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Miriam Margolyes: ‘People Have This Idea That I’m A Walking Cesspit. I Think It’s Quite Unfair’

How did you get the job as the seductive voice of the sexy 1980s Cadbury Caramel bunny? VerulamiumParkRanger

Before I became an established actress, I was known for my work as a voice artist. I have quite a high girlish voice but I can deepen it for the purposes of sex. I once recorded what I call “take-home wanking tapes” such as Sexy Sonia: Leaves From My Schoolgirl Notebook. They were audio tapes, for sale in sex shops. One day, I went into Ann Summers and told the man behind the counter I was Sexy Sonia. He told me to keep my voice down because he didn’t want people to know Sexy Sonia was actually this short, fat, rather unattractive lady. But word got out and maybe that prompted my being asked to voice the Cadbury bunny because, I suppose, sex sells. And chocolate has its place in the repertoire of love.

I’m a great admirer of your unflinching honesty and sense of fun. What is the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done? toots2000

Everybody has different gradations of naughtiness. I suppose it’s when I bare my arse or tits at people. When I was younger, I enjoyed sharing my body visually. When I was doing The Age of Innocence, by the end of a very long day of costume parading, the whole crew would be very tired and bored to tears, so I thought: the only thing to do is to show them my tits. I said: “I’m going to refresh you, gentlemen,” lifted my top and my untrammelled bosoms hung free and dazzling.

Watch the Cadbury’s Caramel bunny, voiced by Miriam Margolyes. What are your memories of making the 1980s futuristic musical The Apple; 1990’s I Love You to Death; and 1985’s The Good Father? Sakiaba, AlisaG215 and carffion23

My memories of The Apple are all hideous. I hated the director, Menahem Golan, who was a bully. You’re not supposed to talk badly of the dead, but I’m afraid I can’t find anything good to say about him. It was filmed in Berlin, which I enjoyed, and Joss Ackland is a divine creature. I play a landlady and was winched high into the sky by the German army. I don’t know why. I’ve never seen the film and don’t intend to.

I Love You to Death was a very happy experience. Working with Kevin Kline was a joy. He’s a wonderful actor and one of nature’s gentlemen. He was a big star and I was an absolute nobody playing his mother. When he arrived in Los Angeles, he rang me up and said: “Shall we rehearse our scene?” I thought: what a darling. I worked with some lovely people – the director, Larry Kasdan, a very nice man who invited us all to his Beverly Hills home, Joan Plowright, Tracey Ullman and River Phoenix – and William Hurt, who was completely vile. And I’m not going to tell you about The Good Father because I’m writing about it in my next book.

Margolyes and Kevin Kline in I Love You to Death, 1990. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/AlamyYou are superb in everything, from Harry Potter to the theatre and all your TV shows. Why did you want to go into acting? Gelion

I’m a show-off. It’s as simple as that. I never trained, but when I was at school, Mummy made me have elocution lessons because she was born in Liverpool and grew up in south London. I can’t quite remember my mother’s voice, which makes me sad, but she wanted me to not have a London sound because I was born and brought up in Oxford, where the accent is posh Received Pronunciation. I was taught about vowels, the secret you have to conquer if you want to move up a class. I don’t really rate television as a place to learn acting. You learn acting in the theatre by learning how to use your voice to control an audience. So many television actors, you can’t understand a word they are saying. They are mumbling. I hope you notice how clear I am, even though I feel I need to disguise my ghastly posh voice. I can’t bear my own voice because it’s full of arrogance.

I recently celebrated my 70th birthday and am struggling to feel positive about the future. What advice could you give for accepting the passing of the years, staying joyful and seizing the day? Animus

Staying joyful and seizing the day is bloody hard when you are old, in pain and feel depressed. It’s difficult to face the future when you know there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t really have any words of wisdom: you just have to get on with it. Everybody’s going to die. If you’ve still got your marbles and you’re not incontinent, you’re fucking lucky. So think of it like that.

What’s the filthiest joke you know? CthulhusEvilTwin

I’m certainly not going to tell any filthy jokes. I don’t like filthy jokes. People have this idea that I’m a walking cesspit. I think it’s quite unfair. I take great care in the words I use and when I use swear words, I mean to use them. I don’t like a loose use of of filth. I like a precise use of filth.

Who are the top five biggest bellends in the world? mesm

That is a word I do not know or use. I understand it means idiots or something. The people I loathe most in the world are Vladimir Putin, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Benjamin Netanyahu.

How much trouble did you get into for your “Jeremy Hunt” incident on Radio 4? TheDoctors46Goat

Miriam Margolyes as Professor Sprout, second left, with Maggie Smith, Richard Harris and Alan Rickman in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). Photograph: Warner Bros/Sportsphoto/AllstarI didn’t get into trouble except with readers of the Daily Telegraph, the Sun, the Express and the other unmentionable rags. I gave myself a lot of stick because it was totally unintentional. I did not know that the microphone was on. I was shaking all the way home in the taxi. I was really upset because Radio 4 is a holy temple.

What made you want to get involved with the Big Gay “Donation” that is campaigning to get the 2030 World Cup held in a LGBTQ+ friendly country? nabridnyjtheuncommon

Well, the funny thing is – and it makes me sound like a complete twat – I didn’t know it was for [LGBTQ+ charity] Stonewall. I thought it was truly against Fifa. I was outraged that Fifa said teams would get points deducted if they wore a rainbow shirt or armband. I was a bit surprised to hear it was raising money for Stonewall. But it’s a good charity and I’m very pleased that people have donated to it. But the real people I want to lambast are Fifa.

What is your most annoying habit? ToyStory123

You would have to ask other people because your own habits you think are rather sweet. I suppose, talking about sex so much. But it’s only because I don’t really have sex any more. I just like to remember it and talk about it. I think it would be nice if you mentioned that it was pleasant to talk to me, because a lot of people seem to think that I’m a hateful old hag, and I think that’s completely unfair. I think that I’m not quite like other people, but I do love humanity. I hope I’ll be remembered as a talented eccentric: a mouthy old bag with a heart of gold.

Miriam Margolyes fronts the Big Gay “Donation” charity film and will be touring the UK with a new live show from September

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