Filming “Little Shop of Horrors” was pretty horrific for actor Miriam Margolyes, who unloaded on the 1986 musical’s star Steve Martin in her new memoir. That’s her side of the story, at least.
The British star’s latest wry offering, rife with anecdotes about her sex life and proclivity for shock value, takes aim at the beloved U.S. actor, among others. But given Martin’s national-treasure status, the allegations seemed especially significant and, perhaps not coincidentally, very much in line with his deplorable dentist character in the musical.
7:50 p.m. Sept. 15, 2023This story has been updated to include statements from Steve Martin and Frank Oz.
Margolyes recalls going home physically injured after shooting the “Dentist” song for the musical comedy about a killer potted plant. Martin and “Little Shop” director Frank Oz, however, remember events very differently. More on that later.
It’s been a newsy week for the cast of “Only Murders in the Building,” with Martin’s Hulu co-stars Martin Short and Selena Gomez also making headlines for their “desperately unfunny” shtick and highly meme-able expressions, respectively.
Margolyes opened up about Martin in “Oh Miriam: Stories From an Extraordinary Life,” which has been released in the U.K. ahead of its January release stateside. It’s Margolyes’ follow-up to her 2021 autobiography, “This Much Is True.”
In the memoir, the 82-year-old “Harry Potter” and “Call the Midwife” actor detailed her uncomfortable experience working with Martin on Frank Oz’s cult classic “Little Shop of Horrors.” Margolyes played the nurse to Martin’s psychopathic dentist in the maniacal farce. His iconic character, Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., punched her character and closed doors in her face. And Margolyes recalled how much it hurt to shoot those scenes.
“I was hit all day by doors opening in my face; repeatedly punched, slapped and knocked down by an unlovely and unapologetic Steve Martin — perhaps he was method acting — and came home grumpy with a splitting headache,” she wrote, according to Insider.
Yes, indeed, Harry Potter’s herbology professor had some verdant thoughts about a scene with a murderous plant from another of her most famous films.
“Let it not be said that I have never suffered in the name of art,” she wrote. “Steve was undeniably brilliant, but horrid to me.”
Martin told a different story in a statement to The Times late Friday.
“When I first read Miriam Margolyes’ pejorative account of our scene in Little Shop of Horrors, I was surprised. My memory is that we had a good communication as professional actors,” the comic-actor-banjo player said. “But when it is implied that I harmed her or was in some way careless about doing the stunts, I have to object.”
Martin said he remembered “taking EXTREME caution regarding the fake punch — the same caution I would use with any similar scene.”
He said Margolyes assured him she felt fine, “and we did a few successful takes and stopped. There was never any physical contact between her and me, accidental or otherwise, in this scene or any other we shot.”
In addition to a stunt coordinator, a camera crew, a script supervisor and extras on set to witness a supposedly “well-rehearsed” scene, director Oz was on hand for the whole process. He seemed a bit mystified by Margolyes’ version of events in his statement to The Times.
Margolyes had unflattering stories involving many A-listers, including her “Age of Innocence” director Martin Scorsese and “Dead Again’s” Kenneth Branagh, as well as Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger, according to the Independent. She also has some choice words for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, both of whom she loathes.
“I don’t think it’s as rude as my first book, therefore I suspect it won’t do as well,” Margolyes told the Guardian. “But I think the things I say in it are again absolutely true, and perhaps more serious. And I’m glad of that. I don’t just want to be a foul-mouthed old biddy. A potty-mouth as I’m often called. Because I’m more than that.”
On Thursday, the BBC reported that Margolyes had joined the cast of “Doctor Who” for the venerated franchise’s 60th anniversary specials airing in November. She’ll voice the Meep, the creature adapted from “The Star Beast” comic strip.
“I’m relieved I got to work on ‘Doctor Who’ before I died. With sci-fi you never know. Thank you for making an old woman very happy,” she said.