Joanna Lumley has said that “old crones” like her should not be offered lead roles better suited to the younger generation.
The 63-year-old Absolutely Fabulous star was asked about the furore surrounding the axing of choreographer Arlene Phillips (66), as a Strictly Come Dancing judge.
Speaking about her own experiences, Lumley said she had not encountered ageism in TV — and people should “get over” older actresses not being offered the main part.
Lumley was speaking at the launch for Joanna Lumley: Catwoman, a new ITV1 documentary series. She joked: “But I'm not asked to play 23-year-olds any more, which is a bit of a blow.”
The Gurkhas' champion continued: “I think one can get a bit obsessed. If you are old you're not going to play young leads any more, that's a fact.
“In the film world, the camera loves a young person, man or woman. That's a fact.
“In the acting game, there have always been 10 parts for men to two parts for women. That's a fact. None of these things are ever going to change. So absorb it, live with it, get over it. Don't you think?
“I'm not being unkind, but I'm just saying millions of crones like me shouldn't suddenly be given the lead in things, just because we're damn old and very sort of |recalcitrant.”
Lumley, who is also making a documentary about the Nile, added: “Do what you can. I can still be scraped about on a sedan chair up and down the Nile. I'll do it... Judi Dench — you can say: ‘Have you ever had any ageism?' to Judi Dench?
“Well the answer is she plays M, but she doesn't play the Bond girl.
“And she wouldn't have done it anyway, but she's not even asked to do it, because she's her age and Bond girls are 22.
“I think we've got to be a bit sensible about this. Also Strictly Come Dancing — I think Arlene Phillips is called dance goddess of the nation or something, so that's OK.
“Result Arlene, better than sitting in a chair just going: ‘Good, bad, good, bad’, she's out there leading classes. So she's won.”
Lumley said: “Most stories are about love and war. Old people are thrown out of the army ‘cos they're too old to fight...
“Most old people shouldn't really feature, except like Christopher Lee, in everything, unless we're old and grand and have three lines. Same fee darling, but just for one day.”
Despite winning over Gordon Brown with charm and persuasive argument, the actress said she would not run for Prime Minister herself “in a million years”.
She also said the Gurkhas' |campaign concluding just before the MPs' expenses scandal raged “was so lucky for us, because I suspect if it had dragged on, we would have been caught in the rush of all that other stuff and we'd have been kicked into the long grass again”. She said MPs had a “tough life” and “you'll get much more blame than praise”.
She said being an MP should be seen as an honourable thing to do, but said: “It's not for me, darling.”
Lumley played down her “national treasure” status, saying it was a term for people who had been “around for a bit”.
”Once you can see the glimmerings of an old ambulance and something being brought out of the back of it like me, you go: 'National treasure'.”
Over 40 years Lumley has played largely “good” characters - “so people see you as a good person.
“And that's quite fantastically charming. I'm very, very pleased to be a national anything.”
Joanna Lumley: Catwoman airs on ITV1 on September 6 and 13.