Joanna Lumley was scolded by ‘stern’ Russian officials: ‘Idiot!’

The Jonathan Ross Show: Joanna Lumley discusses modelling

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Joanna returns to screens tonight at 9pm for ITV programme ‘Joanna Lumley’s Great Cities of the World’. Across the series, the much-loved actress will be showcasing famous landmarks and getting beneath the skin of three iconic European cities ‒ Paris, Rome and Berlin. Naturally, Joanna arrives in her first city, Paris, by hot air balloon and gets a spectacular bird’s eye view of the French capital.

The Absolutely Fabulous star explained: “I was terrified. I once went up in a balloon and said, ‘never again!’.”

According to What To Watch, Joanna added: “The team cajoled me. It was actually thrilling to see Paris from the air. 

“You notice where the river goes and see where all the landmarks are in relation to each other.”

Joanna is best known as Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous, yet before making her mark in the hit sitcom, she had starred as Pudey in The New Avengers and was even one of the faces of Sixties modelling.

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The star has also fronted a number of travel shows in her storied career, including the 2015 programme, Trans-Siberian Adventure, in which Joanna set out to recreate one of her most famous Sixties photoshoots in Russia.

However Joanna admitted she was scolded by “stern” Russian officials when arriving at the country’s border. 

Speaking to in 2015, Joanna admitted that filming at the country’s border was not a bright idea.

She said: “We were idiots trying to film going through the Russian border.

“The Russians were quite stern about that and we had to wipe almost all the film we had taken.

“Having said that, it is impossible to film in Hyde Park without a permit so we are not blaming countries for that, but you have to prepare yourself, especially when you have got so little time.”

Joanna explained that once she and her crew arrived in Russia, they were tasked with recreating her Vanity Fair shoot in Moscow at the height of the Cold War.

She said: “We were so constrained in 1966, which was in the grip of the Cold War, so we were literally marched from our hotel.”

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The actress also stayed in the same hotel as she had done five decades earlier, though it had since been “hugely redecorated”.

Joanna said: “I stood there and I thought, ‘This is familiar’.

“Of course, when I’d stayed there before it was a barn, a huge grand hotel that had been taken over by the Communists and it had babushkas [old women] sitting on each floor counting you in and counting you out, like border guards, when you entered the room.

“My room in the old days had two tables and about five beds, like a dormitory, a vast place.

“It was bizarre. Now it is luxury, and yet I still remember it.”

Speaking in 2015, Joanna added: “This time, of course, there is a freedom in Russia and a gaiety and a charm. 

“Delicious restaurants; the food before was disgusting and took forever to come, but now it is fabulous food, really wonderful.

“There is an ease of movement and friendliness among people and to go back to the tube station was amazing. Fifty years on and it suddenly all comes back.”

Of course, last month, Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine led to Russia being hit with major sanctions from the West. 

Everyday Russian life has been severely affected after the country was blocked off from the SWIFT world banking system.

The ruble has already tanked significantly and the Moscow Stock Exchange was forced to close for a week, while there is a realistic concern that Russia could fall into recession. 

‘Joanna Lumley’s Great Cities of the World’ is on at 9pm this evening on ITV.

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