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The A-List Interview: Emma Thompson

The A-List Interview: Emma Thompson

Tom Hanks with Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks


You’re preparing to play meat pie-maker Mrs. Lovett in a New York Philharmonic staging of Sweeney Todd. What’s she up to in the bedroom?
Oh, crikey, with all that lard and suet lying around? You just don’t want to go there. It’s not a nice thought, is it?

Besides your Emmy-winning 1997 guest spot on Ellen as a closeted American version of yourself, you have yet to play a proper lesbian role.
Nobody’s come up with a really interesting one for me yet, but I’m sure they will.

Did you do that Ellen episode to address and toy with lesbian rumors in the media?
I wasn’t thinking about myself so much as the profoundly brilliant script. I don’t take jobs to alter public perception about myself, which seems to me a high road to nothing — and rather unattractively self-involved. I’m interested in doing work that’s well written, fascinating, and true, and that Ellen episode was one of the best pieces of satirical writing I’d ever read. I love how it played with the idea that being a lesbian was perfectly normal, so I was more concerned with people finding out that I’d lied about my nationality.

And at the end of the day, can’t we just blame that lesbian rumor on a career of short and often unfortunate hairstyles?
[Laughs] Yeah, like Mrs. Travers’s bubble cut! That’ll put the cat among the pigeons, won’t it? It’s definitely a look.

You were once attached to star in a film adaptation of Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness.
Yeah, that was a long time ago, and it’s kind of gone away. But I am writing a screenplay, set in London, about a lesbian who was born in Darwin, Australia. It’s about suicide, really. I had a great time recently in Australia doing research on the character; I spent a fantastic day and evening with a group of lesbians who all had different experiences growing up in Australia, which, when they were young women, was not a pleasant place to be gay.


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