Several years ago, back in 1999 I read about a new play in London's West End that intrigued me. It was The Lady in the Van, written by the wonderful Alan Bennett, who wrote among other things such award-winning plays (and their movie adaptations) as The Madness of King George and The History Boys. He's also one of the founding members of Beyond the Fringe, the legendary comedy troupe that also included Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and the now-eminent Dr. Jonathan Miller.
The stage show starred Maggie Smith, and told the story of a homeless woman who is given permission by a homeowner to park her beaten-up van in his driveway for three weeks. And stayed for 15 years. Not only is the play based on a true story -- the homeowner whose life it's based on is...Alan Bennett himself.
I just saw today that it's been made into a movie, and Maggie Smith is recreating her original starring role. When I saw a photo from the film I thought with fascination that Alan Bennett was returning to acting and playing himself, but no it's the actor Alex Jennings playing Bennett.
You will understand my initial uncertainty...
Also in the cast are Jim Broadbent, Frances de la Tour and, obviously finding time before he began his talk show, James Corden (who also was in the stage and film version of Bennett's History Boys.)
Bennett wrote a memoir of the events, which is what he adapted into the stage play, and now the film. It's scheduled to release in December for Oscar eligibility (for Maggie Smith), and then a wider, though still-limited run in January.
Here's the trailer. (There's a wonderful exchange that ends a second trailer, but I think this one tells the story a bit better. The exchange comes after Bennett has clearly gone out his way for years on this woman's behalf, helping her endlessly. Pushing her down the road in a wheelchair, he asks her if he could make her a cup of coffee. She answers -- "Oh, nooo, no, I don't want you to go to all that trouble. I'll just have half a cup."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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