Dame Julie Walters says famous comical characters were based on grandmother

The star said she took inspiration from the much-loved relative who had dementia.

Dame Julie Walters has told how some of her first and most famous characters were based on her own grandmother.

The acclaimed actress, 67, said roles such as the comical Mrs Overall were inspired by much-loved relative Granny O’Brien, who had vascular dementia.

After more than 40 years in the business, the Harry Potter star was recently made a dame by the Queen in a prestigious Buckingham Palace ceremony – a moment she described as a greater honour than being nominated for an Academy award.

Still best-known for her repertoire of eccentric but lovable mothers and grandmothers, she told The Observer newspaper: “I think a lot of it was watching my grandmother … She was my first part, really.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Dame Julie Walters was presented with the prestigious honour by the Queen (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“She had vascular dementia – which unfortunately as children we found massively entertaining.

“We all lived in this little house: three kids, her, no washing machine. How my mother dealt with us all, I don’t know.”

She remembered fondly how her grandmother used to turn up at the post office in the middle of the night and once tried to eat a boiled egg with a pair of coal tongs as she explained how she mimicked her mannerisms, as well as those of “the ladies from round about and my mother’s friends”.

Currently playing Mrs Bird in Paddington 2, Dame Julie is already lined up for three big-screen releases, including Country Music, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Mary Poppins Returns.

Commenting on her own transition into maturity, she said: “Oh frig it! Who cares?”

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