Steve Martin responds to Miriam Margolyes’ claim of ‘horrid’ treatment on set

The 82-year-old actress described her co-star as “unlovely and unapologetic”. (Photos: Jon Kopaloff, Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Actor Steve Martin has responded to claims from his Little Shop of Horrors co-star Miriam Margolyes, who alleged he was “horrid” to work with on the set of the cult 1986 film.

Writing in her newly published memoir Oh Miriam! Stories from an Extraordinary Life, Margolyes described Martin as “unlovely and unapologetic” in the scene they shared.

In the comic horror musical, Martin plays the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, with Margolyes portraying his long-suffering assistant. During his musical number Dentist!, his character punches Margolyes’ and slams a door in her face for comic effect.

Recounting the shoot in her new memoir , Margolyes suggested this rough treatment wasn’t as imaginary as it would appear.

“I was hit all day by doors opening in my face; repeatedly punched, slapped and knocked down by an unlovely and unapologetic Steve Martin,” wrote the 82-year-old actress .

“Perhaps he was method acting… [I] came home grumpy with a splitting headache.”

“Let it not be said that I have never suffered in the name of art.”

She described her co-star as “undeniably brilliant, but horrid to me”.

Martin has strongly denied his co-star’s suggestion that he physically harmed her.

“When I first read Mariam Margolyes’ pejorative account of our scene in ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ I was surprised,” wrote the 78-year-old actor in a statement to Variety.

“My memory is that we had a good communication as professional actors. But when it is implied that I harmed her or was in some way careless about doing the stunts, I have to object.

“I remember taking EXTREME caution regarding the fake punch – the same caution I would use with any similar scene. She assured me 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.”

Little Shop of Horrors director Frank Oz offered a supporting statement to Variety, expressing surprise at Margolyes’ account. 

“I always rehearse physical actions in slow motion,” wrote the seasoned director and Muppets veteran. 

“The scene was supposed to include a fake punch. It’s puzzling what she’s talking about.

“It’s not the Steve I know or anyone knows. He’s always been professional and respectful of everyone on all of my shoots.”

Margolyes has never shied away from unfiltered opinions and provocative statements. In a recent interview she took aim at fellow comedy legend John Cleese, who she labelled “poisonous”. 

John was a brilliant comedian in his day, but something has turned. Like milk, he’s gone sour. He’s an irrelevance.”

Recalling her days performing in the Footlights comedy revue at Cambridge University, she spoke of poor treatment at the hands of Cleese and his peers, including his future Monty Python collaborator, the late Graham Chapman. 

“I would go on stage, get the laughs, then I’d come off and was completely ignored,” she said.

As a screen performer, Margolyes remains as active as ever in her 80s. Last week she was announced to appear in Doctor Who’s upcoming 60th anniversary specials, voicing the cute-but-homicidal alien “Beep the Meep”.


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