Emma Thompson and the Baring All Onscreen Challenge at 63

It’s the shock of white hair you first notice on Emma Thompson, a dye that’s far more elegant than anything your average 63-year-old would dare pick but don’t ignore her age either. It is accompanied by that big, wide smile and attentive look, which suggests sarcastic intelligence and a willingness to joke.

However, Thompson started our video call by MacGyvering her computer screen with a piece of paper and some masking tape so she couldn’t see herself. “The only thing I can’t stand about Zoom is having to look at my face,” she said. “I’ll just cover myself.”

We’re here on two computer monitors to discuss her most revealing role to date. In the new movie Good luck to you, Leo Grande. Directed by Sophie Hyde, Thompson is emotionally insane and physically nude, not in a sexy, laid-back way.

Thompson plays Nancy, a recently widowed and former seminary teacher who has never had an orgasm. At once a devoted wife and obedient mother harboring many regrets for the life she did not live and the dull, needy boys she raised, Nancy hires a sex worker – a much younger man played by a relative newcomer Daryl McCormack (“Peaky Blinders”) – To bring her the happiness she has always longed for. The audience should follow along with you while this much-loved woman–she could have been your teacher, your mother, and you–who, in Thompson’s words, “crossed all the limits I’ve known in her life,” wrestles with this gigantic rebellious act.

“Yes, I made the most extraordinary decision to do something so extraordinary, brave and revolutionary,” Thompson said from her office in north London. Then you make at least two or three decisions not to. But she is fortunate to have chosen someone who is wise and somewhat instinctive, with an extraordinary level of insight into the human condition, who understands it, and what you are going through, and can kindly suggest that there may be a reason behind this.”

Thompson has been challenged by what she calls “health horror”. She knew this character on a cellular level – same age, same background, same drive to do the right thing. “Just a small piece of paper and opportunity separates me from it,” she joked.

However, the role required her to reveal a level of emotional and physical vulnerability that she was not used to. (To prepare themselves for this intimate, sex-positive duo that takes place primarily in a hotel room, Thompson, McCormack, and Hyde said they spent one of their training days at work nude.) Its quality was praised and disrespected and it won two Oscars, one for acting (“Howards End”) and one for writing (“Howards End”).“Feeling and Sensitivity”), Thompson appeared naked in front of the camera only once: in the 1990 comedy “The tall man” opposite Jeff Goldblum.

She said she wasn’t skinny enough to lead those kinds of skin-stripping roles, and although for a while she tried to conquer the industrial diet complex, starving herself like all the other young women clamoring for parts on the big screen, she quickly became aware that she was “ridiculous.”

“It’s not fair to say, ‘No, I’m just like that naturally. “He is dishonest and makes other women feel that way [expletive]She said. “So if you want the world to change, and you want to change the icons of the female body, you better be part of the change. You better be different.”

For Leo Grande, it was her choice to undress, and although she did so with trepidation, Thompson said she believed “the movie wouldn’t be the same without it.” However, the moment she had to stand completely naked in front of the mirror with a calm receptive look on her face was, as the scene called, the hardest thing she had ever done.

“To be really honest, I will never be happy with my body. I was brainwashed very early,” she said. I can’t undo those neural pathways.”

However, she can talk about sex. Both its absurdities and the intricacies of female pleasure. “I just can’t have an orgasm. I need time. I need affection. You can’t just dash up to her clit and flutter on it and hope for the best. It’s not going to work guys. They think if you touch that little button it’ll go off like Katherine’s wheel, and it’s going to be awesome.” “.

There is a moment in the movie when Nancy and Leo start dancing in the hotel room “Always Alright” by the Alabama Chicks. The two meet for a second time—an encounter that comes with a checklist of sexual acts, Nancy determined to move on (pun intended). This dance is meant to relieve her Type A stress, orchestrated by a teacher who threatens to derail the session. Leo puts his arms around her neck, swinging his eyes closed as a look crosses Nancy’s face, a look of gratitude and sadness paired with worry.

To screenwriter, Katie Brand, who starred opposite Thompson on The second “Nanny McPhee” movie And who imagined Thompson as Nancy while writing the first draft, this look is the point of the entire movie.

It’s just everything,” Brand said. “She feels the loss of her youth and the kind of natural, organic sexual development she would have had, if she hadn’t met her husband. There is a tingling sensation, not just of what could be but what could be from now on.”

Brand isn’t the first young woman to write a script dedicated to Thompson. Mindy Kaling did it for her “in late Time of night” She testifies that she has loved Thompson since she was eleven years old. Writer Jemima Khan told Thompson that she had always wanted the actress to be her mother, so she wrote her a role in the upcoming movie What Should Love Do to Her?

“I think the thing Emma does for everyone and what she does in person for people, but also across screen, is that she always somehow feels like she’s on your side,” Brand said. “And I think people are really responsive to that. She will meet you on a very human level.”

Producer Lindsey Doran Thompson has known for decades. Doran hired her to write “Sense and Sensibility” after she watched her short-lived TV show “Thompson,” which she wrote and acted on. The two collaborated on the “Nanny McPhee” films, and are working on the musical version, with Thompson handling the book and co-writing the songs with Gary Clark (“Singing Street”).

For the producer, the movie is packaging for a writer who truly understands her actress.

“I felt like Katie knew the machine, and knew what the machine could do in a matter of seconds,” Doran said. “It’s not only, here I will be dramatic. And here, I will be funny, and here I will be emotional. Everything can pass on her face quickly, and you can literally say that there is this feeling, there are these feelings.”

Review “Leo Grande” for the New York Times, Lisa Kennedy described Thompson as “amazingly resilient with the trappings of text and revelation,” while Harper’s Bazaar said Thompson was “an ageless treasure urgently overdue at her next Academy Award nomination.”

An obvious path to a movie like this should be a short trip down the awards circuit that would likely lead to Thompson winning her fifth Academy Award nomination. But the film, due to premiere on Hulu on Friday, will not have a US theater release.

Thompson does not mind. “It’s a little movie with no guns, so I don’t know how many people in America really want to see it,” she said with a wink.

That may be true. But more importantly, due to a rule change by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that harkens back to the pre-pandemic requirement of a seven-day theatrical release, “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” is ineligible for an Academy Award, a fact Director Sophie Hyde is unhappy.

“It’s really frustrating,” Hyde said. “I understand the desire to somewhat protect cinema, but I also think the world has changed a lot. Last year, a live-action movie won Best Picture.” She argued that her film and others on streaming services are not intended for television. It’s cinematic, she said, adding, “That’s what the Academy should protect, not the screen that’s being shown.”

Thompson, for example, seems somewhat optimistic about the whole thing. “I think due to the fact that you may have a somewhat tighter undercurrent in life wherever you are, it might be easier for people to share something intimate like this at home and then be able to turn it off and make themselves a nice glass of Really bad tea.” “None of you Americans can make good tea.”