Arts: The mother of all Bubbles

The praise lavished on Little Voice could take Jane Horrocks to Hollywood superstardom. As if she'd want it.

The first time I met Jane Horrocks, I didn't take to her at all. The second time I met her, I practically fell in love. Such are the psychodynamics of the interview. My first was in September 1995, in the dressing-room of a photo-studio. Jane sat opposite the mirror; I was perched to one side. We did our best to maintain a conversation while a make-up artist fluttered around her face. She was about to open as Lady Macbeth in Mark Rylance's production of the Scottish play. "I'd say that 95 per cent of the productions I've seen of Shakespeare have been abysmal," she proclaimed, with regal authority.

The RSC tradition, she said, encouraged snobbery and elitism. The idea that actors required training to speak blank verse was "Bollocks! It's just bollocks." But the Rylance production, in which Horrocks's Lady Mac would urinate, live on stage, was going to break new ground. "I did Macbeth at Rada and I always wanted to do it professionally, but with the right person. There's no point playing Lady Macbeth unless you respect your Macbeth, and I really do respect Mark."

The more I heard, the more I suspected that this would be sort of theatrical debacle that only Macbeth can engender. Sure enough, the production was thoroughly panned, and Horrocks has recently been reported as saying that the experience of her nightly wee put her off stage acting for good. But if her feelings about Macbeth have changed, there are other aspects of her life and character that must surely have stayed the same.

"I learnt the art of acting quite early on," she said. "I could wrap my parents round my little finger, but I had two brothers who were quite tough going, so I had to fight for attention. They put me in my place. It used to be, 'Oh shut up, Jane, yer bloody thick.' But they are more in awe than they used to be."

She didn't want to discuss her then boyfriend, the theatre director Sam Mendes, and seemed on the cusp of some sort of personal change. "I think I was quite ambitious when I was in my twenties, but now I'm looking for something else. I'm just not as satisfied as I used to be by things. I get bored really, really quickly. I'm not naturally contented. I wish I was, but I have a very vivid imagination and unless that's used, I get really frustrated."

Now cut to February 1999. I met Jane Horrocks again in a restaurant in Twickenham. This time we were discussing Hunting Venus, an insubstantial but enjoyable TV movie about an Eighties New Romantic pop group, reunited for a comeback show by their sole remaining fans, a pair of lesbians, one of whom is Horrocks. It stars Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey and was scripted by the 37-year-old screenwriter Nick Vivian, Horrocks's partner and the father of her two-year-old son.

Now deep into the third trimester of her second pregnancy, she had just the neatest of bumps to suggest her condition. (A daughter, Molly, was born 10 days ago.) And across a small table, something became apparent that had not been obvious at my previous side-on interview: she is ravishingly pretty, with huge blue eyes set in a delicate, elfin face. Not that this was of any use to me, because those eyes spent most of the time looking at Nick Vivian, sitting next to her, with the mixture of amusement, adoration, possessiveness and absolute openness that women reserve for those whom they truly love.

"It's such a relief not to be talking about Little Voice," she said. The couple were just back from attending the Golden Globes awards in Hollywood. Horrocks had been nominated Best Actress in a Comedy for her performance as the Northern wallflower who can sing like Garland, Holliday and Bassey, but she lost out to Gwyneth Paltrow. They'd sat at a table a few feet from Jim Carrey. The whole place had been teeming with superstars. "That sort of hype is so alien to the world as we know it," said Jane. "You can only stand open-mouthed. And the speeches are downright embarrassing. What have Mum and Dad and your brothers and sisters got to do with the film? And thanking God - it's pitiful."

The occasion had given her no desire to go West in search of superstardom: "Airport photographers caught us getting off the plane from LA. I never thought it would happen to me, so I'd made no effort. Imagine what it must be like having to spend two hours in the loo before you land, preparing for the cameras."

Outside it began to rain. Jane peered anxiously through the window. "I'm worried about my washing," she said. "I'm a washing obsessive. If Steven Spielberg called up on laundry day and offered me a film I'd say, hang on a second, I'm doing my wash."

And if a big Hollywood star wanted her as his on-screen partner? "It depends what the script was like. If it's rubbish, what's the point?"

Er... money, usually. She grimaced. "Money's not my thing."

In these more relaxed circumstances, both Jane's wit and her comic timing became more evident. It was easy to see how Jennifer Saunders had only to exaggerate her natural character to create Bubble, the daffy secretary in Ab Fab. We started talking about Hunting Venus. Nick Vivian had been toying with the story for years. At the start, Jane was just an actress whom he admired, but who kept turning down offers to appear in things he'd written: "Two things," she interjected. "And one of them was for charity." By the time he finally sat down to write, they were living together. (The thing that made the difference to their relationship, Nick said later, was drink.)

As he wrote, Nick discussed his new script with Jane. Or, at least, he tried to. "I always used to show Jane bits and bobs of what I was writing, but I've learnt not to do that any more - there's an immediate response of boredom." Horrocks: "He reads them out to me in a pompous fashion. I'd rather read it on the page." Vivian: "She's right. It's much better to keep my trap shut until it's finished." A pause, then Horrocks again: "He's not an actor, when all's said and done." She, like every one of the film's thirtysomething cast, had fond memories of the New Romantic era. "I remember going to this club in Ribchester, where I lived, called the Lodestar. They played Bryan Ferry, Bowie and a bit of Adam Ant. It was such a weirdo period, but very exciting. There was a threat in the air about those clubs - well, there certainly was about that one. They used to hit people with bits of wood.

"I did a fashion show for a local hairdresser called Tony Winder. He dyed my hair pink and did it all up a la New Romantic and he'd roped in these other three girls who were proper punks and really quite hard. So they came down the catwalk to Bow Wow Wow and everyone was silent with fear. Then I came dancing down and they all roared with laughter. I went, 'Why? I look hard as well. I look tough. Why are you laughing at me?' I was furious."

Talking about the making of Hunting Venus, Jane recalled that she watched the England vs Argentina World Cup match with Neil Morrissey, in the hotel where they were staying while on location. Morrissey had spent the entire game agonising about his career.

"I was in the Soho House with Kathy Lloyd that night," interrupted Nick Vivian.

"Feeling her busts," said Jane.

"I wasn't..."

"You were feeling her busts brushing against you."

Vivian defended himself. "When Sol Campbell scored, I flung my arms round Kathy, only to realise that she had turned round, so I had one hand on each breast. I said, "I'm terribly sorry, Kathy." She said, "It doesn't matter, we've scored." So when it was disallowed I felt like a terrible old fraud. But she didn't seem to mind..."

"That's his story," said Jane, in mock indignation.

I paid the restaurant bill and we went out into the south London drizzle. Jane and Nick needed to buy something for supper. I last saw them wandering off in search of a butcher. None of the passers-by recognised the tiny blonde in the baggy coat. Jane Horrocks didn't seem to mind that at all.

'Hunting Venus', tonight, 9pm, ITV

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits