July 17, 2024

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‘I suppose I’ve always been quite pro-conflict’

2 min read

We’re halfway through our starters, when Dame Kristin Scott Thomas informs me that I must on no account refer to her in this article as an ice queen.

“Do not put that in!” she exclaims, helpfully clarifying that it’s not the queen part she objects to. I should not describe her as frosty or cold or even “warmer than expected”.

Such epithets, used liberally in the actress’s four-decade career, have made her “very angry”. She corrects herself. “‘Angry’ isn’t the right word. It just disappointed me. It’s just depressing. You think, surely it’s something else?”

She’s right. She is something else. For one thing, she may be the most facially expressive interviewee I’ve ever met. She chose this restaurant, a chic French bistro in St James’s, for its gentle acoustics: “I find London restaurants so loud. You have to yell.” But I soon realise that a clear audio recording is not enough; Scott Thomas is the first Lunch guest for whom I wish I had a video too.

She flicks expressions from one side of her face to the other, like a magician effortlessly throwing a deck of cards. Her eyes dart, they roll hypnotically and — when we discuss her disastrously reviewed play Lyonesse — her mouth curls in an appalled grimace.

The other thing — and you may have grasped this already — is that Scott Thomas is particular. When the waiter pours her still water, she freezes. “He did it the wrong way round. It’s terribly bad luck.” She tops up the glass in what she deems the right way: twisting the bottle clockwise at the end. I have a sinking feeling that my etiquette will mortally offend her, but I console myself with the thought that she will doubtless let me know.

“I suppose I’ve always been quite pro-conflict,” she says at one point. “I think a lot of people have found me very difficult. Me? Especially when I was a much angrier younger woman.”

For a scene in the 1996 film The English Patient, where she and Ralph Fiennes are caught…

2023-12-29 07:30:16

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