I talked with director Phyllida Lloyd on December 7, 2011, in the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton in San Franisco. It was a fitting location to discuss her opulent prodution of THE IRON LADY, a psychological biography of Margaret Thatcher. During the conversation, as diners around us happily enjoyed tea and scones, Lloyd discussed Thatcher’s double outsider status as a member of the Conservative Party, Meryl Streep’s triple outsider status as an American taking on the role of the the most powerful British woman of the 20th century, and why hands tell as much, if not more, about what’s going through a person’s mind than anything to be found on that person’s face.
The film is a consideration of the life of Margaret Thatcher told in flashback as Lady Thatcher in retirement recalls her remarkable life and the obstacles she overcame to become the 20th century’s longest-serving British Prime Minister. Thatcher is played by Meryl Streep, and Jim Broadbent is her husband and biggest supporter, Denis. Lloyd directed from a screenplay by Abi Morgan, who also wrote another film getting a lot of press this year, SHAME. Lloyd’s previous work includes extensive work directing theater and opera. She directed the original version of MAMA MIA and went on to direct the film version, in which Streep also starred. MAMA MIA was and is the highest grossing British film of all time.