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Emma Thompson: A Life in Pictures

27 November 2013

Emma Thompson, whose filmography includes Sense & Sensiblity, The Remains of the Day, the Harry Potter series and Saving Mr. Banks, gave a heartwarming Life in Pictures interview with Boyd Hilton, sponsored by Deutsche Bank.


Listen to Emma Thompson's A Life in Pictures:


Download the transcript of the event here.

Emma Thompson A Life in Pictures inteview (230.4 KB)


"The most moving things are often also funny, in life and in art" noted Emma Thompson as her heartfelt, reflective and in places hysterical, Life in Pictures got underway. Discussing experiences as a stand-up comic, time in the Footlights, and her parent's acting, Thompson reflected how her path into the industry seemed inevitable, noting "I was surrounded by creative people and I don’t think it would ever have gone any other way, really".

As the conversation moved towards Thompson's work in television and film, it was evident how quickly critical appraisal and awards found her. By 1996, Thompson had won three BAFTA Film awards for Best Actress for her roles in Tutti Frutti, Howards End and Sense & Sensibility - the latter two of which also won Thompson Academy Awards. On such recognition, Thompson was very down-to-earth, suggesting that while "I think it gave me confidence. It did", she also believes that "the star system is not a good system. It’s revolting for actors to become grand. Very unattractive to watch".

Thompson's anecdotes and witty recollections from her collaborations with Hugh Grant, Anthony Hopkins and Richard Curtis, to name a few, tickled the audience while providing a true insight into the actresses place amongst a generation of true British greats.

In regards to Saving Mr. Banks, Thompson's most recent project alongside Tom Hanks, the actress reflected how "we were all surprised that Disney had let us make it in the first place" but once the project got underway, it became apparent that, as Thompson described, "really it’s about that, it’s about the effect of parents, the effects on the soul of the child."

Taking questions from the audience, Thompson delighted one young screenwriter who sought advice regarding her first feature-length screenplay by offering to read it and offer her own notes on the project, demonstrating how, despite BAFTA and Oscar success and a phonebook filled with industry-heavyweights, Thompson remains very much in tune with the common sense and sensibilities that first brought her success.


Emma Thompson on her career in film


Whether starring in an intimate drama or a spectacular blockbuster, reciting Shakespeare or casting magical spells, Emma Thompson has become one of the country’s most admired and well-loved actresses. With a range of unforgettable roles including a Scottish rock and roll singer (Suzi Kettles in Tutti Fruitti) an Austen heroine (Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility), and a rather eccentric Hogwarts teacher (Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter series) Thompson’s natural warmth and generosity of spirit resonates throughout all her performances.

Thompson is from an acting family; her father Eric Thompson memorably narrated The Magic Roundabout, while her mother Phyllida Law remains a welcome presence on British television (indeed, she appeared with her daughter in films such as Peter’s Friends, Much Ado About Nothing and The Winter Guest). While studying at Cambridge, Thompson became part of the renowned Footlights comedy troupe with fellow alumni Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Her television breakthrough came alongside the pair in programmes such as The Crystal Cube (1983) and Alfresco (1983-84).

In 1988, Thompson won her first BAFTA for her performances in Fortunes of War (1987) and Tutti Fruitti (1987). Soon after her career reached new heights, as her sensitive portrayal of Margaret Schlegel opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins in Howards End (1991) gave Thompson her first Oscar and her second BAFTA. She appeared with Hopkins again in the equally impressive The Remains of the Day (1993), as well as enchanting audiences as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing (1993), followed by her commanding turn in In the Name of the Father (1993).

It is perhaps Thompson’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in 1995 which she is most fondly regarded for. As well as winning her third BAFTA for acting, she was awarded her second Oscar for her adapted screenplay, remaining the only person to ever have won Oscars for both acting and writing. With the film’s joyful exuberance and outstanding performances from Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Thompson herself, Sense and Sensibility remains one of the definitive Austen screen adaptations.

In recent years, Thompson has continued to demonstrate her versatility, from her portrayal of an omnipotent author in Stranger than Fiction (2006), to her tender depiction of romantic love found later in life in Last Chance Harvey (2008). In Richard Curtis’ multi-narrative Love Actually (2003), Thompson brought an exceptional poignancy to her role, her performance one of the standout moments in the film. She has also delighted family audiences as the buck-toothed yet enchanted disciplinarian in Nanny McPhee (2005) and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010), both of which she adapted and starred in.

Taking her association with magical nannies one step further, Thompson will be next seen playing P.L Travers in Saving Mr. Banks (2013), hotly pursued by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) for the rights to bring her novel Mary Poppins to the big screen. In a career full of extraordinary highlights, it appears that we will once more be falling for Thompson’s spell all over again.


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This BAFTA: A Life In Pictures Interview was generously sponsored by... Deutsche Bank logo [Thin Crop]