Yahoo! Exclusive: Emma Thompson talks to our Thelma Adams about being “Brave,” parenting tips, and the benefits of being a Mama Bear
Photo: Ferdaus Shamim/Getty Images
What mother hasn't become a bear when dealing with her teenage daughter? That's literally Emma Thompson's storyline in "Brave," which snagged a Golden Globe nomination for Best Animated Feature Film yesterday on its sure-footed way to an Academy Award nomination. In the Scotland-set toon, which has grossed $535 million theatrically and is out on DVD and Blu-ray, Thompson voices Queen Elinor to Kelly Macdonald's spunky Merida. Thompson, 53, who has won an Oscar for her "Sense and Sensibility" script as well as best actress for "Howards End," and played Professor Sybil Trelawney in the "Harry Potter" series, shared insights about "Brave" and her relationship with her 13-year-old daughter, Gaia, with actor Greg Wise.
Thelma Adams: Let's start with the meat of this movie: the mother-daughter relationship...
Emma Thompson: My character, the mother, has suppressed a lot of her natural instincts to fulfill her responsibilities as queen, like many women, not all of them royals. We can understand why Elinor behaves as she does. She doesn't really listen, and she doesn't pay the right kind of attention to her daughter. She doesn't see that Merida's rebellion comes from being asked to do what the mother was asked. Elinor just sees the rebellion. And that resonates for mothers raising teenagers, not just queens and princesses, because often we're not paying our daughters the right kind of attention. As a mother, you have to be quite forensic: You need to listen to your daughter and pick out the critical information.
TA: What clues does this dynamic offer for modern parents?
ET: Listen in the right way. Spend time quietly with your children. You don't have to be solving problems all the time. Check in with them regularly so they know you're there, but telling them what to do doesn't cut it.
TA: Any more advice to share -- since I also have a spunky 13-year-old daughter?
ET: I got a good bit of advice from a friend of mine. When his daughter slammed her door, he removed the door altogether and hid it. He took the door for two weeks. At the end of two weeks without the door, his daughter promised not to slam it. My friend put the door back and they lived happily ever after.
TA: Both my daughter and I found ourselves weeping watching this movie because the real-life issues hit so close to home, even if they're wrapped in glorious animated images.
ET: It does make you weep. My daughter who's 13 wept, too. I love the fact that the mother becomes a stranger and monstrous.
TA: To me it shows how being a mother to a teenage daughter, however beloved, can turn you into a bear. My girlfriends frequently lament that they suddenly find themselves standing opposite their daughters bellowing, or finger-pointing, or calling their girls "young lady," and wondering who they themselves have become: absolute bears.
ET: Bears are amongst the most protective creatures on Earth and fantastically powerful creatures. Queen Elinor's not a lion or a tigress or a wolf, but a bear. She became something hugely powerful and massive. Some women have said, you're never truly free until your mother dies. Whether that's true or not, whether good or bad, or she's been a happy presence or not, the case may still be the same. Mothers are or can be these very powerful, too powerful, brooding presences in their daughters' lives.