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Q&A with ''Vera Drake'' star Imelda Staunton

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Though the star of Vera Drake couldn’t beat the million dollar baby on Oscar night, her fierce turn as a woman who performs illegal abortions in England stunned American audiences.

How did you prepare without a script?
I knew Vera’s whole backstory, and for six months I lived her life up until 1950, when the film starts. Mike Leigh created a flat for the characters, and we came home and had tea and talked about the day, in real time.

And you dreamed as if you were Vera?
Yes, the night before we improvised the court scene, I dreamed as her all night, thinking, What will it be? That was very strange.

How have people responded to the film’s theme?
Women came up to me saying ”Thank you for telling this story. It happened to me. It was unbearable.” I didn’t expect that at all. It was very moving.