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Desert Island Discs

Helen McCrory

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Helen McCrory was famous as a stage actress – and for her roles in Peaky Blinders and the Harry Potter series – but her career got off to a rocky start, she told Lauren Laverne on Desert Island Discs. The actress, who died last week, auditioned for the Drama Centre London when she was 17 with a monologue from Romeo and Juliet. After the audition, the adjudicator said: “Have you ever been in love?” McCrory replied she had not. So the adjudicator asked: “Well, are you a virgin?” McCrory answered yes. “And he went, ‘Well why the hell did you choose that piece then? The speech was about love, and you know absolutely nothing about it – get out of here and live a bit.’” Most people would have been disheartened, but not McCrory. “I just thought, ‘That’s the school for me.’”  

So she travelled to Italy, fell in love, came home and auditioned again – this time in front of one of the school’s founders, Christopher Fettes. She was put on the waiting list. “I’d been offered another four places at different schools and I wrote letters saying, ‘Thank you very very much but I won’t be accepting the place.’ And I photocopied these and sent them to Christopher Fettes and said, ‘I will do this every year until you give me a place in your school.’ And he wrote back and said, ‘I’ll see you in September.’”  

Listen to the full episode here.  

🎵 To Be Alone with You, Bob Dylan  

🎵 Will Ye Go Lassie Go, The Corries  

🎵 Malaika, Miriam Makeba  

🎵 A Message to You Rudy, the Specials  

🎵 A Man and a Woman, Francis Lai  

🎵 Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, Rufus Wainwright  

🎵 Pull Up to the Bumper, Grace Jones  

🎵 Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing, Stevie Wonder  

🎁 The Victoria and Albert Museum 

📚 On the outside the complete works of philosophy, but on the inside the complete works of Spike Milligan