By Jody Thompson
Last updated at 6:23 PM on 24th January 2011
- Father was commanding officer of HMS Coventry when it sank with 19 souls lost
- Six-foot star took antidepressants because of her looks
- She cleans up with three Comedy Awards gongs
She's the unlikely screen star who swept the board at the British Comedy Awards - but until now the dramatic story behind Miranda Hart's success has gone largely untold.
Three gongs confirmed the 38-year-old's ascent to the top of the tree after her radio show switched to BBC2 in 2009 and became something of a sleeper hit.
But behind her rise to the top is a tale of overcoming the odds, how she beat depression and the horror of nearly losing her father in the Falklands War.
In 1982 her father Captain David Hart-Dyke was the commanding officer of Royal Navy destroyer HMS Coventry when it was sunk by the Argentinians, with 19 men killed.
Threesy does it: Miranda Hart with her clutch of British Comedy Awards
He was badly burned burned and refused to speak about the tragedy for 25 years.
Miranda was just 10 at the time of the horror and says she didn't fully comprehend what had happened.
She explains: 'I definitely remember when he was in the Falklands and that was a very difficult time.
'I remember when his ship sank and coming home from school and a whole mass of news reporters being outside, but mum hadn't told us what had happened,' she told The Daily Mirror.
'Apparently, when mum told me I said, "Oh dear. Can I have a flapjack?" I didn't fully understand.'
Family: Captain David Hart-Dyke (L), still bearing the facial scars from the fire, with wife Diana and daughters Miranda (centre) and Alice (R)
The 6ft 1ins says much of her comedy is based around real-life experiences and at times it is hard to discern where the laughs stop and the real Miranda begins with her gawky social misfit.
Even when accepting her award for Best Female Comedy Actress from pop legends Duran Duran at the weekend, the lines between real-life and her character remained blurred.
Accepting the gong from lead singer Simon Le Bon, she immediately quipped: 'Yes, I will go back to your hotel! Thank you very much, wow! Actually, not really, you're okay.'
But even in the heat of the moment, her family were foremost in her mind, and once the uproarious laughter from the audience had died down, she said more earnestly: 'I'd just like to thank my friends and family, really, for supporting in the 10 years while I was gigging and didn't get a job basically and for persevering with me. Thank you very much.'
Did their duty: Captain Hart-Dyke pictured at a memorial service at Coventry Cathedral to the men who lost their lives on the HMS Coventry in the Falklands War
She went on to win Best New TV Comedy Show and the People's Choice Award For Queen Of Comedy too - further moving her family on from the dark days of 1982 when her father came home deeply traumatised.
HMS Coventry had been under orders to lure the enemy away from British troops. Mr Hart-Dyke said he felt like he was on a suicide mission, but couldn't refuse.
He told the Mirror: 'That's war. It's like a game of chess. You've got to give up some pieces to get checkmate at the end. I was one of those pieces.'
He retired from the armed services in 1990 and he and wife Diana now live in Hambledon, Hampshire, not far from where they brought up their girls Miranda and her sister in Petersfield.
It is only now that he has been willing to talk about the trauma - an unsaid darkness as Miranda was growing up.
And while she had made her career from laughter, there remains some darkness at her heart, like many great comedians.
Miranda went to one of the country's leading boarding schools Downe House school where she was a friend and contemporary of BBC presenter Clare Balding.
Much like her character in the show, she was teased about her height after she shot up to her current height aged just 16.
She has said of her towering frame: 'The truth is when you are a tall woman you do get called sir.'
Miranda has admitted that many of the comments had been damaging to her self-esteem as she grew up and became so fed up with her looks, that she went on anti-depressants in her 20s.
She gone away to study politics at university, but had gone back to living with her parents and suffered what she called a 'blip'.
She suffered from agoraphobia, anxiety and panic attacks and the anti-depressants she was taking caused her to pile on five stone.
Miranda told The Guardian of the time: 'It's just bad genes, bad luck, really. I'll always have to force myself to see the positive, because I'm wired badly, I'd say. I'm just naturally a bit under, a bit depressed.'
Mighty warrior: The HMS Coventry when it was bombed by Argentinian aircraft then sank during the Falklands conflict in 1982 with the loss of 20 lives
However, after a stint working as a PA in the charity, she finally told her parents that her ambition was to be a comedian and she wrote her first solo show for Edinburgh in 2002.
She then pitched a comedy show to the BBC in 2004, where Jennifer Saunders just happened to be sat in on a reading - and laughed throughout.
Saunders became something of a mentor for the burgeoning talent that was Miranda, and hired her to star alongside her in French and Saunders.
Miranda then went on to star in Smack The Pony, The Vicar Of Dibley and Not Going Out before launching Miranda Hart's Joke Shop on BBC Radio 2.
Based on her semi-autobiographical writing, it was this show which she morphed into her British Comedy Award-winning television show Miranda.
The action is set around Miranda's joke shop, which she owns and lives above, and the restaurant next door where her crush Gary Preston (Tom Ellis) works.
The show has scored ratings of up to four million and Miranda also landed the Royal Television Society's Best Comedy Performance award last year.
Comedy star: Miranda with her sitcom co-stars (l-r) Tom Ellis, Patricia Hodge, Sarah Hadland and James Holmes
The thin-skinned star though has previously said she is fed-up of constant references to her looks and that she was 'depressed' about being compared to overweight Seventies comedy legend Hattie Jacques
The funny girl, who lives along with her dog in Hammersmith, west London, said she has stopped reading write-ups of her show because of constant comparisons between her and the late comedy star.
She opined: 'I don't read reviews because they always mention my looks.
As a woman, it seems you can't just be a comedian, you're always classed as something else too, whether that's "beautiful", "pint-sized", "larger-than-life" or in my case "Hattie Jacques-esque", "the giraffe", "big".
'I used to read them, but I had to stop after a while. One of those comments is OK, you can deal with it, but if you read 60 even the strongest person would start feeling low.'
Tall: The star makes jokes at her own expense about her height but hates the constant references to her appearance
'I'm quite a confident person in many ways, but there's only so much you can hear about being compared to Hattie Jacques. For the record she was a comedy goddess, but she was 25 stone. I hope I'm right in saying I'm not in any way nearly 25 stone.'
She added: 'People are obviously going to mention what I look like, but it's a shame it has to be a key part. I can't just be Miranda.'
Hopefully, some of that esteem will be have been redeemed with her three coveted British Comedy Awards - and from now on, people just call her Miranda.