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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Emma Thompson on new film Alone in Berlin, global warming and getting out of her comfort zone

Emma Thompson on new film Alone in Berlin, global warming and getting out of her comfort zone

Emma Thompson can still remember a request from her mother – and sometime co-star – actress Phyllida Law: “Please don’t play another good woman in a frock!’” Thompson has, to be fair, made a respectable career out of this particular period drama archetype. Films like Merchant Ivory’s The Remains of the Day and Howard’s End, for which she won an Oscar and a Bafta as Margaret Schlegel, and Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, which gained her a second Academy Award for adapting Jane Austen’s novel. 

Yet there’s a great deal more to Thompson’s career than frocks (as well as turns in Harry Potter, Nanny McPhee and assorted Richard Curtis movies). Mike Nichols’ Primary Colors springs to mind, in which she played the wife of John Travolta’s Democratic Governor (a film inspired by Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign). She took a risk too in Christopher Hampton’s Imagining Argentina, the story of a couple living under a dictatorship (“yeah, we got slaughtered!” says Thompson, wincing at the memory of scathing reviews). 

Now comes Alone In Berlin, actor-turned-director Vincent Pérez’s adaptation of the 1947 novel by Hans Fallada, based on the lives of Otto and Elise Hampel, a working class German couple that secretly wrote and distributed anti-Nazi party postcards around Berlin during World War II. Starring opposite Brendan Gleeson, Thompson plays Elise’s fictionalised counterpart, Anna Quangel. “Sometimes, something comes along that has really a great depth and breadth of purpose,” she says. “Those are the jobs that you live for as an artist. This was one of those.”

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