BBC4 drama Margot tells the story of Dame Margot Fonteyn – one of Britain’s greatest ballet dancers. Anne-Marie discusses the prima ballerina’s controversial life and loves…
Were you familiar with Margot Fonteyn’s flamboyant life before filming?
“I didn’t really know too much about her before starting this. I had no idea she was not just such a creative icon, but also such a style icon too. She was really up there with Audrey Hepburn in terms of fashion and influencing style and being terribly chic.”
Did you find the dancing daunting?
“I’d only done a tiny bit of dance before at drama school. I was much more of a tomboy than one of those girls with a tutu so it was a whole world of which I knew very little. I knew we’d have dance doubles, but I just wanted to look like a dancer. That was the aim.”
Did you do any research or preparation for the role?
“I did some Pilates for a while to get really strong and then about six weeks of ballet all day every day. I was extremely lucky as I had enormous help from the Royal Ballet. I had the kind of training most young dancers dream about. I also read up on Margot – there’s a tonne of info on her and Rudolf Nureyev and the birth of Royal Ballet. It was very interesting learning about the world of dance and how they behave compared to my lot! Also she did have the most bonkers private life – you couldn’t make it up!
Do you think she really did have an intimate relationship with Rudolf Nureyev?
“I think because dancers spend so much time together and are so physically intimate with each other that probably sex wouldn’t be such a big leap. Because they had such enormous chemistry on stage people wanted to believe that they were in love off stage, so that’s the story we tell.”
What do you think of Margot since making the film?
“I think she had a swan-like nature and was paddling furiously beneath the surface with her chaotic personal life. I found her very intriguing, difficult and complex. From the outside her world looked stunning, but at home she was married to this antithesis of a man – there was great tension between the two of them. I also think she was terribly excited by the world of her husband, Tito. In a way it was another form of theatre for her.”
Do you think she enjoyed being famous?
“Yes, I think she adored being famous and infamous and all that goes with that. I think sometimes being incredibly well known and respected can also be an incredibly lonely place to be. Her world is very intriguing – she kept working and working until she was quite old even though she couldn’t perform as well. But she was our first famous British ballerina, and she made it look incredibly easy and glamorous.”
*Margot screens on BBC4 on Monday, November 30*