Actress and author Celia Imrie has revealed she has always been “obsessed by the Titanic” and is related to one of the most infamous survivors of the ship’s sinking.
The 69-year-old star of Bridget Jones and Mamma Mia, who appeared in a 2012 TV series about the Belfast-built ocean liner, even put the ill-fated ship, which sank in 1912, in her latest novel.
She told Showbiz Life: “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t absolutely fascinated. But what is interesting is to realise that it’s worldwide. Everyone in LA is absolutely obsessed with the Titanic.
“So yes, ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated, and it goes on — people are still obsessed with it.
“It’s tough to put your finger on it. It’s a mix of it sinking on its maiden voyage — that’s one thing that’s massive — and I suppose they advertised it as unsinkable, and it being the highest luxury upon a floating vessel.
“They made sure all the richest people in the world were on it, and for that to go down and then all die... I mean, there’s sort of such a fate feeling about it.”
Calendar Girls actress Celia also has a family connection to the ship — she is related to Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon. He became infamous after it emerged he boarded a lifeboat with his wife despite the captain’s “women and children first” rule. He was also accused of bribing the crew with a £5 cheque not to turn back to pick up survivors. The Scottish landowner died aged 68 in 1931, almost 20 years after the Titanic went down.
Celia said: “I’m connected to him. My cousin by marriage was his great-grandmother.”
The actress has another Titanic connection — her great-uncle William Imrie was a founder of White Star Line, which owned the Titanic.
Based on a true story, her latest novel Orphans of the Storm tells the tale of Michel and Edmond Navratil, aged four and two, and their parents Marcella and Michael.
When the young wife files for divorce — a daring thing to do in turn-of-the-century France — Michael flees with their children, ending up on the Titanic. It is only after seeing news reports of two young children rescued at sea that a frantic Marcella realises they are her boys. Proving this to the watching world will test her mettle and her resolve.
“It [the book] all started with an exhibition in Southampton, where I was struck by this adorable photograph of these three little boys, aged two and three,” she said.
“I realised they came from Nice and that was a connection to other books I’ve written. Because it was based on a true story, it was irresistible.”