Greta Scacchi is now
one of the hottest properties in English speaking film and theatre, captivating audiences first with her role as the Nabob-bedding memsahib Olivia in Heat and Dust. She followed that by appearing starkers with the frightful Toyah Wilcox and the frightening Laurence Olivier— ‘He was marvellous' — in a television adaptation ofJohn Fowles’ erotic curiosity The Ebony
; Tower. Since then she has been
subjected to a steady fusillade of film offers. but determined to keep her
i integrity. she only accepts roles
which strike her as worthwhile.
I asked Ms Scacchi about her film. It was a mistake. ‘Which one?’ came the reply. Let’s tick them off. She has appeared in The Coca Cola Kid (‘1 can’t stand the stuff‘) television adaptations of Camille and Graham Greene‘s Doctor Fischer of Geneva with Alan Batesz- author and actor were both ‘marvellous’. Coming up soon are two films in which she has cameo roles the first being the Australian made Burke and Wills, this retells the story of two explorers who ventured into the dry heartland of the outback in the last century and came to a desiccated end. The other film is a political thriller. The Defence of the Realm. co-starring Gabriel Byrne, which will have its Royal Command Performance in Edinburgh on 20 November.
Ms Scacchi was attractively depreciative about her own part in the film playing the secretary ofa
Labour MP. ‘I‘m rather annoyed
they‘ve given me double-billing with Gabriel. I only did two weeks’ filming.‘ The film is a strong indictment of the cosy relationship between Fleet Street proprietors and The Powers That Be. She said it was about a reporter uncovering the story of a terrible nuclear weapons accident which had been covered up in East Anglia. And then what happens? ‘I‘m not going to give away the plot.‘ she squealed. and then giggled. Her giggle is dangerously infectious. She uses it like a professional knife-thrower throws his cutlery about. The Defence ofthe Realm, which also stars Bill Paterson, sounds a meaty stew.
We met in the meretriciously lah-de-dah restaurant of Oxford‘s Randolph Hotel. Dressed in a huntsman‘s Barbour raincoat, mini skirt and tights she was easily the scruffiest woman in the room which was choc-a-bloc with chinless chomps miserably celebrating their graduation days with parents anxious about how much the bill would come to. She was also easily the most alluring. And the funniest.
Her spurning of cosmetics. plain speaking and her Left-leaning views on the world have led some —The Times at least — to speak of her as a new Glenda Jackson. The comparison works as far as
acting is concerned. Greta Scacchi (by the by that is Greta as in better and Scacchi as in carkey) knows her stuff as well as the Oscar winning former Boots’ shop assistant, star of A Touch of Class. Currently she is lifting a controversial and widely rubbished play Airbase which is
Greta Scacchi stars in the latest nuclear thriller The Defence ()fthe Realm, which has its Royal Command Performance at the Edinburgh Playhouse on 20 November. The seductive memsahib from Heat and Dust is currently
appearing in a controversial play about the USAF
in East Anglia. Here she talks to an open-mouthed John Sweeney about her involvement in cinema.
. about East Anglian based US pil nuking Russia when out oftheir
minds on drugs. Ms Scacchi could get 9
as many well paid cameos in Hollywood as there are sequins in Dynasty, yet she chooses to stick it out with a play despite a cold, embarrassingly small audiences being paid a pittance and notices like
‘A dangerous load of rubbish‘ (Financial Times) ‘Rubbishy fanatasy‘(Mai10n Sunday) and ‘A cock up‘ (Oxford Mail). The nice thing is that she didn‘t moan a bit but rubbished the rubbishers. Nicholas De Jongh, The Guardian’s reviewer was singled out for misquoting a
typically pithy line from McKay’s
play :‘You couldn't get your
dick in a bucket of yoghurt.’ Ms Scacchi then went on to explore the possibilities ofjust what Mr De Jongh could do with his misquotation. She didn‘t keep her voice down either but none of the chinless chumps seemed to be listening.
As well as being a trouper like Ms Jackson she is also on the left. She didn't start waving a Labour Party membership about because probably she hasn‘t got one and anyway she is far too subtle and clever to do that sort ofthing in front ofa journalist. But a nastily accurate impression of Mrs Thatcher gives the game away. Those horribly familiar hushed authoritarian tones echoed around the restaurant and had me snorting rather unpleasantly into my fish roll-mop (but there was still no sign ofintelligent life from the chumps.) She has or at least she shows a keenly developed eye for social justice. She hasn‘t much truck for the police‘s attitude toward blacks in London after having lived when still a struggling actress in a council block in Tulse Hill. South London. during 1981. After the first wave of riots hit the city she noticed how often her black neighbours were stopped by the police. the experience has stayed with her.
Ironically, given Olivia‘s love for India which is the crux of Heat and Dust. Ms Scacchi didn’t. She didn‘t have a tummy bug but she did witness the thuggish Indian police smash some poor fellow‘s head against a wall until blood spouted. ‘I asked them not to do that in front of me so they probably went and hit him somewhere else.‘ I told her that was a brave thing to do anyway. She shrugged, in her well mannered way.
She is evidently and properly proud of her manners. If you were searching for one word to try to sum her up ‘gracious‘ would be a strong candidate. When I offered her a bit of my roll-mop to taste she declined: . ‘I was extremely well brought up you know.‘ Her upbringing may have been well behaved but emotionally it was hard. Born in Milan ofan Italian Father and a English mother her parents separated when she was six; ‘I got quite used to the sound of plates being smashed but I find it harder to take now than I did then.‘ She was then raised in Sussex and — suprise — in Australia. There is absolutely no trace of Strine in her accent though she does have some chortling Australian boozing stories from the time when she had a lunchtime job serving behind a bar. In her late teens she returned to England to study at the Bristol Old Vic where Danny Day-Lewis (profiled in The List last issue) was a fellow student. ‘I had an enormous
crush on Danny. Recently they asked me to help publicize British Film Year. I wasn‘t particularly interested until I heard that Danny would be there too. I followed him around Bristol for the day, and the funny thing was our relationship hasn’t changed. It was just like the old days. I followed him around like a lap dog. He‘s so charming.’ Lucky old Danny. She’s not perfect. For the
The List 15—28 November 3