January 6, 2012 9:54 pm

The Devil wears Aqua

There’ll be a sequel, a prequel - and even Iron Lady merchandise. Robert Shrimsley on the new Margaret Thatcher biopic
An illustration by Lucas Varela

I probably won’t bother seeing The Iron Lady. Everyone says Meryl Streep is terrific as Lady Thatcher, but I saw the original. It’s not that I have anything against the Thatcher biopic, but our babysitting slots are still too limited to waste one reliving the abolition of the National Dock Labour Scheme.

On the other hand, I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel. You hadn’t heard about that yet? Oh, it’s absolutely guaranteed after a big hit. It’s the way the movie business works these days; it’s all about franchises. Word on the street is that Iron Lady II: Revenge of the North is already in pre-production. There’s also talk of a prequel, provisionally entitled Young Iron Lady: the Girl with the Pheasant Tattoo.

The later films may also have more action and a looser attachment to history after audiences complained that the first was a bit slow for a superhero film. The prequel, for example, will tell the back story of how she assumes her persona after accidentally falling into a vat of Irn-Bru at her father’s shop.

It will include the iconic scene where she first tries on what will become her trademark navy outfit. Word has it that in this scene she is interrupted by her mother before she completes the look. She is standing in front of a mirror when her Mum calls her for tea. “Don’t call me Margaret,” she replies. “From now on I am Iron Lady.” Mum looks bemused: “Why would you want to call yourself ironing lady? We didn’t send you to university to become a skivvy.” Young Iron Lady will also have a lot more glamour. Her early costumes are said to be rather more racy, with a hemline landing slightly above the knee.

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Robert Shrimsley

Then there is the merchandising. Iron Lady dolls are likely to be hugely popular. The main doll stands at a Commons despatch box and at the press of a button utters some of her most memorable phrases, including “The Lady’s not for turning”, “We are a grandmother”, “There’s no such thing as society” and “Mamma Mia, here I go again”. Over time, the entire cabinet will be produced so that children can recreate favourite moments from the movie such as the Falklands war and the purge of the Tory wets.

Of course, some dolls will prove less popular than others. You’ll probably be able to pick up a Geoffrey Howe or an Ian Gilmour very cheaply on Ebay. Then again, they may become expensive because of their rarity value. One can imagine the Antiques Roadshow 50 years from now: “Oh look, that’s a genuine John Biffen. Only 30 of those were ever made.” Other toys will include computer games such as Iron Lady: Boom Raider, in which Maggie races to sell off the state’s assets while stock markets are soaring.

Even more popular, however, will be the clothing range. Asprey handbags are set to become one of this year’s must-have accessories along with the new Iron Lady at Aquascutum range, and its spin-off for the younger audience, The Devil wears Aqua. If it succeeds in attracting a younger fan base the clothes could become a badge of youthful rebellion, a defining outfit much akin to those donned by goths, punks, mods and rockers. Who knows, in a few years, gangs of “Maggies” – distinguished by their frightening Elnett Extra Strength hairdos – could be roaming the streets, bevvied up on Bacardi Breezers and looking for something to privatise.

The ultimate movie mark of success however, is a theme park. IronLadyland may still be some way off but it must be in the planning stage. There would be rollercoaster rides taking you at helicopter level across the Falkland Islands and simulators depicting the Battle of Orgreave through a policeman’s eyes. And the best thing about IronLadyland is that almost everything in it will be for sale. You’ll want to get there quick once it opens, before China swoops on the North Sea and Cheryl Cole buys the Cotswolds. Before long there may not be much left to buy, but there will be a terrific service culture and very high invisible earnings.

IronLadyland: now that’s something I’d visit. Well I would if I didn’t already live there.

robert.shrimsley@ft.com

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