Angela Lansbury is known to Australian audiences as the writer who solves murder mysteries in the long running American series 'Murder She Wrote'.
Not slowing down at age 87, she's in Australia to play a much different role, along with actors Boyd Gaines and James Earle Jones, in 'Driving Miss Daisy'.
“It's a new role for me, I'm going into it hoping to bring something to the play that may be a little different than anyone else has up until now, and (hoping) to work with the best as an actress,” Ms Lansbury told SBS. “The three of us together are going to be triumvirate – I hope.”
The legendary actress is a draw-card even for her co-stars. “She's got no greater fan certainly than I,” American actor Gaines said of his co-star. “I'm thrilled, that's why I'm here.”
African-American Actor James Earle Jones, known to many as the voice of Darth Vadar in the Star Wars movies, says he doesn't know what to expect of the Australian production, which is part of the fun.
“Every night we have to go out on the stage and play to a new audience,” says Jones. “No matter how many times we've repeated it, a new audience needs a new play, and a new audience in Australia is a whole new play, an Australian play.”
Together, they'll tell the story of an uptight Southern Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur.
“I feel that Driving Miss Daisy is an opportunity for you to see a woman who always says all the way through the play 'I'm not prejudiced. You know I am not prejudiced',” says Lansbury of her character. “But the point is that she was, whether she realised it or not.”
James Earl Jones plays Hoke Holeburn, always dignified in the face of racial oppression.
“That's a particular man, it's a particular man difficult to portray these days I guess, when young disadvantaged boys especially look for some payback time,” says Jones. “Young men are restless around the world, and if their colours are dark, that restlessness goes very deep, because it has been going on for a long, long time. It tires everyone's patience.”
Between them, the actors have over ten Tony Awards for excellence in live performance on Broadway, and they will bring theseremarkable talents with them to Australian stages, in a gruelling tour that will take them to four cities in as many months. Starting in Brisbane in February, they will then perform to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide audiences.
Producer John Frost says the opportunity to see these three actors in a play together in Australia is extremely rare.
“I believe the Australian public want to see stars,” said the theatre veteran. “And when they get an opportunity to see three people like this, it's out of the ordinary, it doesn't really happen.”
The play first opened in New York in 1987, winning a Pulitzer prize, and only three years later it was adapted to a film version, directed by Australia's Bruce Beresford, and which won the Best Screen Adaptation ad Best Picture Awards.