How We Met: Jonathan Lunn & Juliet Stevenson

'I have definite memories of him washing my knickers, but he denies it'
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The Independent Online

Juliet Stevenson, 51, is an award-winning British actress. She has toured with the Royal Shakespeare Company and her films have included Truly, Madly, Deeply and Emma. She has a son and a daughter with her partner Hugh Brody

Jonny and I first met when I recorded Hang Up, which was a piece Anthony Minghella had written about a telephone conversation between lovers, to which Jonny was choreographing a dance. I'd have done anything for Ant: if he wanted me to stand on my head in a green bikini in the middle of Piccadilly Circus I would have done it – and I thought the idea of choreographing dance to prose was brilliant.

Then we had an encounter on the set of Truly, Madly, Deeply, on which Jonathan was choreographer; he also played one of the ghosts who move into the flat owned by my character. All the ghosts were friends of Ant's. In one scene I had to get up in the night and walk over all of them piled up asleep, to answer the phone. I remember tiptoeing over them in my tiny dressing-gown and thinking, "Oh, there's the executive producer and there's the head of drama at the BBC and there's Jonathan Lunn..." It was a bit daunting.

Jonny and I then met properly in LA. Truly, Madly, Deeply had some success in America and it was suggested that I go to schmooze. I was also in a play there.

I was renting Miriam Margolyes's flat in Santa Monica and Ant asked if his friend Jonny could stay for a bit. My heart sank. I thought, "Christ, I'm about to open a show, I've just put my back out, I'm stressed and the last thing I need is someone I barely know turning up, who I'll have to look after." But, as it was Ant, I agreed.

A few days later my bell rang and Jonny walked in. By that time I was barely able to move. All I remember from the moment he opened the door was that it was heaven: the perfect person had come to stay. He was a dancer, so he knew exercises that would help my back. And I remember trays of food appearing. I also have definite memories of him washing my knickers, but he denies it. He just got me through it.

Even though we often don't see each other for long stretches, there's always been the filament of friendship. Then he asked me to be a part of Reading Room [a series of dances set to a soundtrack read by actors, including Juliet]. We were recording the day Anthony died – Jonny left my house to go straight to the hospital.

We've since seen a lot of each other. It's impossible to describe how devastated our community is about Ant's death. Spending a lot of time with Jonny has been amazing and I don't know how I would have dealt with the loss of Anthony without him.

Jonathan Lunn, 52, is a choreographer and director. He has worked on films including Truly, Madly, Deeply and Love, Actually. He lives with fellow opera director and choreographer Amir Hosseinpour in France and London

Obviously I knew who Juliet was before we recorded Hang Up, but I remember being blown away by her. She was so good that it was as if the script was coming out of her head, rather than being read from a page.

She was so relaxed, too, and able to deal with the unexpected; and she was funny, witty and easy. She never behaved grandly, but there is an innate grandness about her.

We encountered each other again on Truly, Madly, Deeply. There were a lot of things going wrong on set, but Juliet was able to do that thing actors do, which was hang about for two hours while something technical was fixed and then pick things up emotionally where she had left off.

We really got to know each other in LA when Ant got Juliet to agree to let me stay with her while I was in town. She was having quite a bad time – she'd put her back out and lost her voice. But despite that we had rather a wonderful time.

One morning she told me that she had left Miriam's car, which she had borrowed, in a car park somewhere in downtown LA. She had driven to the rehearsals but her back had been so bad that she had to take a taxi back. I offered to fetch it for her and she said "It's a Volvo... no, it's an Audi. And it's green. Or, wait, is it grey? But it definitely has an anti-abortion sticker on the bumper. Or is it pro-abortion?" It was terribly funny. But I found it in the end.

We didn't see each other for a couple of years; I spent a lot of time in America and she started a family over here. But then about a year and a half ago, I started working on a piece Anthony had written called Self Assembly, about trying to fit a relationship together. I wanted to develop the piece into a full-length work with dancers and an actor and I immediately thought of Juliet. I emailed her one day and she replied enthusiastically. Then, that evening, I went to see the Antony Gormley exhibition at South Bank and had just emerged from it when I bumped straight into Juliet. It was odd to meet again like that after so long. Sometimes we interpret that kind of coincidence as a sign that someone is looking out for us – but I'm very happy to believe in those signs. I think we all need all the help we can get. And to reconnect with people I met through Anthony, after losing him, means a huge amount to me. We hold each other all the more closely to fill the gap.

Reading Room is touring now, until 28 June; Juliet Stevenson will appear from 5-6 June in London (