She called out the movie industry for having unrealistic expectations of women in films and of women actors.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 20, 2022. It has since been updated.
Emma Thompson is opening up about the challenges of going nude onscreen at the age of 62 and why she wants to be an example in changing the depiction of women's bodies in movies. Thompson, now 63, has been nude only once in her career, when she starred in the 1990 film “The Tall Guy,” opposite Jeff Goldblum. Then, she bared it all for her role in the 2022 movie, "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande." She spoke about the unrealistic expectations the movie industry has of women and how she wants to help spark change. If “you want the iconography of the female body to change, then you better be part of the change,” Thompson told The New York Times. In the new movie, Thompson stars as Nancy Stokes, a conservative widowed schoolteacher who has never experienced an orgasm. She hires a male escort, played by Daryl McCormack, for a date, hoping to experience an orgasm in the sex-positive British dramedy. The movie is directed by Sophie Hyde.
"It's very challenging to be nude at 62," said the actor. "Nothing has changed in the dreadful demands made upon women in the real-world world but also in acting," said Thompson about the demands on women and woman actors, reported Entertainment Weekly. "This thing of having to be thin is still the same as it ever was, and actually in some ways, I think it's worse now." Thompson says many will relate to her character, who could easily be your teacher or your mother. She rebels against everything that defines her otherwise to seek out an escort to experience an orgasm. “Yes, she’s made the most extraordinary decision to do something very unusual, brave and revolutionary,” said Thompson.
Thompson said she had to access a new level of vulnerability to play the character and the nude scenes in particular. Thompson, McCormack and Hyde 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 about, things we like about them, described one another's bodies," said Thompson during a Cinema Cafe discussion. "She stands in front of a mirror alone and she drops her robe," said Thompson of her character in the film. She also opened up about the intricacies of a woman's orgasm. “I can’t just have an orgasm. I need time. I need affection. You can’t just rush to the clitoris and flap at it and hope for the best. That’s not going to work, guys," she said.
She stressed the importance of portraying natural bodies onscreen. "I don't think I could've done it before the age that I am," she said. "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." Thompson spoke about how the portrayal of women affected her while growing up. “To be truly honest, I will never ever be happy with my body. It will never happen,” she said. “I was brainwashed too early on. I cannot undo those neural pathways.”
Thompson is hoping the movie sparks sex-positive conversations. "I know the history in this country, particularly, of the puritanical responses to sex. The inability to talk about it or recognize its difficult nature. The conversations that exist around sex in my culture are either depressing or just not very inspiring," she said in an interview with Variety. "We’ve got a history of repressing pleasure and in particular history of repressing sex, repressing female sexual pleasure," she added.