The Iron Lady (film)

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The Iron Lady
Iron lady film poster.jpg
British theatrical release poster
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Produced by Damian Jones
Written by Abi Morgan
Starring Meryl Streep
Jim Broadbent
Olivia Colman
Roger Allam
Susan Brown
Nick Dunning
Nicholas Farrell
Iain Glen
Richard E. Grant
Anthony Head
Harry Lloyd
Michael Maloney
Alexandra Roach
Pip Torrens
Julian Wadham
Angus Wright
Music by Thomas Newman [1]
Cinematography Elliot Davis
Edited by Justine Wright
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
(United Kingdom)
Pathé Distribution
Release date
  • 26 December 2011 (2011-12-26)(Australia, New Zealand)
  • 6 January 2012 (2012-01-06)(United Kingdom)
Running time
104 minutes [2]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£8.2 million ($10.6 million) [3]
Box office$115.9 million [4]

The Iron Lady is a 2011 British biographical drama film based on the life and career of Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013), a British stateswoman and politician who was the first ever female and longest-serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the 20th century. [5] The film was directed by Phyllida Lloyd and written by Abi Morgan. Thatcher is portrayed primarily by Meryl Streep, [6] and, in her formative and early political years, by Alexandra Roach. Thatcher's husband, Denis Thatcher (1915–2003), 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]


Despite the film's mixed reception, Streep's performance was widely acclaimed, and considered to be one of the greatest of her career. She received her 17th Oscar nomination for her portrayal and ultimately won the award for the third time, 29 years after her second Oscar 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 was loosely based on John Campbell's biography The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher, from Grocer's Daughter to Prime Minister. [8]


In flashbacks, the audience is shown a young Margaret Roberts working at the family grocer's shop 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 Oxford University. She remembers her struggle, as a young lower-middle-class woman, to break into a snobbish male-dominated Conservative 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, 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 her husband 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 "Poll Tax" is 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 reluctantly to resign as Prime Minister after eleven 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' 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. Having finally overcome her grief, she contentedly washes a teacup alone in her kitchen.



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. [10] Extensive filming took place at the neogothic Manchester Town Hall. [11]

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." [12]

NPR commentator Robert Seigel and Thatcher biographer John Campbell accused writer Abi Morgan and star Meryl Streep of having the most say in the film's production and dictating some historical inaccuracies, such as the film's photography showing no other woman serving in the House of Commons during the time Thatcher was serving, [8] with the hopes of presenting a different image of Thatcher to the film's American audience. [8]


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. [13]

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 ranged between 19 and 41. [14] Additionally, her cabinets are always depicted as all-male, but The Baroness Young, who served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and later Lord Privy Seal, was a cabinet member between 1981 and 1983, while also serving as leader of the House of Lords.

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] John Campbell noted that her decisions in office became an inspiration for the Labour Party's pro-middle ground policies enacted when Tony Blair served as Prime Minister. [8]

Campbell also noted that while Thatcher thought the House of Commons was dominated by a patronising male environment, [8] and that the film showed the representation from her point of view, [8] it did not encourage her to maintain the upper middle class image she used early in her political career as the film suggests and that Thatcher did in fact exploit the fact that she was raised by a grocer in a small Lincolnshire town and had a very ordinary background when she was running for leader of the Conservative Party. [8]

Thatcher's staunch opposition to the 1990 reunification of Germany is not mentioned. The Prime Minister had felt that reunification might pave the way for the expansion of Nazi sympathy, and distrusted the West German government. [16]

Critical reception

The Iron Lady received mixed reviews from critics, although there was strong praise for Streep's performance. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 52% and an average score of 5.67/10, based on 230 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Meryl Streep's performance as The Iron Lady is reliably perfect, but it's mired in bland, self-important storytelling." [17] At Metacritic, the film has a score of 54 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". [18]

The film's depiction of Thatcher has been criticised 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." [19] 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." [20]

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: "Few people were neutral in their feelings about her, except the makers of this picture." [22]

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." [23] David Gritten in The Daily Telegraph commented: "Awards should be coming Streep's way; yet her brilliance rather overshadows the film itself." [24] Xan Brooks of The Guardian said Streep's performance "is astonishing and all but flawless". [25] Richard Corliss of Time named Streep's performance one of the Top 10 Movie Performances of 2011. [26]

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. [27] [28] The film also won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.

Thatcher stated before her death on 8 April 2013 that she does not watch films or programmes about herself. [29]

Box office

The film grossed $30 million in the North America, and $85 million in other markets, for a worldwide gross of $115 million. [4]


  1. "Soldiers of the Queen"
  2. "MT"
  3. "Grocer's Daughter"
  4. "Grand Hotel"
  5. "Swing Parliament"
  6. "Eyelash"
  7. "Shall We Dance?"
  8. "Denis"
  9. "The Great in Great Britain"
  10. "Airey Neave"
  11. "Discord and Harmony"
  12. "The Twins"
  13. "Nation of Shopkeepers"
  14. "Fiscal Responsibility"
  15. "Crisis of Confidence"
  16. "Community Charge"
  17. "Casta Diva"
  18. "The Difficult Decisions"
  19. "Exclusion Zone"
  20. "Statecraft"
  21. "Steady the Buffs"
  22. "Prelude No. 1 in C Major, BWV 846" (Johann Sebastian Bach) [30]

The trailer for the film features Madness's ska/pop song "Our House". [31] The teaser trailer features Clint Mansell's theme tune for the science-fiction film Moon . [31]

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
84th Academy Awards [32] [33] Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Makeup Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland Won
1st AACTA International Awards Best International Actress Meryl StreepWon
BAFTA Awards [34] [35] Best Leading Actress Won
Best Original Screenplay Abi Morgan Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jim Broadbent Nominated
Best Makeup and Hair Marese Langan, Mark Coulier and J. Roy HellandWon
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Actress Meryl StreepNominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Nominated
Best Makeup Marese LanganNominated
Central Ohio Film Critics AssociationBest ActressMeryl StreepNominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best ActressNominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best ActressNominated
Denver Film Critics SocietyBest ActressWon
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Won
Irish Film and Television Awards Best International ActressNominated
Best Costume DesignConsolata BoyleWon
London Critics Circle Film Awards Best ActressMeryl StreepWon
British Actress of the Year Olivia Colman Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best ActressMeryl StreepNominated
2011 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best ActressWon
New York Film Critics Online Awards 2011 Best ActressWon
Online Film Critics Society Awards Best ActressNominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society AwardsBest ActressNominated
Satellite Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Female Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association AwardsBest ActressWon
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards Best ActressNominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best ActressNominated

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. [36]

See also

Related Research Articles

Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was a British stateswoman who served as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century and the first woman to hold that office. A Soviet journalist dubbed her the "Iron Lady", a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. As Prime Minister, she implemented policies known as Thatcherism.

Meryl Streep American actress

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Airey Neave British politician

Airey Middleton Sheffield Neave, was a British soldier, lawyer and Member of Parliament.

Denis Thatcher husband of Margaret Thatcher

Sir Denis Thatcher, 1st Baronet was a British businessman. Married to Margaret Thatcher, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, he was the first male spouse of a British prime minister.

Jim Broadbent English actor

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Carol Thatcher British journalist

Carol Jane Thatcher is an English journalist, author and media personality. She is the daughter of Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister from 1979 to 1990, and Denis Thatcher.

Westland affair British political scandal

The Westland affair in 1985–86 was an episode in which Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and her Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Heseltine, went public over a cabinet dispute with questions raised about whether the conventions of cabinet government were being observed and about the integrity of senior politicians.

Brighton hotel bombing 1984 Margaret Thatcher murder attempt

The Brighton hotel bombing was a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) assassination attempt against the top tier of the British government that occurred on 12 October 1984 at the Grand Brighton Hotel in Brighton, England. A long-delay time bomb was planted in the hotel by IRA member Patrick Magee, with the purpose of killing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, who were staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party conference. Although Thatcher narrowly escaped the blast, five people connected with the Conservative Party were killed, including a sitting Conservative MP, and 31 were injured.

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Janet McLuckie Brown was a British actress, comedian and impressionist who gained considerable fame in the 1970s and 1980s for her impersonations of Margaret Thatcher. Brown was the wife of Peter Butterworth who was best known for his appearances in the Carry on films. Butterworth died in 1979 and Brown never remarried.

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Abigail Louise Morgan is a Welsh playwright and screenwriter known for her works for television, such as Sex Traffic and The Hour, and the films Brick Lane, The Iron Lady, Shame and Suffragette.

The 65th British Academy Film Awards, more commonly known as the BAFTAs, were held on 12 February 2012 at the Royal Opera House in London, honouring the best national and foreign films of 2011. The nominations were announced on 17 January 2012 by actor Daniel Radcliffe and actress Holliday Grainger. Presented by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, accolades are handed out for the best feature-length film and documentaries of any nationality that were screened at British cinemas in 2011. Stephen Fry, who hosted from 2001 to 2006, returned to host the ceremony. The Artist won seven awards out of its twelve nominations, including Best Film, Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius, and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin. Meryl Streep won Best Actress for The Iron Lady. Christopher Plummer won Best Supporting Actor for Beginners and Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for The Help. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, directed by Tomas Alfredson, was voted Outstanding British Film of 2011. Director Martin Scorsese was given the BAFTA Fellowship and Sir John Hurt garnered the BAFTA Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award.

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The Iron Lady is a 1979 British comedy album spoofing the life of Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013), the long-serving (1979–1990) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The album was written by Private Eye writer and satirist John Wells. It was a precursor to his later work lampooning Thatcher in the Dear Bill series of letters that appeared in Private Eye and the 1981 stage farce, Anyone for Denis? The album was produced by John Lloyd whose credits include the comedy television programmes Not the Nine O'Clock News, Spitting Image, Blackadder, and QI - and Martin Lewis the co-creator and producer of the Secret Policeman's Ball series.

Gould–Thatcher exchange

An exchange on 24 May 1983 between Diana Gould, an English schoolteacher and former Women's Royal Naval Service meteorological officer, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was voted in 1999 as one of Britain's most memorable television spots. Appearing as a member of the public on BBC Nationwide's On the Spot live election special, Gould confronted Thatcher over the sinking of the Belgrano, an Argentine warship, during the 1982 Falklands War between the United Kingdom and Argentina.


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