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Saturday, February 13, 2016



The Lady in the Van
The Lady in the Van film poster.jpg
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byNicholas Hytner
Produced by
Screenplay byAlan Bennett
Based onThe Lady in the Van
by Alan Bennett
Music byGeorge Fenton
CinematographyAndrew Dunn
Edited byTariq Anwar
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release dates
Running time
104 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$6 million[2]
Box office$19.2 million[3]

The Lady in the Van is an English comedy-drama film directed by Nicholas Hytner, written by Alan Bennett, and starring Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings

It tells the true story of Margaret Fairchild ("Mary Shepherd"), a woman who lived in a dilapidated van on Bennett's driveway in Camden Town for a couple of years.

Smith previously portrayed Shepherd twice: in the original 1999 theatrical production, which earned her a Best Actress nomination at the 2000 Olivier Awards and in the 2009 BBC Radio 4 adaptation.
Hytner directed the original stage production at the Queen's Theatre in London, while Bennett adapted the screenplay from his West End play of the same name, which was nominated at the Olivier Awards for Play of the Year.

The film was shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

The Lady in the Van tells the true story of Alan Bennett's strained friendship with Margaret Fairchild ("Mary Shepherd"), an eccentric homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in the 1970s before allowing her temporarily to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home.

Margaret Fairchild stayed there for 15 years. 

As the story develops Bennett learns that Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild, a former gifted pupil of the pianist Alfred Cortot

She had played Chopin in a promenade concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to an institution by her brother, escaped, had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist for which she believed herself to blame, and thereafter lived in fear of arrest.


The principal cast of Bennett's play, The History Boys, appear in cameo roles, with the exception of de la Tour, who has a more prominent role in the film; and Richard Griffiths.

This includes: Samuel Barnett (as Donald), Samuel Anderson (as a Jehovah's witness), Stephen Campbell Moore (as a doctor), Dominic Cooper (as a theatre actor), James Corden (as a street trader), Sacha Dhawan (as Doctor Malik), Andrew Knott (as an ambulance driver), Clive Merrison (as a man attending confession), Jamie Parker (as an estate agent), and Russell Tovey (as a man with earrings).

The Lady in the Van was greenlit on 3 June 2014, TriStar Productions and BBC Films working together to make the film adaptation of Alan Bennett's West End hit. 

TriStar won the film rights to handle worldwide distribution, while the BBC will be the first to show the film on television in the UK. 

The involvement of Maggie Smith and Nicholas Hytner was announced simultaneously with the film, but they were attached to the project as early as 9 May (coincidentally Bennett's 80th birthday).

Both of them had collaborated with Bennett in the past.

Hytner on The Madness of King George in 1994, and the film adaptation of The History Boys (in 2006), while Smith had portrayed Miss Shepherd in the original theatre production in 1999, and again in a 2009 radio adaptation by BBC Radio 4.
Principal photography began in London in October 2014.

The film was shot in and around Bennett's old house in Camden, where the real Miss Shepherd spent 15 years on his driveway.

According to Hytner, they never considered filming anywhere else, and it was entertaining to see the look on all the residents’ faces, many of whom were there when the van drove down the crescent.

Filming was a difficult experience for Smith because she spent most of her time confined to one van or another.

The van wasn't the most comfortable of places, and the film was much more concentrated than the play.

The stage version was more physically demanding, but Smith admitted it was a long time ago and she could handle it back then.

She joked that not a lot of method acting was required when you were dressed as she was, and in a van.'

The production crew filmed for two days in November 2014 in Broadstairs in Thanet, Kent, notably Viking Bay, featuring Morelli's Gelato and the Palace Cinema.

Producer Kevin Loader described Viking Bay as the perfect location and said the area had benefited by £40,000, as the 50-strong crew stayed locally and took advantage of the various restaurants and bars.

Broadstairs was the only filming location outside London.

The film's score, consisting of classical music, was composed by George Fenton.

It was released as a soundtrack album through Sony Classical Records, a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment, on 6 November 2015 in the United Kingdom.

This is to be followed by a 11 December release in the United States.[21]

The worldwide premiere was held on 12 September 2015, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

This was followed by the UK premiere on 13 October at the 59th BFI London Film Festival; which, in turn, was succeeded by the US premiere on November 15, at the 38th Denver International Film Festival.

 It was released in UK theatres on 13 November 2015, while a limited theatrical release took place on 15 January 2016 in the US.
The first trailer was released on 26 February 2015, followed by a teaser poster on March 5.

A new and extended trailer was released on 4 September.[29]

The Lady in the Van received largely positive reviews, with particular praise being aimed at Smith's acting.

Rotten Tomatoes reports that 93% of critics gave the film a positive review.

This was based on 89 reviews, with an average score of 7.3 out of 10.

Led by a marvelous performance from Maggie Smith, Lady in the Van wrings poignant, often hilarious insight from its fact-based source material.

Metacritic holds a score of 69 based on 26 reviews, also indicating generally favorable reviews.
"Maggie Smith delivers a compelling performance in The Lady in the Van, as Alan Bennett’s play comes to the big screen 15 years after it premiered at the National Theatre."
— Kate Muir, of The Times, following the worldwide premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.[32]

Guy Lodge, of Variety magazine, attended the worldwide premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

After the screening, he described Smith's portrayal of Mary Shepherd as "one of the most tailor-made leading roles of her late career".

Even though the film is "low on narrative drive" and "marred by a misjudged final act", Hytner's amiable love fest" is "enlivened by Smith’s signature irascibility; silver-dollar auds should turn up, if not in droves, at least in healthy vanloads.".

Frank Scheck, of The Hollywood Reporter, also attended the premiere, and like Lodge, he felt Smith's character was the "driving force" behind the film.

Not to his surprise, Smith "fully exploits the humor in her character's bizarreness".

For example, when her character "receives guidance from the Virgin Mary; her utter obliviousness to her lack of personal hygiene; her hatred of music that sends her fleeing whenever she hears a note; and her ragtag wardrobe that's been assembled from various dumpsters".

In spite of the humour, Scheck praised Smith for "subtly convey[ing] the emotional pain and desperation of [an] addled woman, especially in the scenes [where she is] taken away by social services and gently treated to a thorough washing, feeding and medical examination".

"She brilliantly re-creates her stage role [from] Alan Bennett’s autobiographical play about Miss Shepherd."
Lou Lumenick, of the New York Post, speaking of Maggie Smith.[22]

Ian Nathan, of Empire magazine, awarded the film four out of five stars.

Like many, he applauded Smith's "liberating" role, describing her as "shrill and hilarious, but not a joke".

He also commended the directing, saying/

Unshowy to a fault, Hytner delivers a fine, moving comedy of English manners between a writer and his eccentric tenant, which slowly deepens into an exploration of human bonds.

In a similar fashion, Peter Bradshaw, of The Guardian, awarded four out of five stars and called it an "enjoyable film from Nicholas Hytner".

While he felt Smith’s performance - "honed from previous stage and radio" adaptations - was "terrifically good", he praised Jennings for giving a "sharp and sympathetic performance as Bennett".

"It’s all good fun, it’s just a shame about the attempts to impose drama on what is essentially a comic character study."
— Kaleem Aftab, of The Independent, speaking of The Lady in the Van.[36]

Donald Clarke, of The Irish Times, awarded the film three out of five stars.

He said Smith's role is "indecently appropriate", while de la Tour's is "fabulous", and Allam's is "equally as good" as the latter.

The "problem" with the film is "that, like Miss Shepherd’s van, the story rarely" moves on.

It remains "gracelessly the same throughout", with "narrative details" being "plucked like unattached footnotes".

When the characters do "open up", during a "bafflingly appalling final scene", you "rather wish the doors had remained shut".[37]

Also awarding three out of five stars, Stella Papamichael, of the Radio Times, had similar feelings.

Smith and Jennings' characters "veer close to a moment of pathos towards the end [of the film], but [it's not] too profound. 

The social awkwardness [leaves] a more lingering impression" on the audience.

Jess Hassenger, of AV Club, gave a "rotten" review, stating that "by design", The Lady in the Van is "flawed" because the film is "supposed to be revealing Bennett, not Shepherd"; a fact that many "will be reminded of before the film’s end".

Smith's character is very "commanding" on screen, while Jennings "honorably tends to his character’s quiet, semi-closeted homosexuality".

No "matter how many meaningful considerations of mortality" are thrown his way; through the screenplay, Jennings "doesn't have a chance" against Smith.

On the contrary, Slant Magazine's Elise Nakhnikian said the film is all about the "fastidious, somewhat timid, and reclusive playwright Alan Bennett", and stated the film's "annoying glibness is neatly summarized" by the line: "In life, going downhill is an uphill job".


201573rd Golden Globe AwardsBest Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or ComedyMaggie SmithNominated[41]
201569th British Academy Film AwardsBest Actress in a Leading RoleMaggie SmithPending[42]
201543rd Evening Standard British Film AwardsBest ActressMaggie SmithWon[43]


  1. Jump up^ "THE LADY IN THE VAN (12A)"British Board of Film Classification. 20 July 2015. Retrieved3 February 2016.
  2. Jump up^ Feinstein, Sharon. "Downton dowager is happy on tramp’s pay"The Sunday Times, published October 26, 2014. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  3. Jump up^ "The Lady in the Van"Box Office Mojo, published November 29, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  4. Jump up to:a b c d Thomas, Kate. "A Dame in tramp's clothing! Maggie Smith dresses as homeless woman as she films Lady In The Van alongside James Corden"Daily Mail, published October 23, 2014. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  5. Jump up to:a b Press Release. "The Lady in the Van trailer: first look at Maggie Smith in the film of Alan Bennett's play"The Daily Telegraph, published February 26, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  6. Jump up^ Kay, Jeremy. "Toronto to open with 'Demolition'; world premieres for 'Trumbo', 'The Program'"Screen Daily, published July 28, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
  7. Jump up to:a b Lodge, Guy. "Toronto Film Review: 'The Lady in the Van'"Variety, published September 12, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  8. Jump up to:a b Payne, Steve. "Film review: The Lady in the Van (9 out of 10)"West Sussex County Times, published November 13, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  9. Jump up to:a b Robey, Tim. "The Lady in the Van review: 'cosily enjoyable'"The Daily Telegraph, published November 12, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  10. Jump up^ Maran, Mani. "LFF 2015: The Lady In The Van"Empire Magazine, published October 13, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  11. Jump up^ Bamigboye, Baz. "Dame Maggie makes a date with Bennett's History Boys"Daily Mail, published October 9, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  12. Jump up^ Press Release. "TriStar Productions greenlights film version of The Lady in the Van starring Maggie Smith"Sony Pictures, published June 3, 2014. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  13. Jump up^ Entertainment & Arts. "Alan Bennett's Lady in the Van getting big screen treatment"BBC, published May 9, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  14. Jump up^ Pulver, Andrew. "Nicholas Hytner to direct adaptation of Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van",The Guardian, published May 9, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  15. Jump up^ Kroll, Justin. "TriStar Productions Teams With BBC Films on Maggie Smith’s 'Lady in the Van'"Variety, published June 3, 2014. Retrieve December 2, 2015.
  16. Jump up^ Thomas, Kate. "A Dame in tramp's clothing! Maggie Smith dresses as homeless woman as she films Lady In The Van alongside James Corden"Daily Mail, published October 23, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  17. Jump up^ Pulver, Andrew. "Alan Bennett: 'It was weird to film The Lady in the Van in my old house'",The Guardian, published October 13, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  18. Jump up^ Extra Reporter. "The Lady in the Van: Maggie Smith film shot in Broadstairs is released today"Kent Online, published November 13, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  19. Jump up^ Fenton, George"George Fenton Recordings"www.georgefentonmusic.com, published November 30, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  20. Jump up^ "'The Lady in the Van (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)' by George Fenton"AllMusic, published November 30, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  21. Jump up^ Film Music Reporter. "'The Lady in the Van' Soundtrack Detailswww.filmmusicreporter.com, published September 28, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  22. Jump up to:a b Lumenick, Lou"This film might land Maggie Smith her seventh Oscar nod"New York Post, published September 16, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  23. Jump up^ Press Release. "The 59th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® announces full 2015 programme"BFI London Film Festival, published September 10, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  24. Jump up^ Holden, Will C.. "2015 Denver Film Festival: 3 films worth seeing each day"Fox 31 Denver, published November 4, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  25. Jump up^ Finbow, Katy. "Maggie Smith lives on a driveway in The Lady in the Van trailer"Digital Spy, published February 28, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  26. Jump up^ Gans, Andrew. "Maggie Smith Vehicle "Lady in the Van" Will Open in New York and Los Angeles in December"Playbill, published September 25, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  27. Jump up^ Bullock, Dan. "Wonderful First Trailer For Alan Bennett Scripted 'The Lady In The Van'",www.thehollywoodnews.com, published February 26, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  28. Jump up^ Lloyd, Kenji. "First Poster for Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van with Maggie Smith",www.finalreel.co.uk, published March 5, 2015. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  29. Jump up^ Ryan, Beth. "The Lady in the Van: watch Maggie Smith in the new trailer"The Daily Telegraph, published September 4, 2015. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  30. Jump up^ "The Lady in the Van"Rotten Tomatoes, published November 30, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  31. Jump up^ "The Lady in the Van"Metacritic, published November 15, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  32. Jump up^ Muir, Kate"The Lady in the Van at Toronto Film Festival"The Times, published September 14, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  33. Jump up^ Scheck, Frank"'The Lady in the Van': TIFF Review"The Hollywood Reporter, published September 12, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  34. Jump up^ Nathan, Ian. "'The Lady in the Van' Review"Empire, published November 2, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  35. Jump up^ Bradshaw, Peter"The Lady in the Van review – Maggie Smith terrific as the muse in the driveway"The Guardian, published November 12, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  36. Jump up^ Aftab, Kaleem. "The Lady in the Van - Film review: Maggie Smith shines in odd couple comedy"The Independent, published September 20, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  37. Jump up^ Clarke, Donald. "Lady in the Van review: Alan Bennett’s everywhere, but Maggie Smith shines"The Irish Times, published November 12, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  38. Jump up^ Papamichael, Stella. "The Lady in the Van"Radio Times, published November 13, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  39. Jump up^ Hassenger, Jesse. "Maggie Smith looks for a Philomena of her own with The Lady In The Van"AV Club, published December 3, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  40. Jump up^ Nakhnikian, Elise. "The Lady in the Van"Slant Magazine, published November 30, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  41. Jump up^ "Winners & Nominees 2016"Hollywood Foreign Press Association. HFPA. 2015-12-10. goldenglobes.com. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
  42. Jump up^ "Leading Actress in 2016"BAFTA. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  43. Jump up^ "Evening Standard British Film Awards - the contenders"London Evening Standard. EveningStandard. 2016-01-14. standard.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-01-14.

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