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Emma Thompson – Lioness at Large

Emma Thompson

(* 1959)

Emma Thompson: Biographical Sketch

Emma Thompson (born London, England,  April 15, 1959) is a British actress, comedian, and writer. She is known for her portrayals of reticent women, often in period dramas and literary adaptations, and playing haughty or matronly characters with a sense of irony. She is considered one of Britain’s most accomplished actresses.

Born to English actor Eric Thompson and Scottish actress Phyllida Law, Thompson was educated at Newnham College, University of Cambridge, where she became a member of the Footlights troupe. After appearing in several comedy programmes, she first came to prominence in 1987 in two BBC TV series, Tutti Frutti and Fortunes of War, winning the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for her work in both. Her first film role came in the 1989 romantic comedy The Tall Guy, and in the early 1990s she frequently collaborated with her then husband, actor and director Kenneth Branagh. The pair became popular in the British media, and co-starred in several films including Henry V (1989), Dead Again (1991), Peter’s Friends (1992), and Much Ado About Nothing (1993), almost all of which were (co-)produced and directed by Branagh.

In 1992, Thompson won multiple acting awards, including an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress, for her work in the period drama Howards End, an adaptation of the novel by E.M. Forster. The following year she garnered dual Academy Award nominations for her roles in the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, as a stately housekeeper, and In the Name of the Father, as a lawyer. She scripted and starred the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen‘s Sense and Sensibility, which earned her (among other awards) an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress. Other notable film and television credits include the Harry Potter film series based on the books by J.K. Rowling, Wit (2001), Love Actually (2003), Angels in America (2003), Nanny McPhee (2005), Stranger than Fiction (2006), Last Chance Harvey (2008), Men in Black 3 (2012), and Brave (2012). In 2013, she received acclaim and several award nominations for her portrayal of P. L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.

Thompson is married to actor Greg Wise, whom she met while filming Sense and Sensibility, and with whom she lives in London. Together, they have a daughter and an adopted son. Thompson’s sister Sophie is a noted actress as well.  Emma Thompson is an activist in the areas of human rights and environmentalism, and has received both praise and criticism for her outspoken nature. She has also authored two books continuing Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Read more about Emma Thompson on Wikipedia.


Major Awards and Honors

Academy Awards (USA)
  • 1992: Best Actress – “Howards End”
  • 1995: Best Screenplay, Adapted – “Sense and Sensibility”
Golden Globe Awards
(Hollywood Foreign Press Association)
  • 1992: Best Actress, Drama – “Howards End”
  • 1995: Best Screenplay – “Sense and Sensibility”
National Board of Review Awards (USA)
  • 1992: Best Actress – “Howards End”
  • 1995: Best Actress – “Sense and Sensibility”
  • 1995: Best Actress – “Carrington”
  • 2013: Best Actress – “Saving Mr. Banks”
Writers’ Guild of America Awards
  • 1995: Best Screenplay, Adapted – “Sense and Sensibility”
Emmy Awards (USA)
  • 1998: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series – “Ellen” (for playing herself in the episode “Emma”)
BAFTA Awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts)
  • 1988: BAFTA Television Awards: Best Actress – “Fortunes of War”
  • 1988: BAFTA Television Awards: Best Actress – “Tutti Frutti”
  • 1992: BAFTA Film Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role – “Howards End”
  • 1995: BAFTA Film Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role – “Sense and Sensibility”
Empire Awards (Great Britain)
  • 2013: Best Actress – “Saving Mr. Banks”
London Film Critics’ Circle Awards
  • 1996: British Screenwriter of the Year – “Sense and Sensibility”
  • 2003: British Supporting Actress of the Year – “Love Actually”
Richard Attenborough UK Regional Film Award
  • 2013: Best On Screen Duo – “Saving Mr. Banks”
Critics’ Choice Awards (USA & Canada)
  • 1995: Best Screenplay – “Sense and Sensibility”
National Society of Film Critics Awards (USA)
  • 1992: Best Actress – “Howards End”
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (USA)
  • 1992: Best Actress – “Howards End”
  • 1995: Best Screenplay – “Sense and Sensibility”
New York Film Critics’ Circle Awards (USA)
  • 1992: Best Actress – “Howards End”
  • 1995: Best Screenplay – “Sense and Sensibility”
Boston Society of Film Critics AwardS (USA)
  • 1992: Best Actress – “Howards End”
  • 1995: Best Screenplay – “Sense and Sensibility”
Venice Film Festival (Italy)
  • 1997: Panisetti Award, Best Actress – “The Winter Guest”



Children’s Books
  • The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit (2012)
    – Addition to Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the publication of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  • The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit (2013)
Plays and Screenplays
  • 1982 Beyond the Footlights (1982)
  • Short Vehicle (1984)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995)
    – Screenplay and Thompson’s production diaries jointly first published in November 1995 and republished in 2002.
  • Wit (2001)
  • Nanny McPhee (2005)
  • Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010)
    (A/K/A: Nanny McPhee Returns)
  • Effie Gray (2014)
  • Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)
  • Last Christmas (2019)
Diaries and Memoirs



  • Henry V (1989)
    Role: Catherine of Valois
  • The Tall Guy (1989)
    Role: Kate Lemmon
  • Dead Again (1991)
    Role: Grace / Margaret Strauss
  • Impromptu (1991)
    Role: Claudette, Duchess d’Antan
  • Howards End (1992)
    Role: Margaret Schlegel
  • Peter’s Friends (1992)
    Role: Maggie Chester
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
    Role: Beatrice
  • The Remains of the Day (1993)
    Role: Miss Kenton
    Nominated: Academy Award for Best Actress
  • In the Name of the Father (1993)
    Role: Gareth Peirce
    Nominated: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
  • Junior (1994)
    Role: Dr. Diana Reddin
  • Carrington (1995)
    Role: Dora Carrington
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995)
    Role: Elinor Dashwood
    Nominated: Academy Award for Best Actress
  • The Winter Guest (1997)
    Role: Frances
  • Primary Colors (1998)
    Role: Susan Stanton
  • Judas Kiss (1998)
    Role: Sadie Hawkins
  • Maybe Baby (2000)
    Role: Druscilla
  • Treasure Planet (2002)
    Role: Captain Amelia (voice only)
  • Imagining Argentina (2003)
    Role: Cecilia
  • Love Actually (2003)
    Role: Karen
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
    Role: Professor Sybill Trelawney
  • Nanny McPhee (2005)
    Role: Nanny McPhee
  • Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
    Role: Karen Eiffel
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
    Role: Professor Sybill Trelawney
  • I Am Legend (2007)
    Role: Dr. Alice Krippin (uncredited)
  • Brideshead Revisited (2008)
    Role: Lady Marchmain
  • Last Chance Harvey (2008)
    Role: Kate Walker
  • An Education (2009)
    Role: Headmistress
  • The Boat That Rocked (2009)
    Role: Charlotte
  • Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010)
    (A/K/A: Nanny McPhee Returns)
    Role: Nanny McPhee
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)
    Role: Professor Sybill Trelawney
  • Men in Black 3 (2012)
    Role: Agent O
  • Brave (2012)
    Role: Queen Elinor (voice only)
  • Beautiful Creatures (2013)
    Role: Mrs. Lincoln / Sarafine
  • Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
    Role: P.L. Travers
  • The Love Punch (2013)
    Role: Kate Jones
  • Men, Women & Children (2014)
    Role: Narrator
  • Effie Gray (2014)
    Role: Lady Eastlake
  • A Walk in the Woods (2015)
    Role: Catherine Bryson
  • The Legend of Barney Thomson (2015)
    Role: Cemolina
  • Burnt (2015)
    Role: Dr. Rosshilde
  • Alone in Berlin (2016)
    Role: Anna Quangel
  • Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)
    Role: Dr. Thompson; also writer.
  • The Doubt Machine: Inside the Koch Brothers’ War on Climate Science
    – Documentary; narrator.
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017)
    Role: Mrs. Potts
  • Sea Sorrow (2017)
    – Role: Sylvia Pankhurst
  • The Meyerowitz Stories (2017)
    – Role: Maureen
  • The Children Act (2017)
    – Role: Fiona Maye
  • Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)
    – Role: The Prime Minister
  • Late Night (2019)
    – Role: Katherine Newbury
  • Missing Link (2019)
    – Role: Dora the Yeti Elder (voice)
  • Men in Black International (2019)
    – Role: Agent O
  • How to Build a Girl (2019)
    – Role: Amanda Watson
  • Last Christmas (2019)
    – Role: Petra; also writer and producer.
  • Dolittle (2020)
    – Role: Polynesia (voice)
  • Cruella (2021)
    – Role: Baroness von Hellmann
  • Cambridge Footlights Revue (1982)
    Various roles; TV special, 1 episode.
  • There’s Nothing to Worry About! (1982)
    Role: Mrs. Wally; TV series, 3 episodes.
  • Alfresco (1983-1984)
    Various roles; TV series, 13 episodes.
  • The Comic Strip Presents … (1984)
    Role: Young woman; TV series, episode Slags.
  • The Young Ones (1984)
    Role: Miss Money-Sterling; TV series, episode Bambi.
  • Emma Thompson: Up for Grabs (1985)
    Various roles; TV Movie.
  • Tutti Frutti (1987)
    Role: Suzi Kettles; TV miniseries.
  • Fortunes of War (1987)
    Role: Harriet Pringle; TV miniseries.
  • Thompson (1988)
    Various roles; TV series.
  • Look Back in Anger (1989)
    Role: Alison Porter; TV movie.
  • Knuckle (1990)
    Role: Jenny Wilbur; TV movie.
  • The Winslow Boy (1990)
    Role: Catherine Winslow; TV movie.
  • Cheers (1992)
    Role: Nanette Guzman; TV series, 1 episode.
  • The Blue Boy (1994)
    Role: Marie Bonnar; TV movie.
  • Ellen (1997)
    Role: Herself; TV series, episode Emma.
  • Hospital! (1997)
    Role: Elephant Woman; TV series, 1 episode.
  • Wit (2001)
    Role: Vivian Bearing; TV movie.
  • Angels in America (2003)
    Roles: Nurse Emily / the Homeless Woman / the Angel America; TV miniseries, 2 episodes.
  • The Song of Lunch (2010)
    Role: She; TV movie.
  • Walking the Dogs (2012)
    Role: Queen; TV movie.
  • Upstart Crow (2017)
    – Role: Elizabeth I; episode A Christmas Carol.
  • King Lear (2018)
    – Role: Goneril; TV movie.
  • Saturday Night Live (2019)
    – Host (as herself); episode Emma Thompson / Jonas Brothers.
  • Years and Years (2019)
    – Role: Vivienne Rook MP; TV miniseries, 6 episodes.


Notable Stage Appearances

  • Beyond the Footlights  (Lyric Hammersmith, London, 1982)
  • Not the Nine O’Clock News (UK Tour, 1982)
  • Short Vehicle (Edinburgh Festival, 1984)
  • Me and My Girl (Leicester Haymarket Theatre, 1984 & Adelphi Theatre, London, 1985)
    Role: Sally
  • Look Back in Anger (Alison Lyric Theatre, London, 1989)
    Role: Alison Porter
  • King Lear Fool (Dominion Theatre, London & Renaissance Theatre Company Tour of the U.S., 1990)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (International Tour, 1990)
    Role: Helena
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, New York, 2014 & London Coliseum, English National Opera, 2015)
    Role: Mrs. Lovett


A Selection of Quotes

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries

[Golden Globe acceptance speech in the style of Jane Austen‘s letters:]
“Four A.M. Having just returned from an evening at the Golden Spheres, which despite the inconveniences of heat, noise and overcrowding, was not without its pleasures. Thankfully, there were no dogs and no children. The gowns were middling. There was a good deal of shouting and behavior verging on the profligate, however, people were very free with their compliments and I made several new acquaintances. Miss Lindsay Doran, of Mirage, wherever that might be, who is largely responsible for my presence here, an enchanting companion about whom too much good cannot be said. Mr. Ang Lee, of foreign extraction, who most unexpectedly apppeared to understand me better than I undersand myself. Mr. James Schamus, a copiously erudite gentleman, and Miss Kate Winslet, beautiful in both countenance and spirit. Mr. Pat Doyle, a composer and a Scot, who displayed the kind of wild behavior one has lernt to expect from that race. Mr. Mark Canton, an energetic person with a ready smile who, as I understand it, owes me a vast deal of money. Miss Lisa Henson – a lovely girl, and Mr. Gareth Wigan – a lovely boy. I attempted to converse with Mr. Sydney Pollack, but his charms and wisdom are so generally pleasing that it proved impossible to get within ten feet of him. The room was full of interesting activitiy until eleven P.M. when it emptied rather suddenly. The lateness of the hour is due therefore not to the dance, but to the waiting, in a long line for horseless vehicles of unconscionable size. The modern world has clearly done nothing for transport.
P.S. Managed to avoid the hoyden Emily Tomkins who has purloined my creation and added things of her own. Nefarious creature.”
“With gratitude and apologies to Miss Austen, thank you.”

“Very nice lady served us drinks in hotel and was followed in by a cat. We all crooned at it. Alan [Rickman] to cat (very low and meaning it): ‘Fuck off.’ The nice lady didn’t turn a hair. The cat looked slightly embarrassed but stayed.”

“Got up this morning and could not find my glasses. Finally had to seek assistance. Kate [Winslet] found them inside a flower arrangement.”

“Paparazzi arrived for Hugh [Grant]. We had to stand under a tree and smile for them.
Photographer: ‘Hugh, could you look less — um –‘
Hugh: ‘Pained?”

“I ask Laurie if it’s possible to get trained fish. Lindsay says this is how we know I’ve never produced a movie.”

“Up 5.15 a.m. thinking, packpackpack. I appear to have accumulated more things. How did this happen? I haven’t shopped. Think my bath oils have bred.”

“Jane reminds us that God is in his heaven, the monarch on his throne and the pelvis firmly beneath the ribcage. Apparently rock and roll liberated the pelvis and it hasn’t been the same since.”

“I seem finally to have stopped worrying about Elinor, and age. She seems now to be perfectly normal — about twenty-five, a witty control freak. I like her but I can see how she would drive you mad. She’s just the sort of person you’d want to get drunk, just to make her giggling and silly.”

“We’ve hired the calmest babies in the world to play the hysterical Thomas. One did finally start to cry but stopped every time Chris [Newman (assistant director)] yelled ‘Action’. … Babies smiled all afternoon. Buddhist babies. They didn’t cry once. We, however, were all in tears by 5 p.m.”

[On period costume posture coaching:]
“We all stand about like parboiled spaghetti being straightened out.”

“Quick dinner with … Ang [Lee] and his wife Jane who’s visiting with the children for a while. We talked about her work as a microbiologist and the behaviour of the epithingalingie under the influence of cholesterol. She’s fascinated by cholesterol. Says it’s very beautiful: bright yellow. She says Ang is wholly uninterested. He has no idea what she does.
I check this out for myself. ‘What does Jane do?’ I ask.
‘Science,’ he says vaguely.”

“[Over breakfast] We discussed the ‘novelisation’ question. This is where the studio pay someone to novelise my script and sell it as Sense and Sensibility. I’ve said if this happens I will hang myself. Revolting notion. Beyond revolting.
Lindsay [Doran] said that the executive she had discussed it with had said ‘as a human being I agree with you — but …’ I laughed until my porridge was cool enough to swallow.”

“Hugh Laurie (playing Mr. Palmer) felt the line ‘Don’t palm all your abuses [of language upon me]’ was possibly too rude. ‘It’s in the book,’ I said. He didn’t hit me.”

“Our first point of discussion is the hunt. (…) My idea is to start the film with an image of the vixen locked out of her lair which has been plugged up. Her terror as she’s pursued across the country. This is a big deal. It means training a fox from birth or dressing up a dog to look like a fox. Or hiring David Attenbrorough, who probably knows a few foxes well enough to ask a favour.”

Sense and Sensibility signs litter Devon — arrows with S & S on. Whenever Ang [Lee] sees a B & B sign he thinks it’s for another movie.”

“Edward finds Elinor crying for her dead father, offers her his handkerchief and their love story commences. Ang [Lee] very anxious that we think about what we want to do. I’m very anxious not to do anything and certainly not to think about it.”

“Lindsay [Doran] goes round the table and introduces everyone — making it clear that I am present in the capacity of writer rather than actress, therefore no one has to be too nice to me.”

“Difficult for actors to extemporise in nineteenth-century English. Except for Robert Hardy and Elizabeth Spriggs, who speak that way anyway.”

“The fire alarm went off. Fire engines came racing; we all rushed out on the gravel drive, everyone thinking it was us. In fact, one of the elderly residents of Saltram had left a pan on the oven in her flat. Apparently this happens all the time. The tenant in question is appearing as an extra — playing one of the cooks.”

“Press conference [on the movie Carrington] yielded the usual crop of daftness. I’ve been asked if I related personally to Carrington’s tortured relationship with sex and replied that no, not really, I’d had a very pleasant time since I was fifteen. This elicited very disapproving copy from the Brits … No wonder people think we don’t have sex in England.”

“Shooting Willoughby carrying Marianne up the path. They did it four times. ‘Faster,’ said Ang [Lee]. They do it twice more. ‘Don’t pant so much,’ said Ang. Greg [Wise (playing Willoughby)], to his great credit, didn’t scream.”

“Shooting Willoughby carrying Marianne up the path. … Male strength — the desire to be cradled again? … I’d love someone to pick me up and carry me off. Frightening. Lindsay assures me I’d start to fidget after a while. She’s such a comfort.”

Find more quotes by Emma Thompson on Wikiquote and Goodreads.