If the producers were looking for someone who could match the promiscuity of Bond, then Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag character would be spot on – she’s a woman who has an attitude to sex that Bond would certainly appreciate.
Rumour has it that Waller-Bridge has introduced a female character to 007’s latest outing who resists his charms and is not seduced by Bond.
Fleabag is far more likely to have succumbed on the spot.
The film has had a troubled start after director Danny Boyle quit over “artistic differences” and now the 33-year-old star writer has been drafted in to help.
So who is the woman whose edgy skills have made her one of the most in-demand screenwriters? Despite the earthy humour – some would say crudity – of Fleabag, Waller-Bridge actually comes from a very upmarket background, boasting a couple of baronets in her lineage and a Catholic private school education.
Born in Ealing, West London, her grandfather was Sir John Edward Longueville Clerke, 12th Baronet of Hitcham, and on her father’s side she is a descendant of Conservative MP The Rev.
Sir Egerton Leigh, a 2nd Baronet.
Her father Michael co-founded Tradepoint, the first fully electronic stock market, and her mother Teresa works for the Ironmongers’ Company in the City – one of London’s “great 12” livery companies that administer charitable trusts.
The couple are divorced. Older sister Isobel is a composer in film and television and younger brother Jasper is a music manager.
Waller-Bridge went to St Augustine’s Priory, a Catholic girls’ school followed by the independent DLD College in Marylebone, and then graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
She thought that would be enough to give her a career in acting but on leaving Rada in 2006, her belief that “being posh with curly hair equals a Shakespearean career” turned out to be wrong and she struggled to find work.
It wasn’t just her.
She felt there was a marked lack of good roles for women: “The girls didn’t get many decent parts because not that many plays have them,” Waller-Bridge said. “I was always crying or pointing at things.”
When director Vicky Jones was fired from a play in which Waller-Bridge was performing, she quit as well and the two became firm friends.
Drowning their sorrows over a bottle of wine in a pub, the pair set up their own theatre company, DryWhite.
They began with short-format plays often performed in pubs and Fleabag started life as a 10- minute stand-up routine.
It was expanded into a one-hour, one-woman show for the 2013 Edinburgh Festival that was described by one critic as a character who “has proudly embraced her inner slut”.
Fleabag came out of the depths of me
“Fleabag came out of the depths of me,” Waller-Bridge said, citing the humiliating but hilarious experiences she and friends had experienced being single.
“If we can laugh about those things we can survive.”
When she told Olivia Colman, Academy Award-winning star of The Favourite and TV’s Broadchurch, that she was going into writing, the actress told her that if there was a suitable role, she would be interested.
And so one of the biggest British names in drama became the awkward stepmother to Fleabag.
The television show came about after the Edinburgh production transferred to London’s Soho Theatre and the controller of BBC Comedy saw it.
The first season of Fleabag was made while she developed the TV thriller Killing Eve, now into its second series with a third already commissioned.
In 2015 she appeared with Colman as junior barrister Abby Thompson in the second series of Broadchurch.
The same year, she wrote and starred in Crashing, a comedy drama following the lives of six twenty-somethings living as property guardians in a disused hospital.
“It was my homage to shows I’d grown up on, like Friends and This Life,” she said.
In 2017 she won a Bafta for Fleabag for best female performance in a comedy.
With the lead character’s comments to the viewer and wry observations about modern life, it is very different from traditional BBC comedies.
As well as Colman, it attracted some of the biggest names in British acting including Bill Paterson, who plays Fleabag’s father.
Watched by 750,000 people, its second series was switched to BBC One, where it averaged 2.5million viewers on a Monday night.
In the latest run it also featured Sherlock villain Andrew Scott as a handsome clergyman and Four Weddings and a Funeral star Kristin Scott Thomas.
Waller-Bridge has said that Fleabag is now finished after its poignant final episode and she will not be returning to it.
“We’ve had a ball,” she says, “but it’s time to move on.”
Fleabag was, she has said, “very personal” but not autobiographical.
She married documentary maker Conor Woodman in 2015, who asked her out after watching her act in a play in which she spent most of the performance naked in a bath.
They married in a chateau in France. However, it did not last.
They announced their divorce in 2017 and she is now in a relationship with playwright, screenwriter and director Martin McDonagh.
If Fleabag is a character who makes women cheer and men squirm, Waller-Bridge was not frightened by the possible audience reaction – she even showed some early cuts to her family.
And she was thrilled by her brother’s reaction.
“I think you’re going to scare a lot of men with this show. It’s going to freak them out,” he told her.
Who knows? She may have the same effect on Bond. Anyone who has seen the very first episode of her comedy will be aware that after a Martini or two Fleabag is prepared to go to places that 007 wouldn’t contemplate.
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