‘An explosive energy’: Sam Mendes pays tribute to Helen McCroryApril 18, 2021
Whether acting in Chekhov on stage or a Bond film, the star – who has died aged 52 – was incredibly exciting to watch, remembers the Skyfall director
Most actors are liked by those they work with. A few are loved. With Helen it was unquestionably the latter. People would light up at the mention of her name. I was one of those people.
When I was directing Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night as my final productions as artistic director of the Donmar in 2002, I asked Helen to play the role of Sonya in Uncle Vanya. Word came back that she would love to have a chat about it. She strode into my office, sat on the sofa and immediately told me I had it all wrong. She told me she should be playing Yelena – the other young female role – and then proceeded to spend the next hour telling me exactly why. She left the room with the part. This has never happened to me before or since. All I can say by way of explanation is that it just felt inevitable. She was clearly already half way to giving a superb performance, I simply had to get out of the way and let her complete the job. Which, of course, she did – with utter brilliance.