Emma Thompson on the cusp of crotchety
mean. I think that we carry it with us all the time, so you don’t necessarily leave anything behind. It’s all coming with you. You’ve mentioned a problem with trying to find heroic historical female characters to look to. How do we fix that? There are many things you can do. There’s two questions: What is heroism? Is it action? Does it have to be action- based? As I started to [ work] in cinema I realized that I would identify with Marlon Brando because he was the one getting to do things and that women seemed to be the ones saying, “No, don’t do that brave thing, stay here with me,” I started to get very frustrated with that. And I remain frustrated with that because it’s still a very common trope. I turned down role after role after role in my 30s which were the wife going, “No please! Why don’t you think of us? Think of the children!” That sort of milksop, marshmallow- y stuff that wasn’t even allowed to be inhabited in any real way. But the problem with female heroism is not one that’s very easy to answer because if the actions are going to be the same as the male hero, then what do you do? You stick a gun in their hands. What’s the point of that? It’s the same old, same old. It’s a real conundrum.
Emma Thompson plays the curmudgeonly P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks, which opens next Friday.