Dawn French says she was in 'agony' for years after recreating this iconic scene

Dawn French said she had to take multiple steroid injections to deal with the pain <i>(Image: Ian West/PA)</i>
Dawn French said she had to take multiple steroid injections to deal with the pain (Image: Ian West/PA)

Dawn French says she was left in “agony” for years when she recreated that iconic puddle scene on The Paul O’Grady Show in 2009 and fell onto “absolutely nothing.”

The famous clip first aired on The Vicar of Dibley when vicar Geraldine Granger confidently jumped into a puddle on a walk in the countryside that turned out to be chest-deep.

The comical series originally ran on BBC One from 1994 until 2007 and was set in the fictional Oxfordshire village of Dibley.

But years later, the now 65-year-old was asked to perform the stunt once more by producers when standing in for Paul O’Grady.

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Speaking during her one-woman show last week in Exeter, The Mail reports she told the audience: “They constructed a 10ft-high hill out of scaffolding covered in AstroTurf. The idea was that there was a long enough drop for me to disappear into.

“Then some bright spark had the idea of having a shallow silicon membrane containing two inches of water on top so that, as I jumped through, the water would splash up and look like a deep puddle.

“But what was I falling onto? The answer is absolutely nothing. Except for 10ft below there were two very thin crash mats in a film studio with a flat concrete floor. Any fool would know this was a disaster in the making. Any fool but me.”

She added: “The producers took me to show me and see if I was all right with it. And I replied 'of course I'm all right with it, I'm British'.”

As French showed her loyal fans a picture of herself about to jump, she commented: “This is actually quite an emotional picture. This is the last time that my body is actually intact. This is the last time I had two functioning legs.

“I went 10ft down and plump on to the two crash mats. One leg twisted very awkwardly underneath me and I landed very heavily. I heard the worst twanging noise you could ever imagine.

“I knew I was in trouble but I completed the sketch. I clearly felt like I'd rather die than admit weakness.”

Dawn French says she was in ‘agony and had to give in’ after recreating famous  scene

In the years that followed, this meant French was assisted by a cane when she walked until the pain became too much.

She explained: “I saw this wonderful guy who works with sports people. He said I needed to rest it for eight weeks. He suspected I would tell him I was going on stage that night so said he'd give me a temporary fix.

“He said I was going to need a knee replacement in the future. He said he'd inject me in the knee with a steroid and I could only have three of these injections.”

She then had the injections to manage the pain as she wrote a book from home, performed in a panto and featured in comedy-drama The Trouble with Maggie Cole.

However, when it came to filming Death on the Nile which was released in 2022, French said she was “in agony and had to give in.”

"I called the surgeon to have the [knee replacement] operation. Then he told me I couldn't have three injections in total but three a year. I could have had loads of injections for all those painful years,” she continued.