Celia Imrie: I feel like a cat with nine lives

From BBC - February 13, 2018

Celia Imrie calls herself The Happy Hoofer - the same name she gave to her 2011 autobiography.

On the face of it, the reasons seem clear.

For many a year, she's brought joy through her TV comedy characters, most notably of course with her collaborations alongside the late Victoria Wood.

Yet for Celia, her optimistic outlook runs much deeper. It's down to her ethos for a fulfilling life, one which strengthens with each passing day.

"I am just grabbing life, every second and every challenge. None of us knows how long we have got," she tells BBC News.

"I am not being dramatic but I am not stupid either and time's running out a bit."

Her attitude has driven her on through difficult times. Two pulmonary embolisms put her under serious threat.

She was in Nice, where she has a house, at the time of the terrorist truck attack, which left 84 people dead.

And then there was the trauma of Victoria Wood's death. "It was a terrible shock. I did not know she was ill," says Celia.

"So I grab life with fever because of the things that have happened to me.

"But I do not worry too much. Sometimes I feel like a cat with nine lives."

With verve and fearlessness is how she also approaches her still flourishing career.

Hot on the heels of The Exotic Marigold Hotel and Absolutely Fabulous films, she's now starring in Stepping Out. And there's a new book, Sail Away - her third in three years.

Fittingly, the message of Stepping Out, and her books, is firmly one of Carpe Diem [live for the day] - whatever your age.

Stepping Out is a light - not split-your-sides - comedy in which Celia plays the bohemian single sister Bif to Imelda Staunton's stuck-up, wealthy married Sandra.

Despite having distanced herself from Bif, Sandra falls on her doorstep on discovering her husband is having an affair.

Sandra moves in with Bif and undergoes a renaissance as she, reluctantly, enters Bif's unconventional world. It's one of spontaneity, romance, true friends - and dance.

The moves are complicated stuff and even Celia, with a background in ballet, says she found the routines tough.

Celia believes changing for the better, as with Sandra, is always possible. In fact, it's vital if the status quo is ruining your life.

"Sandra's conventional life did not give her much joy. It only came when she left. That's a terrible realisation to make, that you have wasted so much of your time," says Celia.

"Change is difficult. People are afraid of it but I am optimistic people are becoming braver and not putting themselves in boxes.

"As Bette Davis wrote, 'never rely on someone else for your happiness'."

The film is built on camaraderie, on and off-screen. The cast including Staunton, Joanna Lumley and Timothy Spall, are actors Celia knows and loves well.

They may all be of a certain age, but it's never mentioned in Stepping Out, even if it touches on the issues of loneliness and illness.

"I never thought I'd get to this age. It seemed so far away," says Celia. "I thought I'd be going on coach trips and wearing white cardigans!

"But there's an awful lot open to us now and the less you talk about age the better."

Old is not a word you'd associate with Celia. She seems timeless. Casting directors certainly seem to think so and continue to give her sensual roles.

And among Bif's very likeable characteristics, lustiness ranks high, along with a courage that, at times, defies belief. Take, for example, swimming on Hampstead Heath in sub-zero mid-winter.


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