Celia Diana Savile Imrie (born 15 July 1952) is an English actress. Born and raised in Guildford, Imrie trained at the Guildford School of Acting.
Imrie started her career on television in the early 1970s and became most-known for her appearances with Victoria Wood, including Claire in Pat and Margaret (1994), Philippa Moorcroft in Dinnerladies (1998â"2000) and playing various characters in the sketch show Victoria Wood As Seen On TV (1985â"1987), including Miss Babs in the spoof soap opera sketches Acorn Antiques, a role she reprised in Acorn Antiques: The Musical in 2005. Imrie's other television roles include Marianne Bellshade in Bergerac (1983), Diana Neal in After You've Gone (2007â"2008) and Gloria Millington in Kingdom (2007â"2009).
On film, Imrie has appeared in Highlander (1986), Hilary and Jackie (1998), Bridget Jones' Diary (2001), Calendar Girls (2003), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012).
Imrie has been described as "one of the most successful British actresses of recent decades" and has been nominated for 2 Olivier Awards, winning one for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical for her role as Miss Babs in Acorn Antiques: The Musical.
Imrie was born in 1952 in Guildford, Surrey, the fourth of five children of Diana Elizabeth Blois (nÃ©e Cator) and David Andrew Imrie, a radiologist. Her father was from Glasgow, Scotland.
Imrie was educated at Guildford High School, an independent school for girls in her hometown of Guildford, followed by the Guildford School of Acting.
Life and career
Imrie's varied career spans films, television and radio drama, and the theatre. Her film credits include Nanny McPhee, Hilary and Jackie (playing Iris du PrÃ©) and the 1997 film of The Borrowers where she played Homily Clock. Other films include Bridget Jones's Diary, Calendar Girls, Highlander and, as Fighter Pilot Bravo 5, in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. In 2004, Imrie played Doctor Imogen Reed in the schoolgirl thriller, Out of Bounds. She appeared in St Trinian's in 2007 as the Matron, alongside Stephen Fry, Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Russell Brand and Mischa Barton.
Television series to feature Imrie include The Nightmare Man, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Casualty, Absolutely Fabulous, The Darling Buds of May and Upstairs, Downstairs. In the 2000 miniseries of Gormenghast, she played Lady Gertrude. She also had a guest appearance in an episode of the BBC Scotland sitcom Still Game in 2003, where she played a home help called Mrs Begg. She also appeared in the 2005 BBC television drama Mr. Harvey Lights a Candle, playing the part of a teacher taking an unruly party of pupils on a daytrip to Salisbury Cathedral. She starred in the BBC sitcom, After You've Gone, alongside Nicholas Lyndhurst and in the ITV1 drama Kingdom, with Stephen Fry. Her part in After You've Gone has, whilst being critically acclaimed, been described as "criminally squandered". In 2013 she guest starred in the BBC's Doctor Who where she played the villainous Miss Kizlet in the series opener The Bells of Saint John
In 2005, she received very positive reviews for her US stage debut in Unsuspecting Susan. In 2009, Imrie appeared in Plague Over England on the West End, a play about John Gielgud, and received positive reviews for her performance, Charles Spencer of The Daily Telegraph calling her performance "delicious" and "touchingly sympathetic". In the same year, she appeared in the world premiere of Robin Soans' Mixed Up North, directed by Max Stafford-Clark. In 2010, she appeared alongside Robin Soans in a production of Sheridan's The Rivals. She has appeared with Martin Clunes twice, first in the 2002 John George Haigh biopic A Is For Acid and later in the successful ITV series Doc Martin.
Her radio work includes parts in BBC Radio 4's No Commitments, Adventures of a Black Bag, and Bleak Expectations. In early 2007, she narrated the book Arabella, broadcast over two weeks as the Book at Bedtime.
Victoria Wood & Miss Babs
Imrie is perhaps best known for her frequent collaborations with Victoria Wood, with whom she has appeared in TV programmes such as the sitcom dinnerladies and sketch show Victoria Wood As Seen On TV. It was on the latter show in 1985 that she first played the infamous part of Miss Babs, owner of Acorn Antiques, a parody of the low budget British soap opera Crossroads.
These sketches became such a British institution that the show was turned into a West End musical in 2005 starring most of the original cast (see the picture on the right). Imrie won an Olivier Award for her performance. The character has curly blonde hair, and is known for her frequent parodic flirtations with the customers, and her abuse of the housekeeper Mrs Overall (portrayed by Julie Walters).
Imrie lives in London and in Cowes (on the Isle of Wight). She has a son, Angus, by the actor Benjamin Whitrow. Angus appears as her on-screen son in Kingdom and has acted in other productions and is studying drama and performance at Warwick University.
When Celia Imrie was fourteen, she was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital for anorexia nervosa under the controversial psychiatrist William Sargant, where she was given electroshock and large doses of the anti-psychotic drug Largactil. Imrie has written that Sargant still features in her nightmares.
On Friday 18 October 2013, Imrie was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Winchester.
- (1992) The Clarence Derwent Award for Best Supporting Actress in The Sea
- (2006) The Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in Acorn Antiques:The Musical!
Imrie appeared on the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? in October 2012. In this programme, she found that an ancestor on her mother's side was William, Lord Russell, a Whig parliamentarian who was executed for treason in 1683 after being found guilty of conspiring against King Charles II of England. Further back, she is descended from Lady Frances Howard, who was the central figure in a scandal during the reign of King James VI and I involving the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury.
Imrie appeared as a guest on Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 on 13 February 2011.
- The Happy Hoofer (2011), Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 978-1444709278
- Not Quite Nice (2015), Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 978-1632860323
- Celia Imrie at the Internet Movie Database
- Official website
- Celia Imrie Wins Olivier Award
- Interview with Celia Imrie
- Celia Imrie talks about Star Wars
- Celia Imrie Article with The Daily Telegraph
- Photograph of Celia as Marianne Bellshade in 1982 in Bergerac