I got into a wonderful amateur company in Ealing called the Questors, which is still active, aged 15, when I was at convent school, but I wasn’t allowed to pursue it. A strict nun forbade me because I was doing my GCEs. That put me off. It so hurt me that I never even thought about drama school, but I answered an ad on the back of The Stage to have a screen test for a film. I was a cheeky monkey straight out of school and thought: ‘Why not?’. In fact, my father had provided me with that copy of The Stage – my first one – knowing my interest.
I got the part – a film called The Mini Mob with lovely Georgie Fame in 1967. It was about four girls, silly little 1960s maids who decide they want to capture a pop star, an MP and a disc jockey. I was out of school about six weeks by then. It was a chilly autumn and I was in very flimsy dress. We filmed in Maidenhead. Having left school, I wanted to take it as a sort of gap year although they didn’t call it that in those days. They insisted my mousy hair should be coloured at Vidal Sassoon and that was my first foray into going to a hairdresser. They sent me to Bond Street so I learned quickly how to start to look better. I learned to do make-up because somebody did my make-up on the film.
Watching these stunning people was an experience in itself. I’ve always found watching is the best way of learning – keeping quiet and watching and digesting from the greats. When I saw the rushes I was so appalled at how bad I was, I decided ‘never again’. I saw all the mistakes such as the horrible squeaky voice. I learned a lot and it led to getting an agent.
Nevertheless, my advice now is drama school. Don’t mess about, get some tuition, go in well prepared and do it the right way because that’s how you make contacts. In the 1960s, anything went, but it’s much tougher now. Do it the proper way and have fun.
Theatre includes: In the West End: The Mousetrap, Habeas Corpus, Shut Your Eyes and Think of England; Two Cambridge Theatre Company tours, James Bond Concert Spectacular
TV/film includes: Live and Let Die, The Vampire Lovers, Theatre of Blood, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Carry on Matron, Up Pompeii, The Two Ronnies, Casanova ’73, The Persuaders!, Steptoe and Son, Doctor at Large, All Creatures Great and Small
Agent: Infinite Artists
Madeline Smith was talking to John Byrne
She will host The James Bond Concert Spectacular with Q The Music at Buxton Opera House on August 12 and Wycombe Swan January 26, 2019. Full details at qthemusicshow.com