Celia Imrie

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Celia Imrie
Celia Imrie at the Cambridge Union Society Spring Wordfest.jpg
Imrie in 2011
Celia Diana Savile Imrie

(1952-07-15) 15 July 1952 (age 70)
Guildford, Surrey, England
EducationGuildford High School; Guildford School of Acting
Years active1973–present
ChildrenAngus Imrie

Celia Diana Savile Imrie (born 15 July 1952[1][2][3]) is an English actress and author. She is best known for her film roles, including the Bridget Jones film series, Calendar Girls (2003), Nanny McPhee (2005), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011), The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015), The English dub of The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales... (2017), Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018), Malevolent (2018) and for the FX TV series Better Things (2016-2022).

In the United Kingdom she is known for her work with Victoria Wood, including Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV (1985–1987), the sitcom dinnerladies (1998–2000) and Acorn Antiques: The Musical!, for which she won the 2006 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical.

Early life and education[edit]

Imrie was born on 15 July 1952 in Guildford, Surrey,[4][5] the fourth of five children of Diana Elizabeth Blois (née Cator) and David Andrew Imrie, a radiologist. Her father was from Glasgow, Scotland.[6][7] Imrie is the ten-times-great granddaughter of the infamous Frances Carr, Countess of Somerset.[8] Imrie was educated at Guildford High School, an independent school for girls in her home town of Guildford, followed by the Guildford School of Acting.[9]



Imrie's film credits include Nanny McPhee, Hilary and Jackie (playing Iris du Pré), and the 1997 film The Borrowers, in which 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 2007 she appeared in St Trinian's.


Imrie's television credits include Bergerac,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 appeared in the 2005 BBC television drama Mr. Harvey Lights a Candle, where she played the role of a teacher taking an unruly party of pupils on a day-trip to Salisbury Cathedral. She starred alongside Nicholas Lyndhurst in the BBC sitcom After You've Gone (2007–2008), and in the ITV1 drama Kingdom (2007–2009) with Stephen Fry. Her part in After You've Gone has, whilst being critically acclaimed, been described as "criminally squandered".[10] In 2013, she guest-starred in the BBC's Doctor Who, playing the villainous Miss Kizlet in "The Bells of Saint John". In May 2016, she made her US television debut in the DC action-adventure series Legends of Tomorrow. Since September 2016 she has starred as Phyllis in the FX series Better Things. In December 2021, Imrie narrated the BBC's Talking Pictures: Film's Family Favourites.


In 2005, she received very positive reviews for her US stage debut in Unsuspecting Susan.[11][12] In 2009, she appeared in Plague Over England in the West End, a play about John Gielgud, and received a positive reviews for her performance.[13] That same year, she appeared in the world premiere of Robin Soans' Mixed Up North, directed by Max Stafford-Clark.[14] In 2010, she appeared alongside Robin Soans in a production of Sheridan's The Rivals.

Imrie narrated during the ceremonial event held to mark the 75th anniversary of D-day at Portsmouth in 2019.[15]


Imrie's radio work includes parts in BBC Radio 4's No Commitments and Bleak Expectations. " The Adventures of a Black Bag and Doctor Finlay – Further Adventures of a Black Bag" 2002 and 2003 ; In early 2007, she narrated the book Arabella, broadcast over two weeks as the Book at Bedtime.

She appeared on BBC Radio 4's The Museum of Curiosity in October 2019. Her hypothetical donation to this imaginary museum was "A half-burnt candle".[16]

Work with Victoria Wood[edit]

Imrie is perhaps best known in the United Kingdom for her frequent collaborations with Victoria Wood,[17] with whom she 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 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 in 2005 Wood turned the show into Acorn Antiques: The Musical!, a West End musical, starring most of the original cast. Imrie won an Olivier Award in 2006 for her performance.[18] The character is known for her frequent parodic flirtations with the customers and her interactions with the housekeeper, Mrs Overall (portrayed by Julie Walters).


Her debut novel Not Quite Nice was published by Bloomsbury in 2015, had six weeks in the Sunday Times Top Ten, was cited by The Times as a 'delicious piece of entertainment', and also reached number 5 in the Apple ibook chart and 8 in Amazon's book chart.[19] Her second novel, Nice Work (If You Can Get It), was published in 2016;[20] and her third, Sail Away, was published in February 2018.[21] Her next work, A Nice Cup of Tea, was published in 2019.[22]

  • The Happy Hoofer (2011), Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 978-1444709278
  • Not Quite Nice (2015), Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 978-1632860323
  • Nice Work (If You Can Get It) (2016), Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 978-1408876909
  • Sail Away (2018), Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 978-1408883235
  • A Nice Cup of Tea (2019), Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1408883266
  • Orphans of the Storm (2021), Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1526614896

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again[edit]

As part of the cast of the 2018 film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Imrie achieved her first UK Top 40 single alongside Lily James with a cover of the ABBA song "When I Kissed the Teacher", which reached number 40 in August 2018.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Imrie lives in London and in Nice, France.[24] She has a son, Angus Imrie, with the actor Benjamin Whitrow, but has said that she "hated the idea of marriage", describing it as a "world of cover-up and compromise".[25] Angus appears as her on-screen son in Kingdom and has acted in other productions, having studied drama and performance at the University of Warwick.[26]

When she was 14, she was admitted to the Royal Waterloo Hospital suffering from anorexia nervosa. Under the care of controversial psychiatrist William Sargant, she was given electroshock and large doses of the anti-psychotic drug Largactil.[27][citation needed]

She was the guest on Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 on 13 February 2011. In 2013, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Winchester.[28]

Imrie was featured in the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? in October 2012 and discovered that an ancestor on her mother's side was William, Lord Russell, a Whig parliamentarian executed for treason in 1683, after being found guilty of conspiring against Charles II.[29] Imrie's great-great uncle, William Imrie, was a founder of the White Star Line and she is a descendant of Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon who survived the sinking of the Titanic.[30]




Year Title Role Notes
1973 Assassin Stacy's Secretary
1974 House of Whipcord Barbara
1978 Death on the Nile Maid Uncredited
1983 The Wicked Lady Servant at Inn
1986 Highlander Kate
1992 Blue Black Permanent Barbara Thorburn
1994 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Mrs. Moritz
1995 A Midwinter's Tale Fadge
1997 The Borrowers Homily Clock
1998 Hilary and Jackie Iris Du Pré
1998 Hiccup Judy Short
1999 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace Fighter Pilot Bravo 5
2001 Bridget Jones's Diary Una Alconbury
2001 Lucky Break Amy Chamberlain
2001 Revelation Harriet Martel
2002 Thunderpants Miss Rapier
2002 Heartlands Sonja
2003 Calendar Girls Celia
2003 Out of Bounds Dr Imogen Reed
2004 Wimbledon Lydice Kenwood
2004 Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason Una Alconbury
2005 Wah-Wah Lady Riva Hardwick
2005 Imagine Me & You Tessa
2005 Nanny McPhee Mrs Quickly
2007 St Trinian's Matron
2009 St Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold Matron
2010 You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Enid Wicklow
2010 The Man Who Married Himself Mother Short
2011 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Madge Hardcastle
2011 My Angel The Librarian
2012 Acts of Godfrey Helen McGann
2013 The Love Punch Pen
2014 What We Did on Our Holiday Agnes Chisolm
2014 Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey? Clara Keen
2015 The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Madge Hardcastle
2015 Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism Edna the Cook
2016 Year by the Sea Erikson
2016 Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Claudia Bing
2016 Bridget Jones's Baby Una Alconbury
2017 A Cure for Wellness Victoria Watkins
2017 Monster Family Cheyenne Voice role
2017 Finding Your Feet Bif
2018 Malevolent Mrs Green
2018 Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Vice Chancellor
2018 Nativity Rocks! This Ain’t No Silent Night Mrs. Keen
2020 Love Sarah Mimi
2022 Fifty-Four Days Gloria Short
2023 Love Again Releasing May 12
TBA Good Grief Filming


Year Title Role Notes
1974 Upstairs, Downstairs Jenny "If You Were the Only Girl in the World". "Missing Believed Killed"
1979 To the Manor Born Polly "A Touch of Class"
1980 Shoestring Sheila Johnson "The Dangerous Game"
1980 To the Manor Born Surgery Receptionist "Vive Le Sport"
1981 The Nightmare Man Fiona Patterson
1981 81 Take 2 TV film
1982 Else Queen Cloud Howe
1983 Bergerac Marianne Bellshade
1985– 1987 Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV Various characters
1988 Taggart Helen Lomax "Root of Evil"
1988–1989 The New Statesman Hilary "Alan B'Stard Closes Down the BBC", "May the Best Man Win"
1989 Murder by Moonlight Patsy Diehl TV film
1989 Victoria Wood Carol "We'd Quite Like to Apologise"
1989 Victoria Wood Jackie "Val De Ree (Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha)"
1989 Victoria Wood Julia / Spoof TV Ad actress "Staying In"
1990 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Miss Jewsbury
1990 The World of Eddie Weary Birdie TV film
1990 Old Flames Davina Wright / Hopjoy
1990 102 Boulevard Haussmann Mme Massis
1991 Lovejoy Lady Felicity Carey-Holden "The Italian Venus"
1991 The Darling Buds of May Corinne Perigo "When the Green Woods Laugh (Parts 1 & 2)"
1991 All Good Things Rachel Bromley
1991 Stay Lucky Julie Vernon "The Food of Love"
1992 Victoria Wood's All Day Breakfast Various characters
1992 Van der Valk Marijke Dekker "Still Waters"
1993 Bonjour la Classe Mrs Botney "Red Card"
1993 The Riff Raff Element Joanna Tundish
1993 A Question of Guilt Sissy Malton TV film
1994 A Dark Adapted Eye Vera Hillyard TV film[35]
1994 Pat and Margaret Claire
1994 The Return of the Native Susan Nunsuch TV film
1995–2001 Absolutely Fabulous Claudia Bing "Jealous"
1995 Casualty Elizabeth Clayton "Learning Curve"
1995–1996 Blackhearts in Battersea Duchess of Battersea
1996 The Writing on the Wall Kirsty TV film
1997 Hospital! Sister Muriel TV film
1997 Wokenwell June Bonney
1997 Into the Blue Nadine Cunningham
1997 The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Mrs Miller
1997 The Canterville Ghost Lucy Otis TV film
1997 Mr. White Goes to Westminster Victoria Madison TV film
1998 Duck Patrol Mrs Calloway "River Rage"
1998–2000 dinnerladies Philippa Moorcroft
1999 Hetty Wainthropp Investigates Nightclub owner TV Short
1999 Hilltop Hospital Surgeon Sally Voice role
1999 A Christmas Carol Mrs Bennett TV film
2000 Gormenghast Lady Gertrude
2000 Dalziel and Pascoe Christina Chance "Above the Law"
2000 Victoria Wood With All The Trimmings Herself
2001 Love in a Cold Climate Aunt Sadie
2001 Baddiel's Syndrome Ruth Proudhon "Inventions Now"
2001 Station Jim Miss Frazier TV film
2001 Midsomer Murders Louise August "Dark Autumn"
2001 Randall & Hopkirk "Revenge of the Bog People"
2002 Heartbeat Sylvia Langley "The Shoot"
2002 The Gathering Storm Violet Pearman TV film
2002 Sparkhouse Kate Lawton
2002 A Is for Acid Rose Henderson TV film
2002 Daniel Deronda Mrs Meyrick
2002 Doctor Zhivago Anna Gromyko
2003 The Planman Gail Forrester TV film
2003 Still Game Mrs Begg "Wummin'"
2004 Jonathan Creek Thelma Bailey "Gorgons Wood"
2004 Doc Martin Susan Brading "Going Bodmin"
2004 Agatha Christie's Marple Madame Joilet "4.50 From Paddington"
2005 Mr. Harvey Lights a Candle Miss Davies TV film
2006 Agatha Christie's Poirot 'Aunt' Kathy Cloade "Taken at the Flood"
2006 The Lavender List Mary Wilson TV film
2006 Where the Heart Is Gaynor Whiteside "Walk of Faith"
2007–2008 After You've Gone Diana
2007–2009 Kingdom Gloria Millington
2009 Cranford Lady Glenmire "Christmas Special"
2010 The Road to Coronation Street Doris Speed TV film
2011 The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff Miss Christmasham
2012 Hacks Tabby TV film
2012 Titanic Grace Rushton
2012 Lewis Michelle Marber "The Soul of Genius"[36]
2013 Doctor Who Miss Kizlet "The Bells of Saint John"
2013 Love and Marriage Rowan Holdaway
2014 Blandings Charlotte
2014 Our Zoo Lady Daphne Goodwin
2015 Vicious Lillian Haverfield-Wickham
2016 Legends of Tomorrow Mary Xavier
2016-2022 Better Things Phyllis "Phil" Darby
2018 Patrick Melrose Kettle
2018 Hang Ups Maggie Pitt
2020 Keeping Faith Rose Fairchild Series 3; Main role
2021 Talking Pictures: Film's Family Favourites Herself 1 episode




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  15. ^ "Donald Trump And The Queen Join Allies For D-Day Celebrations". HuffPost UK. 5 June 2019. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  16. ^ "Gallery 14 - Room Five". qi.com. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
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  18. ^ "Past Winners | The Official London Theatre Guide". Officiallondontheatre.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  19. ^ Christie, Janet (2016). "Book review: Nice Work (If You Can Get It) by Celia Imrie". The Scotsman. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  20. ^ "Nice work if you can get it". Kirkus Reviews. 20 September 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Sail Away – Celia Imrie". Kirkus Reviews. 3 April 2018. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  22. ^ "A Nice Cup of Tea- Celia Imrie". Kirkus Reviews. 13 May 2019. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  23. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 40 | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
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  28. ^ "University celebrates Graduation 2013 at Winchester Cathedral". University of Winchester. 10 October 2013. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
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  31. ^ "Winning supporters: Lennie James and Celia Imrie". The Times. No. 64305. London. 13 April 1992. p. 6.
  32. ^ "Celia Imrie". Archived from the original on 4 November 2007.
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  34. ^ "Meet the 2017 Women in Film and Television Award Winners". WFTV. 2 December 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  35. ^ Udall, Elizabeth (1 January 1994). "Vera Hillyard was a part to die for". The Times. No. 64841. London. p. 6[S1].
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External links[edit]