Peaky Blinders: Why Helen McCrory initially turned down Aunt Polly role ‘I was like no’

Helen McCrory: Finn Cole pays tribute to Peaky Blinders star

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Last week, Helen McCrory’s husband confirmed the actress had died at the age of 52 after a battle with cancer. McCrory had a successful acting career and appeared in the likes of Skyfall and Harry Potter. However, she was most famous for her role as Aunt Polly in the Netflix period drama Peaky Blinders.

Peaky Blinders follows a gangster family of Irish and Romani travellers in Birmingham.

It is set from 1919, several months after the end of the First World War.

The plot centres around the Peaky Blinders gang which is led by Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy).

At the time, there would have been extreme poverty for the migrants that moved to the city so many of them turned to crime.

In an interview with Idler, the Harry Potter actress explained why she initially turned down the role of Aunt Polly.

“When they first approached me, they said ‘Would you like to play Aunt Polly in this gangster drama set in Birmingham?’ And I was like: ‘No’.

“I looked at the history of that time and the slums of Birmingham. My own grandparents grew up in the slums of Glasgow and were miners’ kids in Cardiff, and I thought I was going to be there with a mangle saying things like: ‘Gotta get up early to get a wash on in the backyard’.”

However, the actress later went on to admit that she was eventually convinced by showrunner Steve Knight to take on the role.

Knight had reassured her the show would be shot “like a Western” and wouldn’t dwell on the concerns she had.

Last week, McCrory’s husband Damian Lewis confirmed the news that the actress had died at home surrounded by her loved ones.

He penned on Twitter: “I’m heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family.

“She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we loved her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives.

“She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.

McCrory’s Peaky Blinder’s co-stars also paid a tribute to their friend when they filmed for the final season of the drama.

In the photo shared on Instagram, McCrory is seen drawn on a slate board with the words “Rest in Peace Helen.”

This was captioned: “Forever part of the Peaky Blinders family.”

Director Anthony Byrne also shared more insight about the picture on his own Instagram, saying it was designed by tattoo artist Lauren Marie Sutton.

He wrote: “Today was beautiful and strange and sad and surreal. We found ourselves in the most beautiful environment.

“The sun beating down on us and it felt ok. It was incredible but not surprising to read the many tributes and articles dedicated to Helen over the weekend.

“This is our ‘A’ camera board and Polly Gray is always in front of our cameras.”

McCrory may have been most recognised for her role as Aunt Polly, but her most acclaimed performances were as Cherie Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship.

She also will be remembered by many as Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.

Other iconic roles included parts in Hugo, Skyfall, Fearless, Quiz and MotherFatherSon.

Most recently, she appeared on screen in the BBC series Roadkill with Hugh Laurie.

Peaky Blinders is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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