries and Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness, with cameo appearances by fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier, and the magnificent Joan Collins. The movie was written by Jennifer Saunders.
Louder Than War was honored to speak with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, about the hysterically funny movie, as well as some other interesting topics. They were both lovely, brilliant and absolutely fabulous!
Louder Than War: You’ve both done a remarkable amount of work in the field of memoir. Joanna has four books, and Jennifer you have one. I was wondering, if you were called out this moment that you’re both in right now, forward for your next memoir, what a quick elevator pitch for it would be, and what you might call it?
Joanna: Oh good lord, just an elevator pitch. I would just say utterly fabulous, fabulous from cover to cover. Couldn’t put it down. I actually couldn’t pick it up.
Jennifer: Living the Dream. That’s what I’d call it. We are living the dream.
Joanna: I’m going to buy your book.
Jennifer: Remember back in 1990, we never imagined in our wildest dreams we would still be sitting here having done a film of that show. It’s quite extraordinary, and we feel very, very lucky.
Who are Patsy and Edina?
Jennifer: Well, these are people who have been friends since they began. Eddy is a PR. She thinks she’s a fashion PR guru. Patsy works as an editor on a fashion magazine. They’re utterly useless. They are inseparable friends, and they walk in chaos.
Joanna: A chaos of drink and cigarettes and champagne.
Jennifer: And a few illegal substances. And generally, in very bad shoes.
How do you update the characters from the end of the series to the movie?
Jennifer: Well, we just get older. It so happens, Edina gets older and fatter, and actually Patsy doesn’t change at all. She’s just sort of embalmed and remains exactly the same.
You have an exciting low speed chase in the film. Jennifer, you have to exercise from your front door to your car door, and Joanna, you have to grab a cigarette from the mouth of a man in a café as you pass by. Can you talk about the difficulty of doing your own stunts in your fabulous frocks?
Joanna: We insisted on doing our own stunts. Obviously, it’s a reach from a car traveling at almost 3 miles an hour to take a cigarette off a completely supine man. It was a bit challenging. I managed it. Jennifer, would you like to add something about how you managed to get on a scooter to go…..
Jennifer: Yes. I’ve never been on a scooter before, and they wouldn’t let me wear a helmet. I was very, very brave. It’s the most exercise I’ve ever done.
How did this current move toward political correctness in pop culture affect your writing of the screenplay?
Jennifer: Quite a bit, to be honest, only because people are much more ready to be offended these days. Also, if you write a movie, you have raft of lawyers telling you who you can offend and who you can’t offend, and who’s going to sue you and who won’t. So, it was quite an issue, I have to say.
Which celebrity would you really like to kill in real life?
Jennifer: I would never kill anyone, what I would quite like to do is slap Donald trump.
Joanna, you announced recently that Patsy is going transgender. Will Edina be far behind?
Jennifer: She’s always far behind.
Joanna: Patsys been a man before. Patsy was a man in series 2. We had a flashback to the 60s where she had a moustache and was dressed in a Sgt. Pepper coat, to be like a Beatle. This time she didn’t bother to go the whole hog and take the hormones and have something stitched on. Through her experience, she’s known that they drop her off after a year, so this time she just glued a moustache on and put her hair back, and thought she could probably get away with it. After all, she’s only trying to attract a 90-year-old person who can’t see.
I loved all the celeb cameos in the film. Was there somebody you wanted but you didn’t get?
Jennifer: No. I mean to be honest, no because you always end up with the people who are available on the day and who you love and who you know and who are easy-going and happy. Lots of people turned up and were incredibly generous.
Has the environment changed very much for women as far as the television world goes?
Jennifer: I don’t think it really has, actually. It makes me a bit sad that, if anything, that people seem to want to go back to an old model of normality, and sitcoms seem to want to be about ordinary families and things that aren’t very interesting. I just think it’s a bit sad. It’s a shame that life is still depicted in a very straight way. I think.
One of the other things that I always find so striking about the show, is that you involved gay characters and trans characters and a broad cross section when it wasn’t really that politically correct to do so.
Jennifer: Oh, it’s been our pleasure actually. We owe the gay community a huge deal too, because they’ve helped make the show popular, and we love having them as fans.
Your gay fans have always adored you. I was wondering why each of you think you connected so deeply with the LGBT community?
Joanna: I think from Patsy’s point of view, she’s very easy to copy if you’re a boy and want to dress up as Patsy, because Patsy’s quite tall. You just want to get your good yellow wig on. Lots of you lovely, red lips. Most men have very good legs, much better than mine, so men’s beautiful legs showing in good stockings. Nice pair of high-heels. Cigarette on the go. Dark shades on. You are there.
Jennifer: I think as far as characters go, they live for each other, and they live a life they don’t have to apologize for. They don’t need men. They don’t need a relationship in order to have fun and get on in the world.
Are you two friends off set?
Jennifer: We are friends. We are very good friends.
Joanna: We’ve known each other now for 25 years, and we know each other very well.
Do you think it will be a sequel to the movie?
Jennifer: Well, Joanna keeps telling me there’s going to be a sequel, so there’s going to be a sequel.
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.