Emma Thompson: Brit Wit

The Oscar-winning star is back — and warming hearts in a rare midlife love story.

By Elizabeth Renzetti
Emma Thompson on MORE’s February 2009 cover
Photograph: Photo by: Lorenzo Agius

In the February 2009 issue of MORE magazine, Emma Thompson tells all about her chemistry with Last Chance Harvey co-star Dustin Hoffman, her affection for womanly curves, and turning 50 next year. Here, excerpts from the cover feature:

On working with Hoffman: Thompson first appeared with Hoffman in Stranger Than Fiction; according to Hoffman, the director felt they were so good together in one of their scenes, they were stealing attention from Will Ferrell. "It’s film chemistry," Thompson says. "It happened with Tony Hopkins and with Dustin." Consulted later, Hoffman does her one better, saying that if they’d met at 18, "I’m sure we would have struck up an early romantic friendship."

On our youth-driven culture: "We’ll, I’m not fiddling about with myself, if that’s what you mean. We’re in this awful youth-driven thing now where everybody needs to look 30 at 60, and you go, ‘Don’t you get it? This is the law of diminishing returns. You are creating what can only be described as a great big cat-o’-nine-tails to flog yourself with as you get older.’ The trick is to age honestly and gracefully and make it look great, so that everyone looks forward to it."

On aging: "Getting older is quite a curious thing because you can be really angry without knowing you’re angry about it. You’re being philosophical and marvelous, because that’s what you’re supposed to be. But I think it’s also important to allow yourself the odd moment of ‘Crikey! There’s not much longer to go.’ You’re more than halfway through. Then you start thinking about the number of autumns you have left."

On female sexuality in the media: "I hate the fact that on the front of every magazine there’s a scantily clad woman posing in a sexual manner. I find it offensive, and I don’t care who knows it." She saw an ad for the Sun newspaper on a double-decker bus, featuring a woman’s nude torso with enlarged 10-pence coins covering the nipples, and wrote to Ken Livingstone, then the mayor of London. "I said, ‘Take those fucking images off! It’s a bus!’"

About women in Hollywood being asked to slim down: When she was filming Brideshead Revisited, the producers asked 25-year-old Hayley Atwell, who was playing Julia Flyte, to lose weight. "I went absolutely ballistic. She didn’t need to lose weight, and it upset her deeply. It was an evil thing to do." Thompson threatened to quit; the producers backed down. Now she feels justified: "She looks so beautiful and womanly, you think, that’s what God intended!"

Mike Nichols, who gave Thompson away at her Scottish wedding to British actor Greg Wise, on his wardrobe malfunction: "It would have been more thrilling if my kilt hadn’t fallen down. It was a typical Emma and Greg thing, in that it was deeply moving and hilarious at the same time."

How Kate Winslet played matchmaker with Thompson and Wise, who she met on the set of Sense and Sensibility: "It was all Winslet’s fault." She turned to her one day and said, "I think he’s got the hots for you." "Don’t be ridiculous," Thompson shot back. "I’m old enough to be his…older sister."

About working hard to stay fit: "I’m not the sort of person — I wish I were — who can say ‘I’m completely happy whatever shape I’m in.’ That means I have to work hard to regain a shape I’m happy with, which is very feminine. I’ve never been a skinny monkey." Her regimen was designed by Madonna’s trainer, Tracy Anderson. "It’s a combination of stuff: cardio and running around until you start to sweat and go red in the face."

Originally published in MORE magazine, February 2009.

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