I'm very honoured to get the chance to interview the ever-lovely Judy Matheson. Judy appeared in Hammer horror classics like The Twins of Evil and Lust for a Vampire (1971).
Also, other horror, comedy, and various film work including Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974)
After drama school (Where she also became a lifelong friend of Dame Helen Mirren), Judy began her career in 1967 with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company with which she toured the United States, including a season on Broadway, followed by Europe and Israel, in three of Shakespeare's plays, the highlight of which was Sir Tyrone Guthrie's production of Measure for Measure.
Judy has also worked on TV, in Coronation Street, Crossroads, The Sweeny, The Professionals, and Citizen Smith. She also worked as a continuity announcer and though retired from acting still makes appetences at horror festivals and the like.
Judy Matheson being burned at the stake in Hammer's Twins of Evil.
KG: What got you into acting? And horror in particular?
JM: I got into acting by training at drama college for three years. One was also awarded a teaching degree at this particular college, at which two of my contemporaries were my great friends, the actors Helen Mirren & Paul Freeman.
After a year with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company, I was lucky enough to be headhunted by one of the best agents / managers of the time - Hazel Malone. She was the doyenne of theatrical, film & television agents, & her list of clients, particularly the young & the beautiful, was legendary. She set me on my film career.
KG: How do you look back at your time working on Hammer Horror films and what are your happiest memories?
JM: Well, I look back with extraordinarily happy memories, which I feel very lucky about. And memories are constantly flooding back, when I meet fans who often can remember more about my work than I can!
The happiest memories always revolve around the huge fun we had on film sets. I have always enjoyed the company of other actors, & the camaraderie of film sets was always a joy.
KG: You've appeared in lots of horror movies. What are your favourites and why?
JM: My favourite of my movies was the first one. Variously called Las Crueles, The Exquisite Cadaver.The Exquisite Corpse.
I won the role over many others, which was quite a coup. We filmed it on location in Spain & Rome. It seemed very exotic to be one of the stars surrounded by a wonderful Spanish crew & director. Vicente Aranda was highly respected in Spain, & was a stimulating & intellectual person to work with. Capucine, my co-star was the most beautiful woman I have ever met, & also one of the most complex. I adored her.
KG: Apart from the ones you were in of course, what were your favourite Horror films & why?
JM: Favourite horror films? I've always been a fan of American movies & loved Psycho & The Exorcist. Also, I’m a bit of a fan of some of the Italian Giallo genre.
KG: Which horror film actors did you enjoy working with the most and why?
JM: Well, I must say firstly the divine Peter Cushing. He was the kindest, most gentle, & friendliest of actors & yet transformed into the character he was playing with ease and always with truth. Impressive in every way.
Among many others, I loved working with are that intelligent fine actor Ralph Bates, the always professional & talented Ray Brooks (Pete Walker's The Flesh & Blood Show) & Ronald Lacey who was a terrific actor, but always managed keep us all laughing between takes (Crucible of Terror).
KG: You appeared in the Hammer Classic Twins of Evils, if you had a twin would she be good or evil?
JM: Neither. Just a bit naughty. And a bit of a rebel. Doesn't quite have the same ring about it, does it......?
KG: What scares you the most in life?
JM: Oh, the usual things, bad things happening to my family, bad health, and, actually, I have a quite irrational fear of flying!
KG: You did a lot of television work, comedy, and straight acting. Which did you prefer and why?
JM: I loved to mix it up when I was a working actress. There's truly nothing better than walking out on stage & playing to a full house which is loving the performance.
But for me the process of filming is the probably most satisfying. I love films, anyway, & being part of that whole collaborative process, working together & simply being on a film set with a marvellous crew & fellow artists is all encompassing.
KG: On set I was always professional and conscious of getting my movies in on budget. We never wanted to waste film, as it was so expensive, so I was always very quick to shout cut at the end of a scene. That was until one day we had a bit of a misshape shooting a Slasher film. Jack the Ripper had his knife at his victim’s throat and I was a bit premature with my "CUT!" I got it right in the neck I can tell you. What's the funniest thing or misshape you've had on set?
JM: I recall the crew on Crucible of Terror playing a joke on Mike Raven, who often suffered from a sense of humour failure.
Mike had to nibble & kiss the leading lady's thigh. The crew covered the said thigh in pepper, which caused him to have an explosive sneezing fit in the middle of a take. He was mortified.
Also in that film Ronnie Lacey had to utter the words ' I'm gonna pour myself a slug'; he looked up in the middle of a take, straight to camera, & said 'I know this is supposed to be a horror film but this is ridiculous' The whole crew cracked up, & of course we had to 'go again.'
KG: You’ve done a lot of voice over work, what is your favourite type of voice or accent?
JM: A taxi driver told me last week that I sounded just like Joanna Lumley. Not the 1st time I've been told that.
Having said that, some of my favourite roles have been 'Northern'. I did two leading roles in separate Z Cars (remember that?) & they were among my best work, and both Liverpudlian.
I also did a fabulous ITV play opposite Freddie Jones, in which we all spoke with West Country accents. The Guardian TV reviewer said at the time that the whole piece was 'incomprehensible to anyone east of Somerset'. I took that as an enormous compliment!
KG: There’s talk about making a film about my life, I've told them I'll not agree until they get George Clooney to fill my shoes, my good lady Sandra has suggested she'd work with him. If they made a film about your life who would you want to play you and why?
JM: Helen Mirren. Obviously.
KG: You're a very strong minded lady that cares a lot about causes. What causes are closest to your heart and why?
JM: I suppose the usual again. Equality & justice for all. I am a feminist, with no prevarication. And prevention of cruelty to animals, the diminishing of endangered species, & relentless & pointless poaching - those things never far from my thoughts.
KG: I believe in the woman’s movement, I was happy to see The Me-Too movement was very high profile this year and you’ve said you are a feminist, what female actors have influenced, impressed you the most and you’ve enjoyed their work?
JM: What an interesting question! I've never thought of that. I always identified with the work of Jane Fonda - the era of Klute. But also, had a bit of a girl crush on Jean-Luc Godard's muse Anna Karina.
KG: What, if any, are your acting and creative plans for the future?
JM: I have always said I wouldn't return to onscreen work, but last year I was persuaded to take part in a short spoof Horror film called 'Frankula' produced by The Misty Moon Film Society, starring alongside the wonderful Caroline Munro, who I've always wanted to work with; also, the fabulously talented Emma Dark, & the actor & writer David Barry. I surprised myself by enjoying it enormously so who knows what 2017 might offer. There have already been a couple of suggestions made.
But right now I 'm recovering from a foot injury & just keeping fingers crossed that it heals quickly so that I can focus on some of the offers that have come in.
KG: With your beauty and talent I’m sure you’ll get plenty of good offers. At my age, I don't like to make too many plans, hell I don't even buy a full year long diary these days.
JM: No plans. I’m not good at making plans. Just gonna see what comes up...
KG: What advice would you give to young up and coming actors trying to make their way in film?
JM: Another good question. First off, learn your craft. Get professional training. Watch other actors & learn from them. Keep learning & practising the craft. Don't aim to be famous, aim to be good.
That’s very good sound advice there and even though I say so myself I must also say that was a wonderful interview with a great lady. I for one hope Judy feels the lure of doing more acting as she’s very talented, witty, and charming.
Thank you so much to Judy Matheson for her time and permision to use her photos.
if you would like to follow her on twitter Judy can be found here: @judyjarvis
And her fantastic facebook fan page is well worth a look and a like and can be found here:
Thank you Judy, you are as classy as you are beautiful.
Love always Kensington Gore xx
©KGHH Publishing 2017