Joanna Lumley turned down 'vulgar' Shaft role

·2-min read

Joanna Lumley turned down a role in movie classic Shaft, because she thought the script was too vulgar.

The Absolutely Fabulous star even refused to read for the part, which landed her a reprimand from casting director Maude Spector, who insisted the Brit would never work in Hollywood if she was too prim and proper.

"I can remember on a casting list for a film to be made called Shaft, which eventually became a big hit and one of the great casting directors, Maude Spector, gave me two pages to look at before we went in with the directors," Lumley tells Esther Rantzen on her That's After Life! podcast.

"I looked at it and it was so foul and vulgar and Maude and the directors said 'next', and I remember saying, 'I can't do this. I'm so sorry I'm going to give it back to you'. They were furious and I remember Maude shouting after me, 'You want to be an actress?'

"But it was filthy, filthy filthy, squalid sex addict sex worker stuff."

Lumley admits she also had problems with nudity in films, but actresses were expected to titillate on camera when she started out.

"You never saw the front of a man but you'd always see the front of a woman," she says. "All women were expected to go topless - Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Christie, we all had to take our top off. It was part of the titillation of the time.

"I was in a film called the Breaking Of Bumbo and I was in that with the gorgeous Richard Warwick (and) we were doing one of these love scenes where we walked towards each other, both naked as the day we were born, but guess what, you saw Richard's back and bottom and you see all my front. That was par of the course. I hated nude scenes. I never longed to strip off and run into the sea. I'm quite a prude."

The 74 year old also appeared topless in the 1971 film Games That Lovers Play, in which she played a brothel owner.