A movie star is reborn, and her name is Angela Lansbury.
It’s been too long since film audiences have gotten a screen glimpse of one of Hollywood’s last great grand dames. Since 1944, Lansbury has been one of cinema’s leading lights with memorable performances in such enduring films as “Gaslight,” “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” “The Long, Hot Summer,” “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Death on the Nile,” not to mention voicing Mrs. Potts in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and starring on television as sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the beloved “Murder She Wrote.”
And all it took was the combination of Jim Carrey and a sextet of penguins to lure her back to the big screen.
“It was an unexpected event in my life,” Lansbury says of her co-starring stint in “Mr. Popper’s Penguins" which is now playing. “But when it came along I found it very hard to resist the opportunity to work with such an extraordinary group of people, particularly led by the great Jim Carrey who I've been a fan of for many, many years. And so it just worked out that it coincided with my career at this time.”
“I was working the theatre and I had a chance to be in a movie after many, many years – six years, I think, since I made the last one – in New York City,” she says. “And our producer and our wonderful director, Mark Waters and particularly Jim and Carla Gugino and everybody made it a most enjoyable event for me. So glad I did it!”
Lansbury’s energy and fortitude on set at age 85 served as an inspiration to her younger co-stars.
“She's incredibly tough,” says Gugino. “Four o'clock in the morning she's up running us all ragged. It's unbelievable: enthusiastic, completely into it. And I dream of being that enthusiastic at that point in my career. It's fantastic to watch.”
The veteran actress, who spent much of her career stepping effortlessly between Hollywood and Broadway, has a little insight into the current trend of trotting out major movie stars onto the legit stage in hopes of big ticket sales.
“Obviously, the theater audience loves to see movie stars on Broadway,” Lansbury says. “Sometimes those actors are effective and good, and we've seen several instances of that. I'm not going to name any names, because there have been some that haven't been so good. But nevertheless, they obviously belong in movies.”