Women have made very little progress since we got the vote - Honor Blackman

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You’d think a career spanning more than sixty years would have seen a lot of changes, especially for women.

Honor Blackman isn’t so sure.

“Things have improved in small ways,” says the veteran actress. “For instance, when I began, a woman stage manager was very unusual; now women do most of the jobs.

“All the same, in many ways we’ve made very little progress since we got the vote.

“Women need enormous strength of character to command attention; you only have to look at what goes on in Parliament. I didn’t approve of much Mrs Thatcher did, but at least she carried some authority.”

Honor herself can be as forthright as the Iron Lady. “It’s easier when you’re older,” she says. “You don’t give a toss any more!”

She has expressed her disapproval of actors who accept honours but become tax exiles; and she turned down a CBE because she supports a campaign to replace the monarchy with a republic.

“I’ve nothing personally against the Royal Family; I just think they shouldn’t be there. I’ve met most of them, and they’re quite charming – but so would I be if I had their life.”

Don’t they bring in a lot of money through tourism?

“The Palace of Versailles still attracts tourists, and the French monarchy is long gone!”

On a lighter note, I’m intrigued to learn Honor is a football fan, though not of a specific team.

“It’s the game itself that fascinates me. I’ve been indoctrinated over the years: I stood on a lot of touchlines with my first husband – he played professionally. And Maurice Kaufman, (husband number two) played in the TV All-Stars, and supported Fulham avidly,so I went with him.”

But to return to that sixty-year career... There is very little Honor Blackman hasn’t done: successful TV series, sitcom, major movies, musicals, and of course her signature roles: black-leather-clad Cathy Gale in The Avengers, and feisty Bond Girl Pussy Galore.

“I must have been out of my mind to take on Cathy Gale. I’d never done judo before, and in those days we didn’t have stunt doubles. All the fights took place on a concrete floor; I was extraordinarily lucky not to be seriously injured.

“They actually wrote the judo scenes into the script of Goldfinger. Still no stunt double, though they gave me piles of straw to fall on; that was sheer luxury!

“I wish I’d been able to do more classical theatre, but the timing was always wrong. I was offered Juliet at Stratford, but I’d just signed a contract for a film.”

It’s not exactly classical, but Honor Blackman is back in the theatre at the moment, touring a one-woman show in which she chats to director Richard Digby Day about her life and career. It comes to Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre for one night, on Thursday, April 3.

Looking back over the decades, what is she most proud of?

“There was a production of A Little Night Music,” she muses. “I still think that was the best thing I’ve ever done.

“But the most impressive thing is that I’ve managed to get this far.”