Dawn French reveals secret 14-year-long agony over traumatic injury

Dawn French shared the startling news with an audience at one of her shows, opening up about the ‘emotional’ memory of the ‘last time she had two functioning legs’

Dawn French has endured a 14-year-long injury after a well-meaning appearance went wrong
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It was one of the most memorable scenes in British sitcom history– and arguably a highlight of Dawn French’s illustrious career in comedy. But re-enacting an iconic Vicar of Dibley moment actually left the beloved comedian in agony for the last 14 years.

Most people will remember the scene. Dawn’s Geraldine Granger walks hand in hand with her new partner, high on life, and she decides to playfully jump in a puddle.

Classic country life things. But in the hilarious scene, the Vicar of Dibley seriously misjudged the depth of the puddle and ends up almost fully submerged in water.

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Comedy gold – and an instant classic. But Dawn French, who played the lead character for more than a decade, has revealed that an attempt to recreate that very moment left her walking with a cane and in constant agony for years.

During one of her recent stops on her sell-out tour, Dawn revealed it was rather “emotional” looking at a picture of her appearing on the Paul O’Grady Show in 2009 – because it was the last time she had “two functioning legs.”

Speaking at her one-woman show in Exeter last week about the “catastrophically misguided” idea to recreate that moment, she explained, “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.”

Dawn French is currently on tour, where she shared the startling news about her secret injury that's troubled her for over 10 years

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“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.”

This is where the story takes a turn. She continued, “But what was I falling on to? 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.”

“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.’”

Ploughing ahead with a can-do spirit ended in years of agony.

As Dawn explained, “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.”

The incident caused her such pain she walked with a cane and was facing the prospect of knee surgery.

Meeting with a specialist who usually deals with extreme sport trauma, Dawn revealed, “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.”

For now, the comedian handles the pain with three injections a year.

If you want to catch Dawn French in action, she’s currently travelling the UK with her (controversially titled) Dawn French is a Huge Tw*t tour. Dates run until November.

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.