screen relationship with West Yorkshire began when her starring
role in the TV series based on E. Nesbit's famous novel, The Railway
Children, first brought her to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway
which had been reopened just a few months earlier. Two years later
she was back for the movie version.
has had starring roles in films as different as Walkabout, The Eagle
Has Landed and An American Werewolf in London but in her long career
she has played many different parts. Most recently she has been
seen in the TV drama series Spooks and in The Alan Clark Diaries.
you are the main celebrity featured at this year's Bradford Film
Festival. Has filming in West Yorkshire given you some sort of affection
for the area?
as Bobbie in The Railway Children (1970)
I've always had an affection for Yorkshire. I think my enjoyment
of the place comes from the fact my father comes from Leeds so even
as a child we'd go up to the Yorkshire Moors, and when we first
made The Railway Children for television we used the Worth Valley
railway line and I loved it. There's just something about the towns
and the countryside which is so beautiful. I just seem to be brought
back again and again. I was honoured this year by Bradford University
- I am now a Doctor of Letters.
you made many trips to the Museum? (the Bradford Film Festival takes
place at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television.)
It's a wonderful place and great to visit. This year I'm thrilled
they've asked me up and I'm doing a Screentalk and taking a look
at films I have made - apparently some of them are quite difficult
to get hold of.
film would you most like to see featured at the Film Festival?
with Michael York in Logan's Run (1976)
are certain favourites that people know like The Railway Children,
Walkabout and The American Werewolf which have become cult films
in their own way and I'm very proud to be involved with them - they
were great fun to make. There are also films I've had parts in which
seem to have disappeared - films like Sweet William which I worked
on with Sam Waterston. It was from a novel by Beryl Bainbridge,
directed by Claude Whatham, and it was a great part to play. I think
it was a really charming film but it just didn't capture the imagination
when it came out. It disappeared but hopefully they've got a print
sort of role do you enjoy most?
I mostly enjoy straight forward drama situations, good characters.
Sci-fi and horror is not a genre I like because the character doesn't
have much to do except for running and screaming and shouting -
Logan's Run was very much running through the sewage plant in Los
Angeles shouting 'Help!,' falling in water and escaping through
various ice caverns and that sort of thing, great fun but it didn't
demand a lot. Funnily enough American Werewolf falls into this genre
but Nurse Alex Price was a really good character to play. She was
a down-to-earth nurse getting down to business. It was just unfortunate
the person she fell in love with was a werewolf. I think there are
some women who have come across that situation, not quite a werewolf
but almost. They've been in a relationship where they've bitten
off more than they bargained for. It's lovely doing period drama
as well but it's about looking for a really meaty role.
your recent role in Spooks would fit in with that - it seems a long
way from The Railway Children?
as Nurse Alex Price in An American Werewolf in London (1981)
- it was great fun to play. I really didn't know which way she was
going to go and what she was going to do because at the beginning,
when I read the scripts, the producers had no idea what the character
was going to be like. It's rather nice because you can make them
how they are, and what they are going to be like, according to the
moment. I felt that she was very self-obsessed and it was very much
about doing things her own way but it didn't necessarily make her
bad or good. It meant she was not a nice person and it was good
not to have to play a nice character.
has also become something of a cult series?
has, indeed. It was very exciting when they were starting it and
I met the director and the producer because it really felt like
a different kind of television and we were making something exciting.
I was really pleased it came my way.
Railway Children wasn't the first thing you did. When you started,
as someone very young, did you really think your career would go
as it has?
people go into the business with an absolute view of how they are
going to do it but everything happened by chance. I was at a ballet
school and had the opportunity to play in a film Walt Disney was
making, purely because he was auditioning people at ballet schools,
and I was auditioned and got the role. An agent saw me who was looking
for a young girl, who had to be light because the character was
injured and had to be carried, and that was the film East Of Sudan
and it was shot entirely at Shepperton Studios and from then on
work came in while I was at school.
school didn't particularly encourage it so I only did good pieces
of work. When Railway Children was being made for TV I was allowed
to go up for that. Andre Wadja, a wonderful Polish director, was
making a film so I could go up for that. Consequently I'd really
done quite a lot even before the film of The Railway Children. I
was 17 when we made that, and I'd Walkabout and another thriller
before that, so I had quite a body of work.
problem was that finished school and there were very few films being
made at that time, suddenly the film industry in England had come
to a grinding halt. I'd given up my school work, had no certificates
to my name and it meant really learning my trade and going into
the theatre. I went into a repertory theatre and to Hammersmith
Theatre Company, and I joined Manchester 69 Theatre Company for
a period of time and went on tour with Tom Courtenay. I ended up
going to the National Theatre aged 20 or 21 and playing Miranda
in The Tempest and from then on work has always been a matter of
following my instincts. I went to America and that's when Logan's
Run came up. I could never have foreseen that's what would have
this is a retrospective I'm sure you are looking forward to doing
a few more things yet?
in Spooks: "It was good not to have to play a nice character"
52, married and have a child which I came to quite late. My son
is 14 and, seeing as I started so early and my ambition is still
to act, I made the decision not to make any compromises with my
family life. This means I have to pick and choose my work quite
carefully so it will fit in with what I am doing at home. I love
being involved in film and television but it's made me thrust much
more towards television, and towards roles which can be done in
shorter periods of time. I don't want to go on tour in the theatre.
What do I see for the future? I want to carry on working with really
good directors - the size of the role doesn't matter. Character
parts are interesting as are cameo roles in good productions and
probably getting involved behind the scenes.
you get older do you think parts for more mature women are getting
are getting better. If you think of the writers who are about -
Kay Mellor, for example, has written some wonderful things for women
of all ages. Being able to look at women in their middle age is,
I think, very interesting but I would think that, wouldn't I?
the Film Festival will we see you returning to West Yorkshire ?
I will be up for The Railway Children walk on May 1st. It's the
hundredth anniversary of the publication of the novel and every
year there is a walk on the Bank Holiday weekend. This year it will
be along the railway line and to the various locations where we
shot Railway Children and it is raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis
Trust which I work with a lot.
Agutter will be in conversation with Tony Earnshaw in the Pictureville
Cinema on Saturday 5th March 2005.The 11th Bradford Film Festival
runs from March 4th - 19th, 2005 at the National Museum of Photography,
Film and Television.