Angela Lansbury has spent most of her life either onstage or in front of a camera, and while she made plenty of fans with the long-running mystery “Murder, She Wrote”, she says she was ready to move away from film and television acting when a golden opportunity came along.
The 87-year old won a plum role in the Australian touring production of “Driving Miss Daisy”, alongside fellow veteran actor James Earl Jones. She says it wasn’t hard to return to the stage, because she’s had a love for it for so long.
“Coming back to the theater about seven years ago turned the tide for me, it really did. Because it gave me a career after 70,” she said. “I could still work in the theater and play great roles, but it wasn’t so easy to continue as a motion picture actress. Which I was very glad of — I didn’t like the way we were making movies … the kind of roles I would like to play didn’t seem to exist. But I love the theater and, as it turned out, it was the thing to do.”
As for Jones, he says he was excited to tackle a role which he knew would hit relatively close to home. Hoke, played by Morgan Freeman in the film version, is illiterate. Jones–who has become so infamous for his distinctive voice (he is, after all, the voice of Darth Vader)–suffered from a debilitating stutter as a child and rarely spoke before his teens.
“Hoke Colburn is such a character. He’s illiterate, but he speaks English … and uses it very effectively and very poetically,” Jones said. “That’s what I love about the role, trying to understand how he re-weaves language so he gets himself across.”
Both actors have worked together before in a stage production of “The Best man”. “Driving Miss Daisy”–which won writer Alfred Uhry a Pulitzer Prize, opens next month in Australia.
Image: Bruce Glikas