What makes Emma Thompson such a reassuringly good actress?

She is nervous when the sex worker she ordered is standing at the door of herhotel room. Still, retired teacher Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) keeps a firmgrip on the encounter. She paid for this and she knows what she wants: anorgasm, for the first time in her life.

the feature film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande Written by Katy Brand anddirected by Sophie Hyde, it revolves around the sex life of an older woman andit’s quite groundbreaking. It is rare that a woman over 50 is the maincharacter in a film, that she ends up in bed – for a few heavy sex scenes,that is – is very rare at all.

The 63-year-old Emma Thompson stripped naked, with no stand-in, no filters ortrickery. Brave, that’s what it’s called soon – and yes, it is. The Britishactress does what few movie stars of her age want or dare: she shows that timetakes hold of everything. What’s more, she shows that that’s not a bad thing.”It’s such a waste of time worrying about what your body looks like,” she saidin several interviews. “You don’t have to love it, but you can accept it.”

Language sense

Not that it’s easy, she added immediately. The ideal image can be ridiculouslycompelling. Thompson also suffers from it. In an interview with the magazine_people_ , earlier this year, she shared how many times she was told she wasoverweight. That started after she was 30, when she decided to stop starvingherself. “I don’t think many people realize how thin most actresses are inreal life. It’s kinda… unreal.’

Thompson has nothing unreal, unless it is her talent. Not only is she aformidable actress, she also writes: screenplays, columns and children’sbooks. Thompson received an Oscar for both works: she won one in 1993 for heracting in Howards End and three years later she won the Oscar for bestscreenplay, for the Jane Austen film adaptation Sense and Sensibility. Ahitherto unique double.

In his memoirs The college years Actor and comedian Stephen Fry, who metThompson at Cambridge University, describes her as a born star. When he firstsees her act, she doesn’t seem like a beginner in anything: ‘Her voice, hermovements, her sharpness, ease, attitude, humor. It seemed as if, like thegoddess Athena, she had come into the world in full armor.’ She could alsosing and dance, Fry writes with some jealousy – he couldn’t do either himself.“We had no doubt that Emma would become famous. Absolutely not.’

Thompson’s parents were actors, which may explain the innate qualities. Shegot her voice from her mother, the Scottish Phyllida Law: the same sound, thesame clear diction. Her father, Eric Thompson, made a well-known children’sprogram for the BBC. Still, Thompson did not go to drama school, but studiedEnglish literature. In Cambridge she was in the theater company Footlightswith Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. She mainly played comedic sketches, also inthe years after her study, and broke through with a lead role in the musicalwritten by Fry Me and My Girl.

Anyone who tries to analyze Thompson’s strengths as an actor quickly arrivesat what she already displayed during her student days: musicality, comictiming and a sense of language. The latter is perhaps the reason that she canbe seen so often in literary film adaptations. For a while, almost no Britishcostume drama could be made without Thompson in it—always a good sign, by theway. Howards End , The Remains of the Day (both directed by James Ivory)and Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee) are the highlights, all three are aroundthirty years old and still just as impressive.

wisest sister

They also provided a blueprint for a type of character Thompson would oftenplay. In Howards End , after the novel by EM Forster, she played thesensitive, smart but above all very practical Margaret, who marries a wealthyprolet because it is convenient. In Sense and Sensibility she was, again,the oldest and wisest sister in the family: the one who prefers reason toromance, who would rather suffer in silence than cry out. Also in The Remainsof the Day she played a woman who keeps her feelings to herself. The patient,capable housekeeper Mary, like Anthony Hopkins played butler Stevens, doesn’tdare step out of the role she sees fit, even if her heart says otherwise.

Rational and determined, so are almost all of the women Thompson plays.Remember the cool judge in The Children Act (2017), an excellent drama basedon the book by Ian McEwan: she sees her marriage falling apart and throwsherself into her work. Look at the funny but way too strict talk show host whouses words as a weapon, in the comedy late night (2019). Or watch as a sicklanguage professor in Mike Nichols’ beautiful television drama White (2001)tries to maintain her humor and dignity as she slowly languishes.

Thompson always exudes a reassuring self-assurance, a resolute cheerfulness,even when playing a character torn by nerves or grief. Let me do this, sheseems to say. Don’t worry, I’ll bring this to a close. Also in what isprobably her most famous movie scene (the one in the Christmas classic LoveActually , in which she finds out her husband is cheating and runs to thebedroom to gather herself), she excels in determination. The tears are wipedaway eagerly, because her children’s Christmas experience must not be ruined.

That’s how you trust her as an actress: as soon as she comes into the picture,you can breathe a sigh of relief — never think of her going to blow up theatmosphere. She usually takes the film to a higher level, no matter how shortshe is in it. Putting the public at ease like this is a lot less easy than itseems.

She can best play someone who is the opposite of firm. In the tragicomedy_Peter ‘s Friends _From 1993, directed by her then-husband Kenneth Branagh,Thompson played the fluttering, chaotic Margaret, a sweet but rather helplessthirty-something who lets self-help books tell her how to live. Thompson gaveher a believable dose of naivety.

Still, the less fragile roles suit her better. In fact, Thompson is the self-help book among actresses – also in her private life, it seems. According todirector James Ivory (who provided her with important acting advice: neversigh and cry as little as possible) she is just as sensible and calm as sheappears. “A lot of actors are anxious and insecure, which they try to hidewith all kinds of weird behavior, always thinking they’re not good enough,”Ivory said in 2019. The New York Times. “None of that with her.”

Good female roles

Thompson isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She is an environmental activist andmakes her voice heard in other areas as well. She was not thanked when shedescribed England in the run-up to the Brexit referendum as a ‘grey oldisland, filled with pie and misery’. Despite this, she was knighted in 2018,so that she now goes through life as Dame Emma Thompson. It caused a smallriot, because during the royal ceremony she wore white sneakers under hersuit, “very expensive”, she said herself. She also wore a button that read’equal pay’.

For women, there is still a lot to improve in the film industry, saysThompson. Starting with the salary, but also with the roles that are writtenfor them. She refuses boring, supporting roles on principle, but she doesn’tlike the opposite either, she told this month in an interview with VanityFair. Suddenly, from a sort of feminist ideal, women are only allowed to betough and strong. Thompson: ‘First we were in the kitchen, now we have todrive a tank, and there’s nothing in between. We still haven’t fully exploredwhat it means to be a woman in movies.”

Nancy Stokes out Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is such a woman from the in-between area: a fairly ordinary, not very nice widow, who, after a decentlife, stands up for herself. The former religion teacher is strict but alsohas a sense of humor. For Thompson, the film is an excellent opportunity toshow that there is also a life for female actors after 60, without all kindsof emergency measures to look eternally young.

If anyone can prove it, it’s her. Thompson only seems to get better with age.She can still live for another thirty years, in the hope that beautiful filmroles will also be written for elderly ladies in the future. If necessary, shewill undoubtedly write those roles herself. good luck to you Emma Thompson.