Theater
Mammals 2006 tour Lorna
The Way of the World 2003 Wilton Music Hall, London
Boston Marriage Donmar Warehouse and West End 2001 Claire
King Lear RSC, Japan and London Oct–Nov 1999 Regan (with Christopher Benjamin)
The Real Inspector Hound/Black Comedy West End 1998 Lady Cynthia Muldoon/Carol
Stanley National and Broadway 1996, 1997 Patricia Spencer (nominated for Olivier Award––best supporting actress)
Faithless
The Prisoners of War Hampstead 1993
 
Producer
The Way of the World The Company 2003 Wilton Music Hall, London
The Nativity Wicked Theatre Company
The Birthday of the Infanta Wicked Theatre Company
Cinderella Wicked Theatre Company
Sleeping Beauty Wicked Theatre Company
Peter Pan Wicked Theatre Company
 
Television
A Waste of Shame 2006 Anne Shakespeare
Suburban Shootout 2006 (with Lucy Robinson)
Spooks/MI 5 2005 Juliet Shaw
Roman Road 2005 Maddy Bancroft (with Rupert Vansittart)
Georgian Underworld: Queer as 18th Century Folk 2004 narrator
Happy Birthday, Oscar Wilde 2004
Wilde Stories 2003 voice
Fortysomething 2003 Estelle Slippery
Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie 2003 Nicky Bowden
Tipping the Velvet 2003 Diana Lethaby
The Big Read 2003
The Real Jane Austen 2002 narrator
The Cazalets 2001 Diana Mcintosh
Richard and Judy 2001 herself
Longitude 2000 Muriel Gould (with Barbara Leigh-Hunt)
The Vice 1999 Dr. Christina Weir
Cold Lazarus 1996 Anna Griffiths
Karaoke 1996 Anna Griffiths (with Alison Steadman)
Kavanagh Q.C. 2 seasons Julia Piper (one ep. with Alison Steadman and Annabel Taylor; another with Neville Phillips)
Ellington 1994
Grosvenor House Antiques Fair 1994
Casualty
Poirot, ep. “The Chocolate Box” 1994 Virginie Mesnard
The Complete Guide to Relationships 1993 Julia (with David Bamber)
Inspector Morse, ep. “Cherubim and Seraphim” 1992 Sally Smith
Jupiter Moon 1990 Mercedes Page
Century
 
Film
Breaking and Entering 2006 Kate
Feeder 2005 doctor
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 2005 Questular Rontok
Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London 2004 Jo Kenworth
The Dreamers 2003 mother
What a Girl Wants 2003 Glynnis Payne (with Colin Firth and Neville Phillips)
Crush 2002 Molly Cartwright
Heart 1999 Nicola Farmer
Fairy Tale: A True Story 1997 Peter Pan (with Anthony Calf, Benjamin Whitrow, and Lynn Farleigh)
The Man Who Knew Too Little 1997 Barbara Ritchie
Tom & Viv 1994
Four Weddings and a Funeral 1994 Henrietta aka “Duckface”
Staggered 1994 Dr. Carmen Sfennipeg
Princess Caraboo 1994 Mrs. Peake
Century 1993 woman in police station
Illuminations One Golden Afternoon
Watch That Man
Killing Dad 1989 barmaid
 
Radio
101 Dalmations 2005
Don't Look Now by Daphne du Maurier 2001
Voices From Behind The Canvas 2001 reading “Madame Moitessier” by Giles Waterfield
Daniel Deronda 1999 Gwendolyn Harleth

Interviews with Anna Chancellor

"I was never, ever the ingenue"

 
Anna Chancellor
Caroline Bingley
 

No matter how many roles Anna Chancellor plays in films, television, and theater, it may be her destiny to be forever remembered as “Duckface,” the luckless fiancée jilted by Hugh Grant in the hugely successful 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral. So firmly attached has the sobriquet become that she has been quacked at when entering pubs, and even friends make jokes about her nose. But the truth is that the character was never conceived to be duck-like; her original name in the script was ____face (rhymes with duck). It was changed, Chancellor has said, “because we couldn’t get away with that.”

 
 
Tipping the Velvet

The unwanted woman is a role that Chancellor knows well. “I'm usually the girl the audience doesn't want the hero to end up with,” she told an interviewer in 2002. “In some form or other, I'm usually the ugly sister. I'm never the innocent Cinderella type.”

Maybe not, but she has also developed a specialty in glamorous femmes fatales (The Cazalets, Staggered, Jupiter Moon) and lesbians (Boston Marriage, Tipping the Velvet, Stanley). What these roles all have in common is strength. Casting directors realize that Anna Chancellor is a woman to be reckoned with.

 
The Real Jane Austen
The Real Jane Austen,
with Gillian Kearney

This isn’t surprising when you consider Chancellor’s background. Her family tree includes many aristocrats, a prime minister (Herbert Asquith), eccentric men and indomitable women, and more than a few writers. Her uncle, Alexander Chancellor, is a journalist and former editor of the Spectator; her brother Edward is a writer on financial matters; one of her sisters was formerly married to the novelist Will Self; and her cousin Elizabeth is married to Alexander Waugh, son of Auberon and grandson of Evelyn. But the most illustrious writer in the family is one from the more distant past: Anna’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Edward Knight, was the older brother of Jane Austen.

 

Chancellor was the youngest of four children. Her parents divorced in 1967, when she was two, and thereafter her father was only a “peripheral” presence in her life. Her mother remarried and the family settled into a rambling country house in Somerset, but Anna was sent to boarding school when she was seven. When the headmistress had a nervous breakdown, the drama instructor took over and filled up the schedule with acting lessons and improv sessions. Chancellor took to it immediately. “I was always putting on shows in people's houses; it came naturally. I never thought of acting as something to be learnt, but as something inside you."

 

 
King Lear
King Lear, with Sian Thomas

Her next boarding school, a convent, was less hospitable to drama, and Chancellor was a poor student. After graduation she escaped to London to join her elder sisters, Isabel and Kate, and their antics caused people to refer to them as “those wicked Chancellor girls.” After a spell as an artist's model, Anna enrolled in the London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA), but never found favor with her teachers. She felt her upper-class background was held against her. By her third year she was very discouraged and when she became pregnant opted to drop out.

After her daughter, Poppy, was born, Chancellor found herself the sole breadwinner and was forced to take any acting (and modeling and waitressing) jobs she could get. A role in the long-running cult science-fiction soap opera Jupiter Moon paid some bills, but entailed long separations from Poppy. Then came Four Weddings and a Funeral.

 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

“Once you're associated with success you are much more of a commodity," she has said. "It was just incredible what happened to us all. I was unemployed up until then. Afterwards I got great jobs on stage. I was able to broaden my horizons, working on radio, stuff like that.” Most of the work was in character parts. "Sometimes I think if I had been born at a different time I would have been more of a leading girl," she told the Independent in 2002. "These days, the girls that get the guys are such babes, aren't they?" But, she added, “I like acting, and it seems to me that a lot of the gorgeous ones, often it's not exactly acting they're asked to do. Often they're just asked to be gorgeous."

 
Boston Marriage
Boston Marriage, with Lyndsey Marshall and Zoe Wanamaker

Chancellor had a plum role as the first wife of painter Stanley Spencer in Pam Gems’s play Stanley, which ran in both London and New York. In the London Times, John Peter called her performance “shockingly perceptive . . . fierce, willowy and angularly beautiful like a killer heron, she exudes narcissistic selfishness, sexual maladjustment, snobbish gentility, and a cold, calculating meanness from every pore.” As a late nineteenth-century lesbian in David Mamet’s Boston Marriage, she was “a hilarious mix of straight-backed social refinement and predatory lust” (Michael Billington, the Guardian). But her enthusiasm for theater goes beyond commercial ventures. In the nineties she staged Christmas pantomimes in Notting Hill that had a distinctly modern sensibility: when the Sleeping Beauty was pricked, she cried, “Help, the needle,” and her father thought she had a drug problem. More recently, she formed a company of volunteers, including Sam West and Celia Imrie, to put on a shoestring production of Congreve’s The Way of the World at an East End music hall. “The work will be focusing on the text as the most important thing and will be a move away from star-led productions,” she told the Evening Standard. We are a very democratic troupe and take a vote on everything. A lot of theatre is too expensive, and actually robs the audience of using their imagination. This will look like we've raided a very good dressing-up box.”

 
Spooks/MI 5 (with Peter Firth)

After a brief marriage in the 1990s to a cameraman she met while filming a television commercial, Chancellor almost despaired of finding another partner. But during the run of The Real Inspector Hound/Black Comedy double bill in the West End, she met an Algerian cabdriver named Redhu, several years younger than she, whom she — by her own admission — pursued relentlessly until he gave in. They now live together, with Poppy, in her home in the Shepherd’s Bush section of west London, and he has become a cinematic sound technician.

 
 
"I do try and curb my mouth, but I find it really hard.  I wonder how many jobs I've talked myself out of!  Actors are supposed to know their place, and be desperate for work, unless they are incredibly famous."
 
 
Photo Credits: top—Jason Bell/Camera Press; Real Jane Austen, Tipping the Velvet, and Spooks—BBC; Lear—Royal Shakespeare Co.; Hitchhiker—Touchstone Pictures