Ac­tress rel­ishes do­ing ‘lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing’

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Rick Bent­ley

LOS AN­GE­LES — In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Emma Thompson was best known for se­ri­ous film projects such as her Os­car-win­ning turn in Howard’s End and her star­ring roles in Much Ado About Noth­ing, The Re­mains of the Day and Sense and Sen­si­bil­ity.

She’s proud of those cred­its, but the 53-year-old Bri­tish ac­tor is ex­tremely ex­cited about her most re­cent work.

“In my 30s, I was more drawn to lit­er­ary-type dra­mas. But this year I’m do­ing the most won­der­ful work of my life be­cause I’m get­ting to do a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing,” Thompson said.

That’s high praise, con­sid­er­ing Thompson has starred in such a va­ri­ety of movies, in­clud­ing the Harry Pot­ter and Nanny McPhee films.

In Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures, Thompson does dou­ble duty as the Bi­ble-thump­ing hater of all su­per­nat­u­ral, Mrs. Lin­coln, and the wickedly men­ac­ing witch Sarafine.

“The char­ac­ter was fun to do be­cause it was this blend of sexy and a church lady,” she says. “That’s what sold me on do­ing the movie.”

There are points, such as when the witch in­hab­its the woman’s body, that Thompson plays the role with such un­abashed fun she ends up skip­ping through the scene. She also had fun with the South­ern ac­cent, which to her is as much about at­ti­tude as it is about how you sound.

Those kinds of de­ci­sions are what Thompson likes to make when she agrees to do a role. Although the film’s based on a se­ries of teen nov­els by Mar­garet Stohl and Kami Gar­cia, Thompson opted not to read the books be­fore the film­ing started. She wanted to dis­cover the char­ac­ter on her own. For her, there’s al­ways the “won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to find things ac­ci­den­tally.”

One of the scenes in which she gets to have the most fun is a show­down be­tween her char­ac­ter and the one played by Jeremy Irons. Although Irons and Thompson have been in the busi­ness about the same num­ber of years, Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures is the first time they have worked to­gether. The pair shares a wicked scene in a church where their characters get to do a lot of pos­tur­ing.

Thompson praised Irons for be­ing the strong act­ing part­ner who helped her get the most out of the scene. Irons re­turned the com­pli­ment, say­ing that it’s lovely to work with great ac­tors. “It makes act­ing fun,” he said. There’s a heavy fan­tasy el­e­ment to Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures, but di­rec­tor Richard LaGrave­nese was de­ter­mined to use as lit­tle com­puter-gen­er­ated im­agery as pos­si­ble. That put ex­tra pres­sure on Thompson.

“When we got to the scene where I had to make this trans­for­ma­tion, I did it all with just my face. I was able to do that be­cause it’s just like some­thing that we would do in the the­atre, where we don’t have those spe­cial ef­fects.”

She started her ca­reer on stage, but she made the jump to films in 1989 with Richard Cur­tis’s ro­man­tic com­edy The Tall Guy, co-star­ring Jeff Gold­blum. That film wasn’t a ma­jor hit, but it opened the door for Thompson to be in a movie that’s be­come a Christ­mas clas­sic: Love Ac­tu­ally, also writ­ten by Cur­tis.

She de­scribes work­ing on Love Ac­tu­ally — a film that blends mul­ti­ple love sto­ry­lines, in­clud­ing hers as a woman whose hus­band has not acted faith­fully — as a won­der­ful act­ing job be­cause the movie can go from mak­ing you cry in the mid­dle to laugh­ing at the end.

Thompson’s ca­reer is heavy on drama. But those who have worked with her agree she has a won­der­ful sense of hu­mour. Emmy Ros­sum, who plays an­other wicked witch in Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures, says: “You can’t get a more fun hu­man than Emma Thomp- son. She’s in­tel­li­gent, sen­si­tive, smart, hys­ter­i­cally (wet)-your-pants funny.”

Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures (in the­atres now) is the first of five movies Thompson’s in sched­uled for re­lease this year. The other are the com­edy Love Punch, the pe­riod film Effie, the drama The Se­cret Ev­i­dence, and the story of Walt Dis­ney’s chase to make Mary Pop­pins, called Sav­ing Mr. Banks.

PETER KRAMER / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Beau­ti­ful Crea­tures star Emma Thompson has a rep­u­ta­tion as a dra­matic ac­tress, but she also loves do­ing come­dies.

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