The queen of pratfalls on the advantages of being tall, her film Hollywood debut in Spy, and grappling with 50 Cent. By John Hiscock

A lot has changed for Miranda Hart. At 42, the 6ft 1in actress who charmed British comedy fans with four seasons of her self-titled BBC sitcom devoted to slapstick and poking fun at herself has hit Hollywood. 

Her first film, Spy, opens next month and sees Hart starring opposite US film star Melissa McCarthy in a riotous comedy made by the director of the worldwide hit Bridesmaids, Paul Feig.  Feig saw Miranda and loved it enough to cast Hart, thrusting her into the big time much as The Office helped Ricky Gervais and Gavin and Stacey assisted James Corden before her.

As if to reflect the demands of her new celebrity status, Hart has also slimmed down from her sitcom days. She cuts a svelte figure when I meet her at a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills the morning after she has been out on a “girls’ night out” with her Spy co-stars. She is casually dressed in jeans and a T-shirt top and makes no apologies for not being a Hollywood shape.

Miranda Hart and her co-star Melissa McCarthy in ‘Spy’

“As you get older you just think, ‘I can’t change it, I am who I am and I have got to love myself.’ So now I try and put my shoulders back and be a bit more confident about it.

“Being taller and bigger than most actresses, I knew I was never going to play the girlfriend or the daughter, so I wrote my own shows,” she says.

“Growing up when you are tall, you feel like a fish out of water and feel different and you don’t fit in. But luckily for me, I always wanted to get into comedy, and I’ve been able to use it quite cathartically in my comedy.

“I can reach a high shelf and that’s a plus,” she laughs. “And I can see in a crowd.” 

She also plans to be the odd-woman-out in health-and-fitness-obsessed Hollywood. “I hate gyms and I love my food. In fact, I don’t really refuse much food as a life rule,” she admits. Her daily exercise, she says, is Pilates for a bad back and walking her dog, Peggy.  

Being taller and bigger than most actresses, I knew I was never going to play the girlfriend or the daughter, so I wrote my own shows

Hart still sounds surprised by her show’s success: “Miranda was weird because, when you write your own show, for the first season you don’t know what’s going to happen and you think maybe three people will be watching. For it to just suddenly take off like it did was quite a shock, and then people really fell in love with that character.”

Miranda Hart in her self-penned, self-titled sitcom 'Miranda'

She says she can pinpoint the exact moment she realised she was famous. She and Sarah Hedland, her co-star in the show, had gone to the theatre to see Shrek the Musical. “We caused a traffic jam of people in the theatre and no one could move because all the kids came over and surrounded us,” Hart recalls. “It was quite frightening and we had to be escorted out. That’s probably the moment I knew it had really taken off.”

As fame bedded in, she found being known for playing the fool was a mixed blessing. “There was a lot of me in it, but they really wanted me to be her and I found that quite a pressure, particularly meeting teenage fans, because it was almost as if they wanted me to fall over in the street and be that total idiot.

“I had to become everybody’s best friend publicly, which was a pressure, but it was really nice at the same time.”

Born in Torquay, the daughter of a Royal Navy captain and grand-daughter of Sir William Luce, the former governor of Aden, Hart got her start in showbusiness by writing material for the Edinburgh Fringe and appearing in a number of British sitcoms. Her self-written radio series Miranda Hart’s Joke Shop led to the BBC series, which got her a run of four Bafta nominations in a row. She has also been a regular on the BBC drama Call the Midwife since 2012, and a reliably entertaining panel show guest.

Her Spy co-star Jason Statham had not met her until filming began and he was immediately won over by her. "She's the kind of girl who can set her feet into anything," he says. " She's very confident, very funny and there's a real swagger to what she does. I thought she was great in the movie."

Spy, which was filmed in Budapest, will take her into a new world of high action, big budget film-making. She plays Nancy, a desk-bound CIA analyst who is very similar to her Miranda character. Her life changes dramatically when she gets thrown into the deep end of the spy world and ultimately finds herself in a helicopter with a gun confronting a deadly enemy, played by the rapper-actor 50 Cent.

“That was exciting,” she says, laughing. “It was like, ‘I’m a spy! This is the best job ever. I am in a helicopter with 50 Cent. What’s happened to my life?’ It was a good feeling.

“That was the first scene I had to do so it was a bit high-pressured and stressful. It was like ‘Welcome to Spy, please meet 50 Cent, how do you do? Now, can you just literally run at him?’ OK! There was a stunt double there, and I said, ‘No, I have got to do this myself.’ I always do my own stuff, so I went for it. And it was quite a surreal day, something I never thought would happen in my professional life.

“That was such a big scene with so much going on we filmed it for four days. So I pushed him over and then every hour for the next three days had to assume the position on top of him. So it was make or break for me and 50 Cent.”

She adds drily: “And we are now married with three children.”

Hart lives alone but, she hastens to add, she is not lonely. “It’s always hard when I say I live alone because it makes me sound like I am sitting with a cat on my lap doing tapestry – which I hate and is not the case at all,” she says.

There won’t be much quiet in her future for a while, with Spy premieres to attend, a new series of Call the Midwife starting, writing two projects she is not yet willing to talk about, looking for a West End theatre role and the possibility of more Hollywood movie parts in the offing.  

“I’m at a bit of a career crossroads,” she says, “but I’m putting out feelers and seeing what happens.”

‘Spy’ is released in Vue cinemas on May 29 and nationally on June 5