Sky Atlantic's epic drama about the Romans invading ancient Britain, starring Zoë as vengeful Queen Antedia, returned for a second series on 7 November. Both series are available via Sky and NOW TV.

Worzel Gummidge

Zoë plays eccentric aristocrat Lady Bloomsbury Barton in the second episode of the BBC’s new adaptation of Barbara Euphan Todd’s classic children’s stories, which aired just after Christmas. It's available via the BBC iPlayer.

Shadow and Bone

Zoë recently finished filming this major new fantasy series for Netflix, based on Leigh Bardugo’s novels. She's been cast as Baghra, a ruthless teacher. The release date hasn't yet been announced.


Celebrating this website’s 16th anniversary with 16 rare photos

30 July 2018 01:45

I had to pinch myself earlier this month when I realised that the website’s 16th anniversary was on the horizon. The site has changed immeasurably since it first appeared online on 30 July 2002, but its aim remains the same: to be the internet’s most comprehensive resource for Zoë Wanamaker’s many enthusiastic fans around the world.

To celebrate the anniversary, here are 16 rare photos of Zoë collected by me over the years (click on them to see bigger versions). I hope you enjoy them as much as I’ve enjoyed choosing and commenting on each one.

1. A legend in the making

Zoë wears a gauntlet in this unusual magazine photo from 1989, inspired by Laurence Olivier’s landmark performance as Henry V in Shakespeare’s play, for which he wore a suit of armour. The magazine wondered if the next acting legend, following Olivier’s passing earlier in the year, might be a woman. As it pointed out, Zoë’s name is ‘a byword for excellence’.

2. Surveying the Globe

Had you been at Shakespeare’s Globe on the day this photo was taken, around 1995, you could’ve been forgiven for thinking that a ghostly figure from the theatre’s past – perhaps even Elizabeth I herself – was surveying the progress being made on its reconstruction. If you’d then looked closely, you’d surely have recognised the famous face and trademark spiky hair of the daughter of actor and director Sam Wanamaker, who spearheaded the project to rebuild the Globe on London’s South Bank.

Zoë’s Elizabethan-style costume suggests that the theatre will stay true to its heritage, while the presence of a workman in contemporary dress is a sign that it’s well on its way to bringing Shakespeare to modern audiences.

3. High spirits when rehearsing His Girl Friday

Director Jack O’Brien shares a joke with Zoë in this delightful photo taken during rehearsals for the National Theatre’s production of His Girl Friday in 2003. You can almost hear Zoë giggling when you look at it! She was preparing to play feisty Hildy Johnson in the fast-paced comedy. Her Hildy was, The New Yorker declared, ‘a petite dynamo with a glint in her eye’.

4. Childhood fun and fancy dress

There's laughter in this photo too! Aged about eight or nine, Zoë is pictured enjoying a birthday party at her friend Jenny’s house. She’s wearing a fancy dress costume inspired by one of Mark Twain’s best-loved characters, the wild but kind-hearted Huckleberry Finn, from novels such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. ‘Mum had painted freckles on my face and I wore a check shirt and braces with rolled-up jeans and bare feet,’ Zoë recalled when speaking to a magazine about the photo in 2007.

‘I’m sure it was my decision to come to the party as Huckleberry Finn,’ she added. ‘I was born in New York, where I lived until I was three when we moved to London. I was brought up on American books [...] Jenny had the Bobbsey Twins books so I wanted them too (everything Jenny had I wanted).’

5. Black and white and bold

Can you imagine anyone taking more beautiful photos of Zoë than the hugely talented Jillian Edelstein? The masterful use of light and shade in this portrait from 1990 highlights Zoë’s distinctive profile. Another profile shot from the same photoshoot was shown at London’s National Portrait Gallery in 2012, as part of an exhibition about contemporary actresses.

6. Oaks for Shakespeare’s Globe

In this magazine photo from 1992, Zoë and her dad are leaning on a felled oak in Gloucestershire's ancient Forest of Dean. The tree was one of a number given by the Forestry Commission to the project to rebuild Shakespeare’s Globe. With construction underway, the Globe’s trust had made a nationwide appeal to estate owners for 250 full-grown trees. Those provided were destined to become part of the iconic structure of the theatre often called the 'Wooden O'.

7. Marriage to Gawn Grainger

Zoë and the actor and writer Gawn Grainger are pictured looking very happy indeed on their wedding day in London in 1994. Like his wife, Gawn has a successful career encompassing theatre, TV and film. Talking to a newspaper a couple of years after they married, he remarked modestly that ‘Zoë and I are very different actors. She’s better than I am.’

8. Tapestries gifted to the Globe

In 1994, Prince Philip unveiled four stunning tapestries at the partially-built Shakespeare’s Globe. Following the unveiling, Zoë was photographed for a magazine in front of the embroidered, Elizabethan-style hangings, which were a gift from New Zealand. 500 embroiderers, working with the nation’s famous wool, had spent more than a year producing them. The tapestries adorned the stage’s background in the Globe’s early days and now hang in the theatre’s exhibition.

9. These are a few of her favourite things

‘My home is very important to me. It’s like a reaffirmation of who I am,’ Zoë explained in the magazine interview this photo illustrates, published in 1994. ‘For me, possessions weave a fantasy about family, home, warmth and open fires and the good old days of storybooks and childhood.’

Appropriately enough, she’s surrounded by a selection of her favourite things. On display are paintings – one depicts Italy’s La Scala opera house and the other, by Frances Crichton Stuart, a seaside scene – and an antique Clarice Cliff bowl Zoë bought while touring with the RSC. Some objects, such as the wind-up duck with a spinning hat, quirky vase and coin-snatching moneybox, have novelty value. There’s a tiny bottle of Jean Patou’s luxury perfume, 1000, and an empty amethyst scent bottle from 1988 film The Raggedy Rawney. The sign may only be cardboard, but it carries an important message: ‘don’t postpone joy’.

10. Zoë shows her tough side

When this striking photo of Zoë was taken at a pool hall in 1999, her portrayal of Ancient Greek tragedy’s Electra was taking modern Broadway audiences by storm, having already caused a sensation in the UK. Zoë’s masculine tailoring finds a parallel in the costume she wore on stage: Electra’s petite frame was engulfed by her late father’s enormous coat.

11. Finding fame

From tough to glamorous: this photo appeared alongside a 1994 magazine interview in which Zoë reflected on Love Hurts’ impact on her life. The incredibly popular BBC drama, which had ended earlier in the year, brought her into millions of TV viewers’ homes. ‘Adam [Faith, who co-starred] and I were both astounded by its success,’ Zoë emphasised. ‘Now people know who I am and, so long as they’re nice, it’s great.’

12. A quiet moment amid Much Ado

2007 was a busy year for Zoë at the National Theatre: after Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo, she turned her attention to Much Ado About Nothing. This photo captures her in a contemplative mood during rehearsals for Shakespeare’s comedy, in which she played prickly, poignant Beatrice. Whenever I see it, I always wonder what Zoë is thinking.

13. Casual chic and cheeky charm

Zoë exudes casual chic in this 2015 portrait from a women’s magazine, while an amusing anecdote from the accompanying interview reveals her playful sense of humour. ‘There was a day on the Poirot set,’ Zoë remarked, recalling her role as eccentric crime writer Ariadne Oliver. ‘[The crew] were holding up all these special reflective boards around David [Suchet, in costume as Poirot]. I said, ‘‘What’s with all the light on him? I’m a girl. I need all the help I can get.’’ They said, ‘‘It’s the moustache. We’re having to light the moustache.’’ So the next day I came in with a moustache. ‘‘Okay, gimme!’’ I told them.’

14. Celebrating My Family’s centenary

Zoë’s rapport with her co-star, Robert Lindsay, is clear in this newspaper photo from 2009. They certainly had plenty to smile about: their hit BBC comedy, which owed so much to its stars’ on-screen chemistry, was about to reach its 100th episode. The milestone reaffirmed My Family’s position in the popular imagination. ‘The public own it now,’ Zoë concluded.

15. Zoë’s career skyrockets

When Zoë was photographed for a women’s magazine in 1979, she’d reached a new high in her career. Having ‘scored a stunning success’ (in the magazine’s words) in the RSC’s revival of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s comedy Once in a Lifetime, she was on track to win her first Olivier award.

In the interview that accompanied this photo, Zoë noted that ‘in the theatre it takes time to know exactly where you fit in’. At the end of her first decade as a professional actor, she was both successful and self-possessed. The magazine was impressed. ‘At thirty, Zoë Wanamaker is very much her own lady,’ it emphasised.

16. Sam Wanamaker’s pride in his daughter

This sweet photo of Zoë and her dad accompanied a 1986 magazine interview in which they discussed their close bond. Sam recalled his daughter being a ‘delightful’ child. ‘She exuded charm, she gave her affection freely and openly, and she laughed a lot and enjoyed giggling and having fun. She was always performing, dancing or skipping or singing.’

Zoë’s talent, caring nature and zest for life were now helping her to become a popular, acclaimed actor. ‘She is an asset to have in any production because she always produces something very special and individual,’ Sam emphasised, reflecting on his daughter’s achievements. ‘There’s something about her that you like, you instinctively like Zoë.’

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