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Julie and Grant Roffey

Throughout the Eighties, Walters would later admit, she was having a wild old time, working hard and drinking heavily (much like she had in the Seventies, really). Yet still love would find her. One day in 1985, having caned it all afternoon in a posh Fulham bar, her working-class roots surfaced as she shouted out "I bet there's no one in here who votes Labour, is there?" In fact, there was, a sociology student called Grant Roffey, some eight years her junior. They began drinking together then went to Walters' flat, where he fixed her washing-machine and she literally jumped on him. They'd be married in 1997, having already gone through the trauma of their daughter Maisie suffering lymphatic leukaemia at the age of 3 and undergoing three years of chemo, a period that inspired Walters' 1990 book Baby Talk. With Maisie happily recovered the family would live on a 70-acre organic farm in Sussex.


1991 would see Walters piled with prestige when she was given the TV show Julie Walters And Friends. The friends, who wrote the how for her, would be Alan Bennett, Willy Russell, Alan Bleasdale and Victoria Wood. All of them were now massively esteemed voices in the worlds of theatre and TV and all of them owed much to Walters' lievly and convincing performances of their work. Naturally, they would all work with her again, first up being Bleasdale who cast her in his notorious series GBH. Here Robert Lindsay would be a northern Labour councillor, drunk on power and confronting Michael Palin's old-school socialist headmaster, Walters playing Lindsay's idealized and idolized mother in an ugly world of corruption, hypocrisy and increasing madness.


Walters' next release would be Stepping Out, a kind of tap-dancing Dirty Dozen where Broadway hoofer Liza Minnelli tried to turn a motley gang of amateurs into a crack troupe. This would see Walters reunited with Lewis Gilbert, director of Educating Rita, and he would draw another fine performance from her, her hygiene-obsessed housewife earning another BAFTA nomination. She'd then move back to TV with Clothes In The Wardrobe, also known as The Summer House. Based on a novel by Alice Thomas Ellis, this would see young Lena Headey about to marry a wastrel, with Walters playing her increasingly fraught mother. Extra weight would be added by former Pinter co-star Joan Plowright as the wastrel's mother and Jeanne Moreau as Walters' glamorous visiting friend. Still keen to deal with social and political issues in her work, Walters moved on to Just Like A Woman where she played a lonely landlady helping a young American tenant comes to terms with his transvestism.


Wise and saucy, she was much like Rita.

Following this, she'd be back with Jim Broadbent in the tough but funny and moving Wide-Eyed And Legless, where she suffered an extremely painful and debilitating but apparently undiagnosable disease. Hubbie Broadbent would do all he could to help, but would need some himself, complications arising when he forms a relationship with a female novelist. Broadbent and Walters would be brilliant together - soft, fun and loving - and Walters would receive yet another BAFTA nomination.


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