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The Iron Lady (film)

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The Iron Lady (film)

The Iron Lady
British cinema poster
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Produced by Damian Jones
Written by Abi Morgan
Starring Meryl Streep
Jim Broadbent
Iain Glen
Olivia Colman
Anthony Head
Richard E. Grant
Music by Thomas Newman[1]
Cinematography Elliott Davis
Edited by Justin Wright
Distributed by 20th Century Fox (U.K.)
The Weinstein Company (U.S.A.)
Icon Productions (Australia)
Release dates
  • 26 December 2011 (2011-12-26) (Australia & New Zealand)
  • 6 January 2012 (2012-01-06) (United Kingdom)
  • 13 January 2012 (2012-01-13) (United States)
Running time
104 minutes[2]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £8.2 million[3]
Box office $115 million[4]

The Iron Lady is a 2011 British biographical film based on the life of Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013), the longest-serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the 20th century.[5] The film was directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Thatcher is portrayed primarily by Meryl Streep,[6] and, in her formative and early political years, by Alexandra Roach. Thatcher's husband, Denis Thatcher, is portrayed by Jim Broadbent, and by Harry Lloyd as the younger Denis. Thatcher's longest-serving cabinet member and eventual deputy, Geoffrey Howe, is portrayed by Anthony Head.[7]

While the film was met with mixed reviews, Streep's performance was widely acclaimed, and considered to be one of the finest of her career. She received her 17th Best Actress Oscar nomination for her portrayal and ultimately won the award, 29 years after her first win. She also earned her third Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama award (her eighth Golden Globe Award win overall), and her second BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The film also won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and the BAFTA Award for Best Makeup and Hair.


The film begins in September 2008 (opening against the backdrop of news of the Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing) with an elderly Lady Thatcher buying milk unrecognized by other customers and walking back from the shop alone. Over the course of three days, we see her struggle with dementia and with the lack of power that comes with old age, while looking back on defining moments of her personal and professional life, on which she reminisces with her (now-dead) husband, Denis Thatcher, whose death she is unable to fully accept. She is shown as having difficulty distinguishing between the past and present. A theme throughout the film is the personal price that Thatcher has paid for power. Denis is portrayed as somewhat ambivalent about his wife's rise to power, her son Mark lives in South Africa and is shown as having little contact with his mother, and Thatcher's relationship with her daughter Carol is at times strained.

In flashbacks we are shown Thatcher's youth, working in the family grocery store in Grantham, listening to the political speeches of her father, whom she idolised – it is also hinted that she had a poor relationship with her mother, a housewife – and announcing that she has won a place at the University of Oxford. She remembers her struggle, as a young lower-middle class woman, to break into a snobbish male-dominated Tory party and find a seat in the House of Commons, along with businessman Denis Thatcher's marriage proposal to her. Her struggles to fit in as a "Lady Member" of the House, and as Education Secretary in Edward Heath's cabinet are also shown, as are her friendship with Airey Neave (later assassinated by the Irish National Liberation Army), her decision to stand for Leader of the Conservative Party and eventual victory, and her voice coaching and image change.

Further flashbacks examine historical events during her time as Prime Minister, after winning the 1979 general election, including the rising unemployment related to her monetarist policies and the tight 1981 budget (over the misgivings of "wet" members of her Cabinet – Ian Gilmour, Francis Pym, Michael Heseltine, and Jim Prior), the 1981 Brixton riot, the 1984–1985 UK miners' strike, and the bombing in Brighton of the Grand Hotel during the 1984 Conservative Party Conference, when she and Denis were almost killed. We also see (slightly out of chronological sequence) her decision to retake the Falkland Islands following the islands' invasion by Argentina in 1982, the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano and Britain's subsequent victory in the Falklands War, her friendship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and emergence as a world figure, and the economic boom of the late 1980s.

By 1990, Thatcher is shown as an imperious but aging figure, ranting aggressively at her cabinet, refusing to accept that the Community Charge (the "Poll Tax") which was regarded as unjust, even while it is causing riots, and fiercely opposed to European Integration. Her deputy Geoffrey Howe resigns after being humiliated by her in a cabinet meeting, Heseltine challenges her for the party leadership, and her loss of support from her cabinet colleagues leaves her little choice but to reluctantly resign as Prime Minister after 11 years in office. A teary-eyed Thatcher exits 10 Downing Street for the last time as Prime Minister with Denis comforting her. She is shown as still disheartened about it almost twenty years later.

Eventually, Thatcher is shown packing up her late husband's belongings, and telling him it's time for him to go. Denis's ghost leaves her as she cries that she actually is not yet ready to lose him, to which he replies "You're going to be fine on your own... you always have been" before leaving forever. She is finally shown in her kitchen, alone, contentedly washing a teacup (a wifely role she had told Denis she would never accept), having finally overcome her grief.



Filming began in the UK on 31 December 2010, and the film was released in late 2011.

In preparation for her role, Streep sat through a session at the House of Commons in January 2011 to observe British MPs in action.[11] Extensive filming took place at the neogothic Manchester Town Hall, which is often used as a location double for films which feature the Houses of Parliament because of its architectural similarity.[12]

Streep said: "The prospect of exploring the swathe cut through history by this remarkable woman is a daunting and exciting challenge. I am trying to approach the role with as much zeal, fervour and attention to detail as the real Lady Thatcher possesses – I can only hope my stamina will begin to approach her own."[13]


Historical inaccuracies

It is suggested in the film that Thatcher had said goodbye to her friend Airey Neave only a few moments before his assassination, and had to be held back from the scene by security officers. In fact, she was not in Westminster at the time of his death and was informed of it while carrying out official duties elsewhere.

The film does not portray any other female MPs in Parliament. In fact, during Thatcher’s time in Parliament, the total number of female MPs was between 19 and 41.[14]

The Labour Party leader Michael Foot is depicted as a critic of the decision to send a task force to the Falkland Islands, and Thatcher is shown admonishing him in the wake of Britain's victory over Argentina. In fact, Foot supported the decision to send a task force, something for which Thatcher expressed her appreciation.[15]

Critical reception

The Iron Lady received mixed reviews from critics, although there was unanimous praise for Streep's performance. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 51%, based on reviews from 207 reviews, with the consensus reading: "Meryl Streep's performance as The Iron Lady is reliably perfect, but it's mired in bland, self-important storytelling."[16] At Metacritic, the film has a score of 54 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[17]

The film's depiction of Thatcher has been criticized by her children, Mark and Carol, who are reported to have said, before completion of the film, that "it sounds like some left-wing fantasy."[18] Stuart Jeffries of the British newspaper The Guardian was cautiously optimistic about a non-British actor playing Thatcher.[9] Karen Sue Smith of America wrote that "by combining the Baroness’s real roles of wife, mother and leader, the film’s portrait of her does what many purported "lives of great men" fail to do—namely, show the person in context, in the quotidian."[19]

The Mail on Sunday reported in August 2011 that some viewers invited to a test screening of the unfinished film were concerned at its depiction of Thatcher's frail health in her later years.[20] This view was also shared in the media subsequent to the film's release. The Daily Telegraph reported in January 2012 that "it is impossible not to be disturbed by [Streep's] depiction of Lady Thatcher's decline into dementia" as part of an article that was headlined: "The Iron Lady reflects society's insensitive attitude towards people with dementia."[21] Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four, praising Streep's performance but lamenting that "she's all dressed up with nowhere to go" in a film that cannot decide what it wants to say about Thatcher: "[f]ew people were neutral in their feelings about [Thatcher], except the makers of this picture".[22]

Film review blog Movie Metropolis praised Streep's performance but criticized the lack of depth given to the rest of the story, which seemed to only focus on the glory days of Thatcher's reign.[23]

Despite the film's mixed reviews, Streep's performance in the title role garnered much critical acclaim. Kevin Maher of The Times said: "Streep has found the woman within the caricature."[24] David Gritten in The Daily Telegraph commented: "Awards should be coming Streep's way; yet her brilliance rather overshadows the film itself."[25] Xan Brooks of The Guardian said Streep's performance "is astonishing and all but flawless".[26] Critic Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote: "Only an actress of Streep's stature could possibly capture Thatcher's essence and bring it to the screen. It's a performance of towering proportions that sets a new benchmark for acting."[27] Richard Corliss of Time named Streep's performance one of the Top 10 Movie Performances of 2011.[28]

Streep's portrayal ultimately won her the Academy Award for Best Actress (her 17th nomination and third award overall), as well as several other awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama.[29][30] The film also won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.

As of March 2012, Thatcher herself had not watched the film, nor had her children.[31]

Box office

The film grossed $30 million in the USA, plus $84 million outside the USA, for a combined gross of $114 million.[4]


  1. "Soldiers of the Queen"
  2. "MT"
  3. "Grocer's Daughter"
  4. "Grand Hotel"
  5. "Swing Parliament"
  6. "Shall We Dance?"
  7. "Denis"
  8. "The Great in Great Britain"
  9. "Airey Neave"
  10. "Discord and Harmony"
  11. "The Twins"
  12. "Nation of Shopkeepers"
  13. "Fiscal Responsibility"
  14. "Crisis of Confidence"
  15. "Community Charge"
  16. "Casta Diva"
  17. "The Difficult Decisions"
  18. "Exclusion Zone"
  19. "Statecraft"
  20. "Steady the Buffs"
  21. "Prelude No. 1 in C Major, BWV 846" (Johann Sebastian Bach)

The trailer for the film features Madness's ska/pop song "Our House".[32] The teaser trailer features Clint Mansell's theme tune for the science-fiction film Moon.[32]

Not included on the soundtrack album or listings although credited among the eight songs at the end of the film is "I'm in Love with Margaret Thatcher" by Burnley punk band Notsensibles, which was re-released as a single due to the publicity. The song appears seventy-five minutes into the film, as part of the Falklands War victory celebrations.

Awards and nominations

Awards and Nominations
Award Category Nominee Result
84th Academy Awards[33][34] Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Makeup Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland Won
Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Best International Actress Meryl Streep Won
BAFTA Awards[35][36] Best Leading Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Original Screenplay Abi Morgan Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jim Broadbent Nominated
Best Makeup and Hair Marese Langan, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Make-up Marese Langan Nominated
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Denver Film Critics Society Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Meryl Streep Won
Irish Film and Television Awards Best International Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Costume Design Consolata Boyle Won
London Critics Circle Film Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
British Actress of the Year Olivia Colman Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
2011 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
New York Film Critics Online Awards 2011 Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Meryl Streep Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Female Actor in a Leading Role Meryl Streep Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated

Home media

The Iron Lady was released on DVD in the United States and the United Kingdom on 30 April 2012. The special features in the DVD include Making The Iron Lady, Bonus Featurettes, Recreating the Young Margaret Thatcher, Battle in the House of Commons, Costume Design: Pearls and Power Suits, Denis: The Man Behind the Woman.[37]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ [1].
  15. ^ Moore, Charles - Margaret Thatcher, The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not for Turning (Allen Lane, 2013), pp673 and 754
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "The Iron Lady". Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Meryl Streep Film The Iron Lady Wows British Critics". BBC News. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  25. ^ "The Iron Lady: Review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  26. ^ "The Iron Lady: First Screening". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  27. ^ "An Insult? No, This Shows Why Maggie Was So Mighty". Daily Mail. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Karger, Dave (12 February 2012). "BAFTA Winners Announced". Inside Movies (blog of Entertainment Weekly). Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b The Iron Lady Movie official homepage.
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ CD Universe – The Iron Lady (2011).

External links

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