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Actress Emma Thompson says filming a nude scene for her new film was one of the most difficult things she has ever done.
Thompson opened up about her own difficulties with body image over the years and why she never played more sexual roles.
The 63-year-old plays Nancy Stokes in the film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande out July 17.
British actress Emma Thompson is well known for her more family-friendly roles like Cruella, Sense and Sensibility, and Love Actually—so it makes sense that fans wouldn’t usually attribute the 63-year-old to intimate sex scenes or nudity. But in her newest movie Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Thompson strips down to not only reveal a very vulnerable character, but she also gets entirely naked. Something Thompson felt was very important but had a very difficult time with.
In the new film, Thompson plays Nancy Stokes, a 62-year-old recently widowed, former religious school teacher who never had an orgasm (yikes!) and hires a 28-year-old sex worker, played by Daryl McCormack, to, ehrm, experience one.
Thompson made the decision to bare all in the new film. But, she admitted in an interview with The New York Times that one scene in particular proved quite difficult for her to shoot. The scene in question? Where Thompson has to stand completely naked in front of a mirror and accept her body for what it is. “The film would not be the same without it,” she said in the interview.
“It’s very challenging to be nude at 62,” Thompson previously said about the scene at Sundance Cinema Cafe. “She stands in front of a mirror alone and she drops her robe.”
She continued, “I don’t think I could’ve done it before the age that I am. And yet, of course, the age that I am makes it extremely challenging because we aren’t used to seeing untreated bodies on the screen.”
In conversation with Stephen Colbert, Thompson said being naked on-screen “was really, really interesting.” And she noted that she grew up in a world where accepting her body for what it is just didn’t seem feasible.
“I certainly can’t stand in front of a mirror without trying to improve the way I look. You know, by tucking something in, or turning to the side, or turn the lights off,” she joked to Colbert. “We’re not good at accepting our bodies, particularly women whose status is related to body image.”
Thompson continued, “When I stood there naked, and it’s not like made beautiful by lighting…it’s literally just plain. A body, standing there. But beautiful in a way any human is beautiful and acceptable.” She went on to explain that she wanted her character, Nancy, to look at her body with a “neutral gaze” like “she was looking at her body for the first time.”
But Thompson revealed in an interview with The Times that she hasn’t historically been offered sex scenes throughout her career. “As my mother said, I’ve basically played a series of ‘good’ women. I do ‘cerebral.’ And I have also never conformed to the shape or look of someone they may want to see naked,” she said in the interview. “And by ‘they,’ I mean male executives. I’m too mouthy, not pretty enough, not the right kind of body. And, crikey, you are constantly told what kind of body to have,” she said.
Thompson revealed to The New York Times she always felt she wasn’t thin enough to be naked on screen. She admitted to trying many different diets, including starving herself, but found it eventually to be “absurd.”
“It’s not fair to say, ‘No, I’m just this shape naturally.’ It’s dishonest and it makes other women feel like [expletive],” she said. “So if you want the world to change, and you want the iconography of the female body to change, then you better be a part of the change. You better be different,” she said in The New York Times interview.
And this role in particular was a difficult one to play for Thompson. She told The New York Times playing Nancy was “ a healthy terror,” because the character was so deeply relatable. Thompson and Nancy are the same age, have similar backgrounds, and want to do the right thing.
“Just a little sliver of paper and chance separates me from her,” she said in The New York Times interview.
Thompson has appeared naked on camera only one other time in her four-decade career while starring in the 1990 comedy The Tall Guy. So, to prepare for intimate scenes, Thompson, co-star McCormack, and director Sophie Hyde have said they spent one of their rehearsal days working in the nude.
“Sophie, Daryl, and I rehearsed entirely nude and talked about our bodies, talked about our relationship with our bodies, drew them, discussed the things that we find difficult, things we like about them, described one another’s bodies,” Thompson shared in a previous interview at Sundance Cinema Cafe.
But Thompson knows that loving your body is important. She told Colbert if she could go back to talk to her 14-year-old self, she would say, “Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your life’s purpose worrying about your body. This is your vessel, your house, it’s where you live. There’s no point in judging it. Absolutely no point.”
If you believe you are struggling with an eating disorder and need support, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at (800) 931-2237. You can text HOME to 741741 to message with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free.
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