Fans of the British TV comedy Absolutely Fabulous will be relieved to know that Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) are still alive — somehow. But they are, unsurprisingly, in trouble.
In the pair’s big screen debut, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, they flee to glamorous Cannes after accidentally pushing supermodel Kate Moss into the River Thames. Once on the French Riviera, they work on a plan to live in luxury forever.
The movie features dozens of celebrity cameos — Chris Colfer, Dame Edna, Jon Hamm and Jean Paul Gaulthier included — and Kylie Minogue’s take on the show’s classic theme song, “This Wheel’s on Fire.”
The movie’s North American release is set for July 22, 2016. In the lead-up to the big day, Daily Xtra, along with several other queer media outlets, was invited to participate in a teleconference roundtable with Saunders and Lumley. The following Q&A is an edited and condensed account of the conversation between the two stars and the various reporters.
Some younger people haven’t heard of Ab Fab. Who are Patsy and Edina?
Joanna Lumley: Well, these are people who have been friends since they began . . . Eddy is [in] PR — she thinks she’s a fashion PR guru. Patsy works as an editor on a fashion magazine. They’re utterly useless. They’re inseparable friends, and they walk in chaos.
Jennifer Saunders: A chaos of drink and cigarettes and champagne.
Lumley: And a few illegal substances. And generally in very bad shoes.
How did you update the characters for the movie?
Saunders: Well, we just get older it so happens. Edina gets older and fatter. And actually Patsy doesn’t change at all — she’s just sort of embalmed and remains exactly the same.
You have an exciting low-speed chase in the film. Joanna, you have to grab a cigarette from the mouth of a man in a café as you pass by. Can you talk about the difficulty of doing your stunts in your fabulous frocks?
Saunders: We insisted on doing our own stunts.
Lumley: Obviously, to reach from a car travelling at almost three miles an hour to take a cigarette off a completely supine man . . . was challenging. I managed it.
Saunders: I’d never been on a scooter before, and they wouldn’t let me wear a helmet. I was very, very brave. It’s almost the most exercise I’ve ever done.
Your gay fans have always adored both of you. Why do you think you’ve connected so deeply with that community?
Lumley: I think, from Patsy’s point of view, she’s very easy to copy if you’re a boy and want to dress up as Patsy, because Patsy’s quite tall. You just want to get your good yellow wig on. Lots of lovely red lips. Most men have very good legs — much better than mine — so men’s beautiful legs showing in good stockings. Nice pair of high heels. Glass of Bolly. Cigarette on the go. Dark shades on. You’re there.
Saunders: I think, as far as the characters go, they live for each other, and they live a life they don’t apologize for. They don’t need men. They don’t need a relationship in order to have fun and get on in the world.
The drugs and facial injections and all of that really resonated with the hard-partying 1990s gay male crowd. When writing this, were you concerned that that kind of humour wouldn’t appeal to today’s queer crowd?
Saunders: I write it to amuse Joanna, really. I think if you wrote it with too many people, too many audiences in mind, you’d die of the pressure. I just basically write what I think will be funny, and what I wanted is if people could see this film, and not have known the series and still enjoy it, but that it would also satisfy people that knew the series extremely well.
Patsy does some very mild crossdressing in the movie, and it’s hinted she was once a man. Is she a transgender person who was born male and transitioned to female?
Lumley: Patsy was born a girl and was a woman, but she took some hormones in the ’60s because she fancied being a man, and then went down with Edina to Morocco . . . and had a very poor operation, and it withered away and dropped off after a year. So, she stopped taking the hormones, shaved a bit, and went back to being a woman.
Saunders: We see her in the [TV] series. In the series, we have a flashback to the ’60s, and we saw Edina as a hippie, and we saw Patsy as a man. It’s always been just something to play with. In the kind of Eurotrash idea, too, I think.
Lumley: I think [in the movie] Patsy semi-revisits it — she thinks — by combing her hair back and putting on a very bad false moustache.
Saunders: And keeps the moustache on even when she’s blatantly wearing women’s clothing. I don’t think they care — that’s the truth. As it turns out, nor does the woman that she’s marrying [in the movie]. I think it’s about, it doesn’t matter. Be who you can be and want to be.
Do you think there’s going to be a sequel?
Saunders: Well, Joanna keeps telling me there’s going to be a sequel, so there’s going to be a sequel.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Lumley: I do . . . Cheers, sweetie.