Sheila Hancock: Most of my characters go senile or die now I’m in my 80s

The actress is best known to modern audiences for New Tricks.
The actress is best known to modern audiences for New Tricks. The actress is best known to modern audiences for New Tricks.

Sheila Hancock has said that most of the roles she takes on have a “tragic” ending now that she is in her 80s.

The 85-year-old actress stars in Edie, a film about an octogenarian woman who embarks on a mission to embrace her new freedom and climb a Scottish mountain following the death of her overbearing husband.

She said the role “inspired” her because of its positive character arc, but that it was a rare role that did not end in tragedy or death.

Hancock told the Press Association: “I think one of the best things about the part is, when you get to my age, the first thing I do is look at the end and usually, I either die or I go senile.

“I mean, it’s very seldom that I get parts where they end on a positive note, or even a half positive note, or continue to exist. They have to be tragic.”

She added, of Edie: “So it was really wonderful to do a part I know the audiences come out of feeling inspired by.

“It’s great to be inspired by old age, I think.”

Hancock, best known for roles in TV series including The Rag Trade in the 1960s and New Tricks in more recent years, said she feels she was “lucky” to have landed the role.

“I think I only got this – there’s a lot of people above the pegging than me – and I couldn’t understand why I was being offered this part until I realised that they actually wanted me to climb the mountain and though there’s a lot of old actors, there’s not all of them that could climb the mountain and remember the lines and all that,” she said.

“So that’s why I got it, and I was very lucky.”

She said that the physical challenge was “pretty scary” and that she spent “quite a lot of time terrified” while filming, which often consisted of 16-hour days in cold weather in the Scottish Highlands.

“But I got quite physically fit which was very satisfying,” she added.

“I did three months going to the gym every other day, and I did Nordic walking, and I did a bit of climbing and things before we started.

“And I learnt to row in the week before we started filming, so I quite enjoyed the feeling of my body becoming young again, which is what it had to do, because an old lady can’t bend her knees in the way that I had to.

“So that was good. It’s all gone now, I can barely move now. But it was a great thing.”

Edie is released in cinemas on May 25.