For Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, donning a bathing suit on the French Riviera alongside Pierce Brosnan in the British romantic comedy The Love Punch was too good to pass up.
The film, directed by Joel Hopkins, follows divorced suburban London couple Kate and Richard as they attempt a diamond heist in France after their pension fund goes bust.
Thompson, 55, known for roles in period dramas Howards End and Sense and Sensibility, speaks about her work in comedy, her early influences and success.
What drew you to The Love Punch?
The opportunity to appear in a bathing costume has been something sadly missing from my CV. I said to my agent: “Please, God, get me something where I can get into a bathing costume.” And this is what came up.
Also, I’ve worked with the director before and I like him very much, and the idea of a heist movie set as it were in the Home Counties (suburban London) of England with a very witty notion, and then it turned out to be Pierce, which was not so shabby.
You have appeared in period bathing costumes in films?
That’s right. I still only appear in period bathing costumes in real life. I wear those very, very long Victorian draw things in various shades of navy (laughs).
The Love Punch is decidedly British with its sense of middle-class and middle-aged humour. Do you think some of that might be lost on foreign audiences?
If Americans can adore and enjoy Monty Python, they can deal with a bit of mangled French. God knows the most extraordinary bit of Python is mangled French, isn’t it? In the Holy Grail, you know? So I don’t think there’s any problem with that at all. A lot of very American humour goes down very well over here, and very, very British humour goes down very well across the pond.
Do you have a preference for drama or comedy?
I’m British and I like being funny, so it’s what I grew up with. I was a comedian until I was 27, so it’s natural to me to want to stretch those muscles. I had just done Saving Mr. Banks, and that’s quite sad. I do an awful lot of work that is sometimes very emotional. It’s nice to do something that is designed to make people happy from start to finish.
Did you look up to anyone when you were a comedian?
Lily Tomlin. For me, her writing in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe was some of the greatest I’d ever come across. I really wanted to be her, and I did character comedy. Lenny Bruce I loved, just his way of talking about the world and his unflinching sort of way of speaking.
How do you define success?
If you’re spurred by the desire to be successful, then I would strongly recommend you don’t go into this business. If that’s what spurs you, then blood will flow. What spurs me is a curious and mysterious resonance inside a story that makes me think, “Oh, I want to do that.” I want to be part of that story. I want to tell that story.
Success is nice and necessary if you’re going to have a long-term career. You have to have a fair degree of success, otherwise you just don’t get the opportunities ... I would say success is useful. It is very useful in... that you get the chance to choose from a slightly wider variety of projects.
I feel incredibly fortunate because I’ve got so many choices. I think there aren’t many women of 55 who can say that.
t2’s fave Emma films
Howards End (1992): This Merchant Ivory production of the EM Forster novel features one of the most awkward proposal scenes ever. Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins) tells Emma’s Margaret: “Do you think you could be induced to share….” She cuts in and says “Oh yes, I see.” Perfect for an Academy Award!
The Remains Of The Day (1993): The regret that missed opportunities bring was brilliantly enacted by Mr James Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), the butler of Darlington Hall, and Miss Kenton, his former co-worker. An Oscar nomination for Emma in another Merchant Ivory production.
Sense and Sensibility (1995): She wrote the screenplay and played the role of Elinor Dashwood in this Ang Lee-directed film. While the screenplay won her an Academy Award, her acting brought her a nomination. More importantly, the film led to a resurgence in Jane Austen’s works in Hollywood.
Love Actually (2003): As Karen, wife of Harry (Alan Rickman), she is left with a best-of collection of Joni Mitchell songs while her husband gives the new secretary at his design agency an expensive necklace. She stumbles upon the truth and cries heart-breakingly while Both Sides Now plays in the background.
Nanny McPhee (2005): Her love for Mary Poppins comes through in this adaptation of Christianna Brand’s Nurse Matilda books. A stern nanny arrives to take care of widower Cedric Brown’s (Colin Firth) seven children. And she did a brilliant job with the screenplay.
Stranger Than Fiction (2006): Grumpy novelist Karen Eiffel decides to kill the character of Harold Crick (Will Ferrell). Problem is, there exists a real Harold Crick, an auditor with the IRS. And he doesn’t want to die!
An Education (2009): Miss Walters, the parochial headmistress, comes face to face with 16-year-old schoolgirl Jenny (Carey Mulligan) who wants to visit France, listen to jazz with a Jewish businessman. And Miss Walters defends the values of education.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013): Pamela “P.L.” Travers, author of Mary Poppins, is slightly bossy but in a financial spot. Her performance alongside Tom Hanks as Walt Disney brought home the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Award.
Her fave films
The actress spoke of her favourite films during the promotion of Saving Mr. Banks…
Being John Malkovich
The Princess Bride
Riders Of The Lost Ark
It’s A Wonderful Life
Life Of Brian
Fanny And Alexander
The Singing Ringing Tree
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