, Thompson in Paris at the César Awards 2009
(1959-04-15) 15 April 1959 (age 54), Paddington, London, England, United Kingdom
Newnham College, Cambridge
Actor, comedian, screenwriter, author, activist
Kenneth Branagh (m. 1989-95), Greg Wise (m. 2003)
Eric Thompson, Phyllida Law
Sophie Thompson (sister)
Emma Thompson (born 15 April 1959) is a British actress, comedian, screenwriter and author. She first came to prominence in 1987 in two BBC TV series, Tutti Frutti and Fortunes of War, she won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for her work in both. Her first major film role was in the 1989 romantic comedy The Tall Guy. In 1992, Thompson won multiple acting awards, including an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress, for her performance in the British drama Howards End. In 1993, Thompson garnered dual Academy Award nominations, as Best Actress for The Remains of the Day and as Best Supporting Actress for In the Name of the Father.
In 1995, Thompson scripted and starred in Sense and Sensibility, a film adaptation of the Jane Austen novel of the same name, which earned her an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role among other awards. Other notable film and television credits have included the Harry Potter film series, Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Wit (2001), Love Actually (2003), Angels in America (2003), Nanny McPhee (2005), Stranger than Fiction (2006), Last Chance Harvey (2008), An Education (2009), Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010), Men in Black 3 (2012) and Brave (2012). In 2012, Thompson authored The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the publication of Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
1 Early life,
2 Acting career
2.1 Early roles,
2.2 Widespread recognition,
4 Personal life,
5 Filmography and theatre
7 Awards and nominations,
9 Further reading,
10 External links,
Thompson was born in Paddington, London, on 15 April 1959. A member of a show-business family, her mother is the Scottish actress Phyllida Law, while her father, Eric Thompson, was the writer and narrator of the popular children's television series The Magic Roundabout. She has one sister, Sophie Thompson, who also works as an actress. The family lived in the North London district of West Hampstead, and Thompson was educated at Camden School for Girls.
In 1977, Thompson began studying for an English degree at Newnham College, University of Cambridge. While there, she had a "seminal moment" that turned her to feminism and inspired her to take up performing. She explained in a 2007 interview how, "having grown up reading the Victorian female novelists", she discovered the book The Madwoman in the Attic "which is about Victorian female writers and the disguises they took on in order to express what they wanted to express. That completely changed my life." She became a self-professed "punk rocker", with short red hair and a motorbike, and aspired to be a comedian like Lily Tomlin. Thompson was invited into Footlights, the university's prestigious sketch comedy troupe, by then-president Martin Bergman. She was a member along with fellow actors Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, and had a romantic relationship with the latter. In 1980, Thompson served as the Vice President of Footlights, and co-directed the troupe's first all-female revue, Women's Hour. The following year, Thompson and her Footlights team won the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for their sketch The Cellar Tapes.
In 1982, Thompson's father died as a result of circulatory problems at 52 years old. The actress has commented that this "tore the family to pieces", and "I can't begin to tell you how much I regret his not being around". She added, "At the same time, it's possible that were he still alive I might never have had the space or courage to do what I've done ... I have a definite feeling of inheriting space. And power."
In 1982, Thompson landed a role touring in a stage version of Not the Nine O'Clock News. She then turned to television, where much of her early work came with her Footlights co-stars Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. The brief comedy series There's Nothing To Worry About! (1982) was their first outing, followed by the one-off show The Crystal Cube (1982). The sketch show Alfresco (1983-84) proved more successful, and ran for two series. In 1985, Thompson was cast in the West End revival of the musical Me and My Girl, co-starring Robert Lindsay. It proved a breakthrough for the actress, as the production earned rave reviews and she played the female lead for over a year. At the end of 1985, Thompson wrote and starred in her own one-off special for Channel 4, Emma Thompson: Up for Grabs.
Thompson achieved another breakthrough in 1987, when she had leading roles in two television miniseries: Fortunes of War, a World War II drama co-starring Kenneth Branagh, and Tutti Frutti, a dark-comedy about a Scottish rock band with Robbie Coltrane. For these performances, Thompson won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress. The following year, she wrote and starred in her own sketch comedy series, Thompson, but this was poorly received. In 1989, Thompson and Branagh--who had formed a romantic relationship--starred in a stage revival of Look Back in Anger, directed by Judi Dench and produced by Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company. Later that year, the pair starred in a televised version of the play.
Thompson's first big-screen appearance came in the romantic comedy The Tall Guy (1989), the feature-film debut from screenwriter Richard Curtis. Starring Jeff Goldblum as a West End actor, Thompson played the nurse with whom he falls in love. The film was a box office disappointment, but Thompson's performance was praised in The New York Times, where Caryn James called her "an exceptionally versatile comic actress". She next turned to Shakespeare, appearing as Princess Katherine in Branagh's screen adaptation of Henry V (1989). The film was released to great critical acclaim. In 1990, she appeared with Branagh in his stage productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and King Lear. Reviewing the latter, the Chicago Tribune praised Thompson's "extraordinary" performance of the "hobbling, stooped hunchback Fool".
Thompson returned to cinema in 1991, playing a "frivolous aristocrat" in Impromptu, a period drama about the life of George Sand that starred Judy Davis and Hugh Grant. The film received positive reviews, and Thompson was nominated for Best Supporting Female at the Independent Spirit Awards. Her second release of 1991 was another pairing with Branagh, who also directed, in the Los Angeles-based noir Dead Again. She played a woman who has forgotten her identity, and the thriller was number one at the US box office for two weeks. Early in 1992, Thompson had a guest role in an episode of the American comedy series Cheers.
A turning point in Thompson's career came when she was cast opposite Anthony Hopkins and Vanessa Redgrave in the Merchant Ivory period drama Howards End (1992), based on the novel by E. M. Forster. The film explored the social class system in Edwardian England, with Thompson playing an idealistic, intellectual, forward-looking woman who comes into association with a privileged, moneyed, deeply conservative family whose life is based upon a bedrock of values and principles very different from her own. According to the critic Vincent Canby, the role allowed Thompson to "come into her own", away from Branagh, and he felt that she gave "the film's guiding performance".Roger Ebert wrote that she was "superb in the central role: quiet, ironic, observant, with steel inside."Howards End was widely praised, a "surprise hit", and received nine Academy Award nominations. Among its three wins was the Best Actress trophy for Thompson, who was also awarded a Golden Globe and BAFTA for her performance. Reflecting on the role, The New York Times writes that the actress "found herself an international success almost overnight."
For her next two films, Thompson returned to working with Branagh. In Peter's Friends (1992), the pair starred with Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, and Tony Slattery as a group of Cambridge alumni who are reunited ten years after graduating. The comedy was positively reviewed, and Desson Howe of The Washington Post wrote that Thompson was its highlight: "Even as a rather one-dimensional character, she exudes grace and an adroit sense of comic tragedy." The actress followed this with Branagh's screen version of Much Ado About Nothing (1993). The couple starred as Beatrice and Benedick, alongside a cast that also included Denzel Washington, Keanu Reaves, and Michael Keaton. Owen Gleiberman, in his Entertainment Weekly review, praised the "enchanting flirtatious badinage" between the leading pair, and Much Ado marked another critical success for Thompson. Her performance earned a nomination for Best Female Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Thompson's success continued with a series of critically acclaimed performances: Gareth Peirce, the lawyer for the Guildford Four, In the Name of the Father; a repressed housekeeper in The Remains of the Day opposite Anthony Hopkins; and as the British painter Dora Carrington in the film Carrington. She won a second Oscar in 1996, for best adapted screenplay for her adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, a film directed by Ang Lee, in which she also played the Oscar-nominated lead role opposite Hugh Grant. She has said that she keeps both of her award statues in her downstairs bathroom, citing embarrassment at placing them in a more prominent place.
Thompson's later television work has included an Emmy-winning guest appearance in a 1997 episode of the show Ellen; In this episode she played a fictionalised parody of herself: a closeted lesbian more concerned with the media finding out she is actually American. Thompson had a starring role in the 2001 HBO drama Wit, in which she played a dying cancer patient, and 2003's Angels in America, playing multiple roles, including one of the titular angels.
Thompson appeared as Sybill Trelawney in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In 2002, she voiced Captain Amelia in Disney's Treasure Planet, an adaptation of Treasure Island. She also appeared in the 2003 comedy Love Actually. The film Nanny McPhee, adapted by Thompson from Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda books, was first released in October 2005. Thompson worked on the project for nine years, having written the screenplay and starred alongside her mother (who has a cameo appearance). In the film Stranger than Fiction she plays an author planning on killing her main character, Harold Crick, who turns out to be a real person. Most recently, Thompson made a short uncredited cameo as a doctor introducing the cure for cancer in the form of measles in the latest film adaptation of I Am Legend, and starred in Last Chance Harvey opposite Dustin Hoffman, Eileen Atkins and Kathy Baker. In 2009, she appeared in An Education and The Boat That Rocked, the new Richard Curtis film, which also starred Gemma Arterton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, January Jones, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Jack Davenport and Rhys Ifans.
Thompson reprised her role as Sybill Trelawney in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2. She voiced Queen Elinor in the 2012 Pixar film Brave.Effie, which she wrote and appears in, is scheduled for release in May 2014. Based on the true-life story of art critic John Ruskin's affair with Effie Gray, it was subject to a copyright case before being cleared for release. The American playwright Gregory Murphy claimed that it was an infringement on his play The Countess, which deals with the same story, but in March 2013 a judge ruled that they contained "greatly differing internal structures", and are "quite dissimilar in their two approaches to fictionalising the same historical events". Gregory Murphy is appealing the ruling.
Thompson is a supporter of Greenpeace. It was announced on 13 January 2009 that, with three other members of the organisation, she had bought land near the village of Sipson, under threat from a proposed third runway for Heathrow Airport. It was hoped that possession of the land, half the size of a football pitch, would make it possible to prevent the government from carrying through its plan to expand the airport.
Bought for an undisclosed sum from a local land owner, the plot was to be split into small squares and sold across the globe. Thompson said, "I don't understand how any government remotely serious about committing to reversing climate change can even consider these ridiculous plans. It's laughably hypocritical. That's why we've bought a plot on the runway. We'll stop this from happening even if we have to move in and plant vegetables."
Thompson is an ambassador for the charity ActionAid and has travelled to Uganda, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Liberia and Burma to raise awareness of its work. Thompson is also a human rights activist for Palestinians, having been a member of the British-based ENOUGH! coalition that seeks to end the "Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.". Additionally, she is a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Refugee Council. Emma Thompson is also a patron at Performing Arts Studio Scotland (PASS) at Edinburgh College.
Thompson's first husband was the actor and director Kenneth Branagh, whom she met in 1987 while filming the television series Fortunes of War. The couple married in 1989 and proceeded to appear in several films together, with Branagh often casting Thompson in his own productions. Dubbed a "golden couple" by the British media, the relationship received considerable press interest. The pair attempted to keep their relationship private, refusing to be interviewed or photographed together, and Branagh commented in 1993: "I don't want people buying into some kind of Burton-Taylor double-act thing." In September 1995, Thompson and Branagh announced that they had separated; their statement to the press explained: "Our work has inevitably led to our spending long periods ... away from each other and, as a result, we have drifted apart."
Thompson was living alone as the relationship with Branagh deteriorated, and entered into a depression. In a later interview, she revealed that working on the Sense and Sensibility screenplay was the only thing that stopped her from "going under in a very nasty way." While filming the 1995 movie, Thompson began a relationship with her co-star Greg Wise. Commenting on how she was able to overcome her depression, she told BBC Radio Four, "Work saved me and Greg saved me. He picked up the pieces and put them together again." In 1999, the couple had a daughter, Gaia Romilly, born when Thompson was 39. The pregnancy was achieved through IVF treatment, and after their daughter's birth, Wise and Thompson attempted to have another child using the same method. Three years of further IVF treatment were unsuccessful.
In 2003, Thompson and Wise were married in Dunoon, Scotland, where they have a home. The family's permanent residence is in West Hampstead, London, on the same road that Thompson lived in her youth. Also in 2003, Thompson and her husband informally adopted a Rwandan orphan and former child soldier named Tindyebwa. They met at a Refugee Council event when he was 16, and invited him to spend Christmas at their home. "Slowly," Thompson has commented, "he became a sort of permanent fixture, came on holiday to Scotland with us, became part of the family." Expanding on this experience, Thompson said, "I couldn't have more children, and that was hard; but perhaps if I had had more, I'd have missed out on this extra act of mothering that I've had with Tindy." Tindy became a British citizen in 2009, and works as a human rights lawyer.
Thompson has said of her religious views: "I'm an atheist; I suppose you can call me a sort of libertarian anarchist. I regard religion with fear and suspicion. It's not enough to say that I don't believe in God. I actually regard the system as distressing: I am offended by some of the things said in the Bible and the Qur'an and I refute them." Despite this, she has said that "The guiding moral principles, the ethical principles, much of the philosophy of the Christian tradition, if properly applied, is very good", and that she observes the Christmas tradition. She is supporter of the Labour Party and she told the BBC Andrew Marr Show in March 2010 that she had been a member of the party "all my life." She opposes Scottish independence, although she believes that England had been "so awful" to Scotland.
Filmography and theatre:
Catherine of Valois
Tall Guy, TheThe Tall Guy
Claudette, Duchess d'Antan
Much Ado About Nothing
Remains of the Day, TheThe Remains of the Day
In the Name of the Father
Dr. Diana Reddin
Sense and Sensibility
Winter Guest, TheThe Winter Guest
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Professor Sybill Trelawney
Stranger than Fiction
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Professor Sybill Trelawney
I Am Legend
Dr. Alice Krippin
Last Chance Harvey
Education, AnAn Education
Boat That Rocked, TheThe Boat That Rocked
Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang
Alternative Title: Nanny McPhee Returns,
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Professor Sybill Trelawney
Men in Black 3
Saving Mr. Banks
The Love Punch
Cambridge Footlights Revue
TV special, 1 episode
There's Nothing to Worry About!
TV series, 3 episodes
TV series, 13 episodes
Young Ones, TheThe Young Ones
TV series, episode Bambi
BBC TV series
Fortunes of War
Look Back in Anger
Winslow Boy, TheThe Winslow Boy
TV series, 1 episode
Blue Boy, TheThe Blue Boy
TV series, 1 episode
TV series, 1 episode
Angels in America
Nurse Emily/the Homeless Woman/the Angel America
La Hora de José Mota
Special guest, 2 episodes
Song of Lunch, TheThe Song of Lunch
Not the Nine O'Clock News
Beyond the Footlights
Lyric Hammersmith, London
Me and My Girl
Haymarket Theatre & Adelphi Theatre
Look Back in Anger
Lyric Shaftesbury, London
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit. Frederick Warne & Co. 2012. ISBN 978-0-7232-6910-6. OCLC 809689268. ,
In 2012, Thompson wrote The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit, as an addition to the Peter Rabbit series by Beatrix Potter to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the publication of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The book falls in the middle of the earlier series, rather than at the end, and takes Peter Rabbit outside of Mr. McGregor's garden and into Scotland.
She has also written screenplays based on novels most notable being Sense and Sensibility for which she won an Oscar for best screenplay.
Awards and nominations:
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_awards_and_nominations_received_by_Emma_Thompson