Emma Thompson is embracing her naked body, and her poignant comments might just inspire you to do the same
Dealing with the taboos of female pleasure and sexuality, Dame Emma Thompson’s forthcoming film will feature the actress’s first sex scene in a lengthy career.
‘Self-love’ and ‘body normativity’ are the trending buzzwords of the moment, empowering women to accept themselves as they are, and appreciate their physical form to the fullest. In a society that’s taught its women to scrutinise and shrink themselves entirely, this is a practice that takes a hell of a lot of unlearning.
For Emma Thompson, the process of filming Good Luck To You, Leo Grande changed the actress’s relationship with her body entirely. Speaking at the film’s virtual Sundance Film Festival premiere earlier this year, Thompson recalls the intense rehearsal scenes she embarked upon with her co-star Daryl McCornmack and director Sophie Hyde.
“Sophie, Daryl, and I rehearsed entirely nude,” she said during a Cinema Cafe discussion. “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.”
— Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (@LeoGrandeFilm) May 16, 2022
At Berlinale — the Berlin International Film Festival — the award winning actress spoke on the way women are taught to hate themselves and the female relationship with our own reflections, saying that standing in front of a mirror without judging herself during the course of filming was the “hardest thing [she’s] ever had to do.”
“If I stand in front of a mirror, I’m always sort of pulling something, or I’ll turn to the side, I’ll do something. I can’t just stand there. Why would I do that, it’s horrifying,” she said. “But that’s the problem, isn’t it, that women have been brainwashed all our lives to hate our bodies. That’s just the fact. And everything that surrounds us reminds us how imperfect we are, and everything is wrong with us.”
Challenging those gathered in the audience to go home and stand naked in front of the mirror with nothing but acceptance in their hearts, she assured them that it’s something she’s never done throughout her career as an actor.
The film, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande was created by screenwriter Katy Brand, and follows a 55-year-old retired widow who hires a male sex worker to fulfil her aim of having an orgasm and provide her with a close connection otherwise lacking in her marriage to her late husband.
In contrast to Thompson’s own experiences of looking in the mirror, when her character appraises her own naked body, it’s done with true appreciation. In a recent interview with The Times, she said, “In the movie, at that point, Nancy’s body has just given her these seconds of pure pleasure and she is marvelling at it – not ‘it’ as it looks, but ‘it’ as it has become to her.
“A place she can be happy. A place she can find genuine bliss.”
During the course of this interview, conversation turns to Emma Thompson’s experiences with being body shamed throughout the course of her career. “I’ve never really been offered sex scenes. As my mother said, I’ve basically played a series of ‘good’’ women. I do ‘cerebral,’” she said. “And I have also never conformed to the shape or look of someone they might want to see naked.”
“By ‘they,’ I mean male executives,” she continues. “I’m too mouthy, not pretty enough, not the right kind of body. And, crikey, you are constantly told what kind of body you have.”
While women may join the ranks of the body positive movement, encouraging others to love themselves and embrace their bodies, accepting ourselves is much more complex. It seems like we could all take a leaf out of Emma Thompson’s book.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande premieres on Hulu on Friday.