Edgar Wright: 'I spoke to Diana Rigg in lockdown as much my own mother' (exclusive)

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Watch: Edgar Wright discusses working with the last Dame Diana Rigg

Edgar Wright doesn’t do things by halves. 

In his new horror/thriller, Last Night In Soho, he brought the swinging 60s back to life with the help of three acting icons from the decade – Dame Diana Rigg (in her last film role), Terence Stamp and Rita Tushingham.

The Hot Fuzz director cast them all in key roles and tells Yahoo he became close friends with Diana Rigg during the making of the film. The classically trained actor, who died last September, was a 60s trend setter thanks to her role as the leather-clad, high-kicking Emma Peel in cult spy series The Avengers.

“The film was already poignant for us, but now it’s bittersweet. We can only be happy that we had the chance to work with her and get to know her,” reflects Wright. 

Read more: Edgar Wright shares beautiful farewell with Diana Rigg

“I feel that at the start of lockdown, I spoke to Diana as much as I did to my own mother – ringing her up to talk about what was on Talking Pictures TV. And they were weekly phone calls.”

Last Night In Soho (Universal Pictures)
Dame Diana Rigg makes her last screen performance in Last Night In Soho (Universal Pictures)

In the film, Diana Rigg plays the strict landlady who takes in fashion student and 60s fan Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) when she decides to move off campus. 

But in the bedsit, she finds herself transported back to the decade and into the life of aspiring singer and good-time girl Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), watching as the other girl’s life is caught up in a downward spiral and the glamour of Swinging London is invaded by violence and fear. 

Watch a trailer for Last Night In Soho

Wright also revealed that Terence Stamp’s decision to appear in the film was made for him before they actually met. 

Read more: Remembering the versatile Diana Rigg

One of the heart-throbs of the 60s, Stamp’s relationships with model Jean Shrimpton and actor Julie Christie (reputedly immortalised in The Kinks' Waterloo Sunset) made even more headlines than his appearances in Billy Budd, Poor Cow and Far From The Madding Crowd

Actor Terence Stamp as Billy Budd in the 1962 film Billy Budd, directed by Peter Ustinov.
Terence Stamp as Billy Budd in the 1962 film Billy Budd, directed by Peter Ustinov.

When the director met the veteran actor, “he told me he hadn’t seen any of my films, but his nieces loved Baby Driver and had told him he had to do my movie. So thank you to Terence’s nieces!” 

Wright remembers Stamp "was very up for it and was taken with the script. He said it was like a peyote trip, which was more information than I needed.”  

Last Night In Soho (Universal Pictures)
Matt Smith and Anya Taylor-Joy also star in Last Night In Soho (Universal Pictures)

For the authentic re-creation of Soho in the 60s, Wright employed extensive make up, costume and production design teams, but the icing on the cake was the approval from Rita Tushingham, who plays Eloise’s grandmother. 

“When she saw Last Night In Soho, my first question to her was about the 60s bits – had we done them right?” he said. “She’d met and knew Cilla Black, so it was important to get her approval. And she loved it.”

Kino. Bitterer Honig, Taste Of Honey, A, Bitterer Honig, Taste Of Honey, A, Rita Tushingham, Murray Melvin Die 17jaehrige Jo (Rita Tushingham) stellt fest, dass sie schwanger ist. Von ihrer Mutter wie das 5. Rad am Wagen behandelt, mietet Jo eine Wohnung gemeinsam mit Geoffrey (Murray Melvin), einem Homosexuellen., 1961. (Photo by FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images)
Rita Tushingham shot to fame in 1961's A Taste Of Honey. (FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images)

The actor was an unknown 18-year-old when she made her debut in A Taste Of Honey in 1961.”She was the same age as Thomasin McKenzie is in this film,” added Wright. 

“So having Rita play her grandmother was perfect. And Thomasin hadn’t seen A Taste Of Honey until after Rita was cast. I told her she should and, after she watched it, she was so star struck!”

Last Night In Soho is in UK cinemas from 29 October. Watch a new clip below.

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