A film about a British Prime Minister sounds like an unlikely recipe for success overseas, but takings for The Iron Lady have already reached 1.3€ million in Spain alone. It’s certainly true that Margaret (now Baroness) Thatcher inspires extreme emotions in the UK, but clearly Spain is still fascinated by the woman whose relationship with the country was not always happy and straightforward.
America’s famous trade magazine, Variety, reported the film’s unexpected success in Spain by quoting analyst Pau Brunet at Boxoffice.com: “The Iron Lady is seen in Spain as a Meryl Streep film, not a movie about Margaret Thatcher. Streep is the biggest femme star in Spain. She’s a brand and guarantee,” he observed.
Variety also consulted Miguel Morales, distributor at Wanda Films, who pointed out that in Spain the film was promoted as “one about a woman, not specific politics.” He added that The Iron Lady had already exceeded expectations and could ultimately gross 5.5€ million.
The film’s appearance at this time is quite ironic since some conservative political commentators have already been saying that the current crisis in the Eurozone requires the toughness and decisiveness of a politician like Margaret Thatcher. After watching the early days of Mariano Rajoy’s administration one German onlooker wrote a letter to his friend, a political blogger in Spain: “Margaret Thatcher was a politician who got things done, whether you agree with those things or not, and she will undoubtedly go down in history as a great leader. They’ll probably make a film of her life (oh, they already did).”
While many Spaniards appreciate Baroness Thatcher’s legendary toughness, her relationship with Spain has been far from easy. Apart from the rumblings caused by her clash with Spanish-speaking Argentina during the 1982 Falklands War, she made herself even more unpopular when she was later seen as General Pinochet’s protector. Declaring, “General Pinochet is our friend!” she reminded Britons of his support for Britain during the Falklands War, a statement that was widely criticised in Spain.
Margaret Thatcher’s reputation on the Iberian Peninsula is probably best in Gibraltar, where she was widely regarded as the prime mover behind the opening of the border in 1982, 13 years after it was closed on General Franco’s orders.
However, in a speech that she made at a dinner given in 1988 by the then Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, Thatcher reflected on Britain’s links with Spain: “The British people have long felt a deep attachment to Spain. It was nearly two centuries ago that Lord Byron wrote: ‘Lovely Spain, renowned, romantic land.’ Today, that attachment takes the rather different form of the millions of visitors who come to Spain every year from Britain, the vast majority of them to enjoy your hospitality and your climate in tranquillity. The small minority who do behave badly are a source of shame to all decent British people and we fully support you in dealing very firmly with them.”
“Of course, there have been times when we have been in conflict. That was inevitable between two great, proud nations, each thrusting out into the wider world. I prefer to recall the occasions when Britain and Spain have been allies, where we fought together—as in the time of the great Duke of Wellington—to liberate Spain from foreign occupation.”
“Working together is not just in Britain’s interest or in Spain’s interest—it is in Europe’s interest…”
Admirable sentiments perhaps, but any political commentator seeking hard evidence of what Prime Minister Thatcher would have done to ease Europe’s current financial crisis will be none the wiser.