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Emma Thompson was ‘utterly, utterly blind’ to Kenneth Branagh’s affairs

The New Yorker profiled Emma Thompson in a wonderful piece called “Emma Thompson’s Third Act.” Emma is not a self-congratulatory person, and the profile is littered with quotes about how she doesn’t believe it when good things happen, how she struggles with self-doubt, how she tortures herself to make good art. She’s also quite intimate in the piece, speaking honestly about the breakdown of her marriage to Kenneth Branagh, the death of her beloved father, her children (Gaia and Tindy Agaba) and more. It’s long but it’s worth the read for fans of Emma Thompson. Some highlights:

Her extended family of actors, artists & her kids: “We’re terrible gossips, but ‘gossip’ in the sense that Phyllis Rose described it, the first step on the ladder to self-knowledge. Gossip is discussion about life’s detail. And in life’s details are all the little bits of stitching that you need to hold it to-f–king-gether.”

Her father’s death: “That’s when I thought, Everything is upside down.” Eric’s death, in 1982, when Thompson was twenty-three, was a “cataclysmic loss,” she said, adding, “He left no money. We all had to earn our livings from then on.”

Falling for Kenneth Branagh: They met while filming “Fortunes of War.” Thompson remembers the moment on the set of “Fortunes” when she first fell for him. On a break between takes during a night shoot, Branagh tried to amuse her by singing in his slightly falsetto voice. “I burst into tears because he sounded exactly like my father singing on ‘The Magic Roundabout,’ ” she said. Branagh was reminiscent of Eric Thompson in other ways, too. He created the same seclusive climate around himself, wore a carapace of privacy, which Thompson compared to a walnut: “hard to pry open.” “He was incandescent with ambition and performance energy… Like two mating lobsters, we clashed claws,” Thompson said of their volatile two-year courtship.

Marrying Branagh in 1989: “I was embarrassed largely by the press version of our marriage. We didn’t present as glamorous in any way. I don’t think we wanted to be some power couple, and we certainly didn’t feel like it. We were lampooned and ridiculed, too—fair enough if you’re famous and overpaid—but it’s no fun.”

The sobbing scene in Sense & Sensibility: “She was not aware of what was inside her, and it suddenly emerges,” Thompson explained. Edward haltingly admits that “my heart is and always will be yours.” She holds up her hand, stopping him in mid-romantic flow. Words can wait; in the moment, she is crying tears of anger and joy. Thompson’s emotional explosion is at once a great piece of acting and a great piece of comedy. (“I was trying to make it as involuntary as possible. A case of the diaphragm taking over,” she wrote in her diary.) “Hugh Grant was so cross,” Thompson recalled. “He said, ‘You’re gonna cry all the way through my speech?’ I said, ‘Hugh, I’ve got to. That’s the gag. It’s funny.’ And he says, ‘Yeah, but I’m speaking.’ I said, ‘I know.’ ”

Branagh’s affair: Offscreen, in 1995, while the film was being shot, Thompson had to exert a steely control over her own pain. Her marriage to Branagh had collapsed, but they had not gone public with the news. Branagh had started a relationship with one of the stars of his film “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” Helena Bonham Carter. Thompson was humiliated, in part by her own stupidity. “I was utterly, utterly blind to the fact that he had relationships with other women on set,” she said. “What I learned was how easy it is to be blinded by your own desire to deceive yourself.”

Falling for Greg Wise: “I was half alive. Any sense of being a lovable or worthy person had gone completely,” she said. The person “who picked up the pieces and put them back together” was the actor Greg Wise, who played John Willoughby, the doe-eyed heartthrob who sweeps Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) off her feet in “Sense and Sensibility.” (“Full of beans and looking gorgeous. Ruffled our feathers a bit,” Thompson noted of Wise in her production diary.) Thompson has now been with Wise for twenty-seven years, married for nineteen. “I’ve learned more from my second marriage just by being married,” she said. “As my mother says, ‘the first twenty years are the hardest.’ ”

Her children: In 1999, Thompson had given birth to her daughter, Gaia Wise, who is now an actress. “We tried for another child, but it didn’t work,” she told me. “I often think if it had worked there wouldn’t have been space. So I’m very grateful the I.V.F. didn’t work, because every day I’m grateful for Tindy.” Agaba recalled feeling that he “didn’t have anything to give,” when he met Thompson and Wise. “What hasn’t he given!” Thompson said. “So much joy, so much insight to share in his empathy and his understanding of the world. We laugh—and he helps me to laugh—at the weirdness of people, at the strangeness of life, at its cruelties and absurdities. It’s such a comfort.”

[From The New Yorker]

Greg Wise, what a man. There’s part of me that still loves the fact that Elinor ended up with Willoughby in real life, only Willoughby ended up being a great guy and a loving husband and father. It’s incredible that she talks about how, in the end, she’s glad that the IVF didn’t work out because “there wouldn’t have been space.” They have Gaia and Tindy and a family of friends. As for Kenneth Branagh… I feel like throwing hands now. I mean, we knew that he cheated, we knew that he left her for Helena, but Emma rarely talks about it and when she does, I get mad on her behalf all over again. Then again, that devastation and betrayal led to her being open for Greg Wise, so it really did work out.

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Robin Platzer/Twin Images / Twin Images / Avalon, Ana M. Wiggins / Avalon, Avalon Red.

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Emma Thompson: ‘You don’t have to have babies to be a complete woman’

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande was released on Hulu here in the US. It’s a small, indie drama starring Emma Thompson as a retired teacher who wants some adventure, so she hires a sex worker so she can have some experiences she’s never had. There was apparently some back-and-forth about whether a film released on Hulu would be eligible for Academy consideration. The ruling came down recently that Leo Grande qualifies, so now Emma is part of an Oscar campaign for her performance. She spoke to Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men podcast about the film, the industry, streaming and a lot more. Some highlights:

Watching herself perform on screen, naked: “I would say that the most vulnerable I felt was in Berlin at the film festival in this massive cinema. It was a bloody football field—I mean, huge wraparound room, where we were pretty large on screen. When they told me that it was going to stream [on Hulu], I thought—in a way, in America, there’s more puritanism about sex and sexual pleasure even than there is here. And there’s a lot here. I thought maybe it’s easier for people to see it in their homes.

What she thinks about indie movies going on streaming: “It reminds me of a little bit of all the debate that came around when video started. I’m old enough to remember that, you see. Everyone said, “It’s going to kill cinema.” Didn’t kill cinema. “Cinema’s going to kill theater.” Didn’t kill theater. “COVID’s going to kill theater.” Everyone’s gone back to the theater. We all get into a bit of a panic. And I’m old enough to remember all of those panics and to know that actually in the end, really great stories do find their way out a lot of the time. I’m not underplaying the fact that I’ll find something and suddenly go, “God, why didn’t I see this at the time?” Everything’s under the huge tsunami of massive movies. If at the Cannes Film Festival you’ve got literally got fighter jets going over for Top Gun: Maverick, I go, look, if we’re not going to be supported by independent movie film festivals, then that’s something that’s got to be taken responsibility for.

The film made her recognize “the waste of time” of not accepting one’s body. “You can’t unlearn it because it’s brainwashing. I’ve been brainwashed since I was very young and the brainwashing continues. I think it’s worse actually now because it’s continued on social media. So instead of people saying, “We are now going to inhabit the world in our real selves, in our real forms,” people are taking their forms and photoshopping them themselves. Everything that I was brought up with, which only happened in magazines, is now happening to people on people’s phones. This notion of the ideal and the perfect, industrialized, banal and tedious though it is, has been made even more of a thing. And thus we’re looking at kids as young as eight saying, “I don’t like my thighs. I don’t like this.” Anorexia’s hugely on the rise. It’s something that I’ve fought against all my life, but I can’t fill in those runnels. I just can’t do it. But I can try to be the change. At least I can be honest. And at least I can say, “Look, I accept this now.” I accept my body. I don’t have to love it, but I accept it.

On Maggie Gyllenhaal & seeing an early cut of ‘The Lost Daughter’: “Her presentation of the hell and the torment of motherhood, if it’s not what actually you want to do, was brilliant…[Maggie & I] been mates for a long time and have talked about all of this for a very long time. And actually, one of the things that should be, and I think is becoming part of a mainstream conversation, is that you don’t have to have babies to be a complete woman. You just don’t have to do it. And I think there’s still a huge taboo about that—huge. You become a mother and you realize that everything’s your fault because everything’s the mother’s fault, everything. In popular psychology, that’s changing a bit, but certainly when psychology began, that was everything. It was all written by men, and it was all very bad science. All of this stuff has to be unpacked, taken apart and redefined, re-explored. And all of these movies that we’re talking about are doing that.

Stories we need to stop telling: “There are certain stories we really do have to stop telling because I think they’re quite damaging. One is, “And they lived happily ever after.” That’s just bullsh-t….The other story that we really need to stop telling is about one man saving the world. This is just a very, very dull story, and it has to stop. I’m so bored. When I talk to my brilliant producer friend, Lindsay Doran, she does a talk about the female hero and what writers are told. They’re told the most extraordinary things now—today they’re told, “Well, she can’t cry. She can’t cry because that’s showing feminine weakness. She’s got to be badass.” All the female tropes now have to be like the men. You go, “Hang on a second.” It’s the same story. We have to go into the in-between bit and say, “But what is this that we’re representing?” We are just saying the same thing again and again.

[From Vanity Fair]

“You don’t have to have babies to be a complete woman. You just don’t have to do it. And I think there’s still a huge taboo about that—huge…” She’s right. Childfree women are still considered oddities, or the exception to the rule. Mothers reinforce it too, when they talk about how having a baby makes them feel “complete” or “whole.” This made me stop and think too: “in America, there’s more puritanism about sex and sexual pleasure even than there is here. And there’s a lot here.” I assume she means the UK and perhaps the British-American strains of Puritanism. I get that. But British tabloids still put topless photos in every issue, right?

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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emma thompson

Emma Thompson: ‘I don’t think anyone realizes how thin most actresses are’

Emma Thompson is doing press for her film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, which comes out in a couple of weeks. As Kaiser mentioned, the film’s premise is that Emma’s character hires a sex worker to help her have her first orgasm. It will also be the first time Emma has appeared nude in a movie. One might think it took Emma until her 60s to work up the courage to be naked on film, but she said that she wasn’t ever offered the opportunity. According to Emma, she’s been told her whole career that she doesn’t have the right body to disrobe. She said she’s been judged harshly her whole career and by her 30s, the press said she’d let herself go. But Emma said she hadn’t given up, she’d just stopped starving herself.

Emma Thompson has experienced her share of body shaming.

The two-time Academy Award winner, 63, recounted male executives telling her she didn’t have “the right kind of body” for sex scenes as she spoke to The Times about her new movie Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.

“I’ve never really been offered sex scenes,” she said. “As my mother said, I’ve basically played a series of ‘good’ women. I do ‘cerebral.’ And I have also never conformed to the shape or look of someone they might want to see naked.

“And by ‘they,’ I mean male executives. I’m too mouthy, not pretty enough, not the right kind of body. And, crikey, you are constantly told what kind of body you have,” Thompson added.

She also recalled enduring disparaging comments about her body from the media for the better part of her career.

“In one interview I did, the male journalist wrote that I’d put on a lot of weight since I appeared in Fortunes of War, and that my legs were ‘now like tree trunks,’ and that I’d ‘let myself down,’ ” Thompson said. “I was 31 and, quite frankly, no longer starving myself. I don’t think anyone realises quite how thin most actresses are in real life. They look quite… unreal.”

[From People]

We’ve heard these stories about what execs say to women and yet, every time I hear them, I’m shocked. I agree that people don’t know how thin actresses are. Nor do they know the measures they have to go to stay that way. It’s not that actresses come off as frail or brittle in person, but their figure has to have no bad angles. My heart hurts thinking about the demands made on these women and the critiques they hear. The larger problem is, those critiques are passed on to all of us. When a non-actress-sized woman hears someone tell a thin woman that her legs are “like tree trunks,” she’ll only see herself as even more flawed.

The People article talked about how Emma and her co-star, Daryl McCormack, got comfortable for the nude scenes. They and director Sophie Hyde all got naked and rehearsed that way after discussing their bodies and their relationships with their bodies, including what they liked and disliked. That sounds like my version of hell given my own body issues, but it must have been incredibly freeing for them. I like this new journey for Emma. I like that’s she’s dictating what’s desirable now. Like when Diane Keaton did her first full-frontal nude scene at 57, I’m sure we’ll be phrasing this as how brave Emma is but it shouldn’t be brave, it’s just a choice. And the best part is, it’s a choice Emma got to make on her own terms.

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Photo credit: Avalon Red and Getty Images

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Emma Thompson: The rise in plastic surgery ‘is a form of collective psychosis’

Emma Thompson has a film coming out called Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. She plays “a widow who hires a young male escort so she can finally explore the sexual intimacy that her marriage lacked,” according to People Mag. Emma has been out and about in recent days, hyping the movie and talking about her first-ever nude scene at the age of 62. Emma is oozing with talent as a writer and actor, so much so that I don’t think she ever gets credit for being thin and attractive. Like, Emma is an attractive woman and she’s been attractive at every stage of her life. She also has the kind of figure which looks good in expensive clothes. She absolutely has some pretty-person privilege, and she doesn’t really acknowledge that as she talks about ageing, plastic surgery and what it’s like to be naked on camera at the age of 62.

On plastic surgery: When asked if she’s ever considered plastic surgery, Thompson vehemently said she’s against it. “Why would you do that to yourself, I simply don’t understand. I do honestly think the cutting of yourself off to put it in another place in order to avoid appearing to do what you’re actually doing, which is aging, which is completely natural, is a form of collective psychosis. I really do think it’s a very strange thing to do.”

She admits that she’s at an age when people often opt for face lifts. “I’ve always thought that, though. But I’ve always been a kind of card-carrying, militant feminist when it comes to women’s bodies and what’s been done to them, what we’re told to expect of ourselves, what we’re told to do to ourselves.”

Filming the untreated body: She said that societal expectations made going nude difficult. “It’s very challenging to be nude at 62. Nothing has changed in the dreadful demands made upon women in the real-world world but also in acting. This thing of having to be thin is still the same as it ever was, and actually in some ways I think it’s worse now.” Thompson said that her age both helped and hurt matters. “I don’t think I could’ve done it before the age that I am. And yet, of course, the age that I am makes it extremely challenging because we aren’t used to seeing untreated bodies on the screen.”

[From People]

Again, there’s some unacknowledged pretty-person privilege happening here. I know why Emma doesn’t acknowledge it, and that’s because she was told throughout her career that she wasn’t “pretty enough” or “young enough,” so that’s not how she sees herself. But she’s always been a slim, attractive blonde woman who had enough money, time and access to take care of herself. Now, I also think that cosmetic surgery is too prevalent and I agree that so many women are going under the knife because they’re told by society that they don’t look young enough or hot enough. But I also think, fundamentally, let women do what they want. If getting some work done makes someone feel better or happier or more confident, go buck wild.

(I’d also like to say that it is increasingly exotic to see the rare actor who IS aging naturally on-screen. Usually, it’s just the European actors and some of the British actors who don’t mind or care about looking old, wrinkly and unmoisturized. What a revelation it was to see Hugh Grant’s dry-ass wrinkled face in The Undoing.)

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Instar.

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Emma Watson wore an upcycled wedding gown to the Earthshot Awards

The London 2021 Earthshot Prize Award Ceremony

The Earthshot Prize Awards were held last night at Alexandra Palace. Guests were invited to attend in person if they were already in London (or close by), and instead of traveling long distances to attend, foreigners were asked to merely video-conference in, to avoid taking planes and such. People who attended in person were also asked to either recycle old fashion or wear some kind of sustainable fashion. Which is what Emma Watson did – she wore this Harris Reed ensemble which is technically new, but it was upcycled from old wedding gowns. Emma’s bell-bottoms are from the same designer, although I don’t know if they’re upcycled too. This was her first “event” appearance on a carpet in two years!

The London 2021 Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony

The London 2021 Earthshot Prize Award Ceremony

Emma Thompson also attended – Emma is quite cozy with the royal family, and she’s good friends with Prince Charles. I didn’t know she was involved with Keenshot or William. Hm.

The London 2021 Earthshot Prize Award Ceremony

Mo Salah, the Egyptian footballer who plays for Liverpool, also attended. He was a presenter.

The London 2021 Earthshot Prize Award Ceremony

And here’s Ed Sheeran performing on stage, and chatting with the Keens.

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Embed from Getty Images

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Getty.

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Tom Hiddleston & Taylor are already talking about Tiddlebabies, Tiddlematrimony

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People Magazine’s eyewitnesses also noted that Taylor told restaurant staffers that Italian food is her favorite and she was super-excited to try Gemelli’s food. Tiddles spent “several hours at dinner before returning to their hotel in a chauffeured car.” People Mag also notes that Tom and Taylor have been exceedingly polite to their fans, many of whom have gathered outside the hotel. Here are some photos of their date night:

So, all is well in Tiddlesville. In fact, things are going so well in their nearly month-old relationship that Taylor is already thinking about Tiddlebabies and Tiddlematrimony.

Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston’s relationship appears to be moving forward even faster than originally thought. Less than a month after they made their romance public, the 26-year-old pop star sees the 35-year-old Thor actor as husband material and the two have also talked about their desire to have kids one day, a source told E! News exclusively Sunday.

“This is the kind of a man she would want to marry,” the source said. “She has said he would make a great dad. They have talked about what they want in the future and kids are something that they would both like down the line. They have very real and serious conversations about life.”

Swift, the source added, likes Hiddleston’s “English ways…She has told me that she loves his accent and thinks he is so sexy. He acts very English. He is also a big tea drinker.”

Another source told E! News Swift “loves traveling with Tom,” who “makes her feel so safe…They are the real deal. They laugh and travel well together. These past few weeks, they have learned many things about each other…she is getting very attached. Tom gives Tay more attention than any other man she has ever been with. She likes his maturity. He…is a very romantic and charming gentleman.”

An insider had told E! News after Swift’s Fourth of July party the singer’s “squad” of female friends “all really like Tom and like how he treats Taylor” and that while “things are moving fast between them,” her friends are not worried “because they never have seen her this happy.”

“Tay can’t stop talking about Tom,” the second source told E! News Sunday. “It’s an ongoing conversation with the girls on how happy she is. Tay has mentioned numerous times how ‘in love’ with each other they are.”

[From E! News]

Of course she loves his “English ways.” He’s like the poster boy for a certain kind of posh Englishman, almost as if he was invented by Richard Curtis and Emma Thompson (although I bet Emma would love to tell Tom to take a seat right now). I love this though: “He acts very English. He is also a big tea drinker.” But what kind of tea, Tiddles? Anyway, I find it interesting that Team Swifty is leaking like a sieve. We’re getting multiple stories every week about how SHE loves him, how she’s impressed with him, how she can’t stop talking about him. Which is fine – that’s her brand. The “Tiddles” brand benefits her much more than him. But what is Tom getting out of it?

FFN_VAH_Swift_Taylor_070616_52114331

 

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Emma Thompson Brings Today’s Quotes

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On looking her age:

If you look after yourself and you’re healthy, then you’ll have the energy to do things. But not to recognize getting older for what it is? I do think the infantilisation of our generation is one of the huge issues of our time. People wanting to be 35 when they’re 50 makes me think: “Why? Why don’t you be 50 and be good at that?” And also embody the kinds of choices that are sustainable at that age.

On whether there is less pressure for women to look a certain way than 30 years ago:

I think it’s still completely s***, actually. I don’t think there’s any appreciable improvement and I think that, for women, the question of how they are supposed to look is worse than it was even when I was young. When I was younger I really did think we were on our way to a better world and when I look at it now, it is in a worse state than I have known it. Particularly for women and I find that very disturbing and sad…nothing has changed.

… says 56 year-old Emma.

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