Howard's End Woman
"I can't stand this new culture of the instant disposable celebrity. It's all so vulgar." Emma Thompson
British actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson won double Academy Awards for starring in Howard's End (1992, opposite Anthony Hopkins, based on E.M. Forster's novel) and writing the screenplay adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1995). She has played roles in such films as Henry V (1989), Dead Again (1991), The Remains of the Day (1993), In the Name of the Father (1993), Junior (1994), Carrington (1995), Primary Colors (1998), Wit (2001, HBO), Love Actually (2003), Imagining Argentina (2003) and Angels in America (2003, HBO). The award-winning actress, who won an Emmy for guest starring in the ABC sitcom “Ellen,” recently played Professor Sybill Trelawney in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) and will star in the upcoming films Nanny McPhee and Stranger Than Fiction.
5' 7" tall Emma Thompson was one of Empire (UK) magazine's “Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time” (October 1997) and Orange Film Survey’s “Greatest British Film Actresses” (2001). As for her private life, Thompson, who was once married to actor Kenneth Branagh, is currently married to Sense and Sensibility costar, actor Greg Wise (born on May 15, 1966, has one daughter with him).
Childhood and Family:
"I was brought up by people who tended to giggle at funerals." Emma Thompson
In a family fully loaded with acting skill, Emma Thompson was born on April 15, 1959, in Paddington, London, England. Her parents are English actor Eric Thompson (the creator of the popular TV series The Magic Roundabout, born on November 9, 1929; died on December 1, 1982) and Scottish actress Phyllida Law (born in 1932). Her younger sister, Shophie Thompson (born in 1962), is also an actress.
Emma speaks French and Spanish fluently. She studied at the local primary school in West Hampstead and Camden School for Girls. She then enrolled at Cambridge University (graduated with a degree in English Literature), where she was also a member of the famed Footlights Revue comedy club.
On August 20, 1989, Emma Thompson married actor Kenneth Branagh (born on December 10, 1960), but they divorced in 1994. Thompson is currently married to actor Greg Wise and has one daughter named Gaia Romilly Wise (born in 1999).
The Remains of the Day
"The thing I wanted to be was that kind of woman who could be strong and independent and jolly, but make people laugh." Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson began acting with Cambridge University’s renowned comedy troupe Footlights Revue (1979 to 1982, alongside Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry) and co-wrote, co-produced, co-directed and performed with Cambridge's first all-female revue, "Woman's Hour" in 1981. Also with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, Thompson appeared on the TV show "Alfresco" (1983) and performed in her first solo show, "Short Vehicle," as well as in the TV movie The Crystal Cube (1983).
In 1985, Thompson co-starred opposite Robert Lindsay in the West End’s 16-month run hit musical "Me and My Girl" and was cast in the TV series "Assaulted Nuts." After starring with Robbie Coltrane in the six-hour BBC-TV miniseries "Tutti Frutti" (1987), Thompson won the role of Harriet Pringle, Kenneth Branagh’s wife, in the nine-part miniseries adopted from Olivia Manning's novels, "Fortunes of War." She then hosted and wrote the brief-lived BBC-TV comedy-variety series, "Thompson" (1988) and reunited with Kenneth Branagh in the stage revival of "Look Back in Anger," directed by Dame Judi Dench (production was filmed for TV and helmed by David Jones).
Mel Smith's romantic comedy The Tall Guy (1989, costarring Rowan Atkinson), in which Thompson played a pretty nurse and Jeff Goldblum's love admiration, was Thompson’s big screen debut. She followed it up by rejoining actor-director-writer Kenneth Branagh in his adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays, the war drama Henry V (1989, also starring Derek Jacobi). On stage, Thompson signed up with the Renaissance Theatre Company, where then-husband Kenneth Branagh directed her in "King Lear" (as the Fool) and "A Midsummer's Night's Dream" (as Helena).
The early 1990's saw Thompson in The Winslow Boy (TV), Impromptu, Dead Again and a memorable guest appearance as Nanny Gee, a woman from Dr Frasier Crane's past, on the NBC sitcom "Cheers." Thompson also enjoyed film star status when she took home Academy Awards’ Best Actress for starring as Margaret Schlegel, Anthony Hopkins' modest wife, in James Ivory's screen version of E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel, Howards End (1992).
The subsequent years, Thompson teamed with then-husband Kenneth Branagh in several films. They costarred in the ensemble comedy Peter's Friends (1992) and in the film version of William Shakespeare's play, Much Ado About Nothing (1993, both directed by Kenneth Branagh).
Thompson also nabbed more Academy Award nominations while costarring with Anthony Hopkins as a spirited housekeeper in James Ivory's quietly moving film, inspired by Kazuo Ishiguro's novel, The Remains of the Day, and with Daniel Day-Lewis playing a stubborn lawyer in Jim Sheridan's adaptation of Gerry Conlon's autobiography Proved Innocent, In the Name of the Father (both in 1993).
After an unaccredited role in My Father the Hero and starring in the British TV drama The Blue Boy (alongside mother Phyllida Law), Thompson teamed with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito to portray rare comic scientists in Ivan Reitman's Junior (1994). Thompson then starred as the vivacious painter, 19th Century Dora Carrington, in Christopher Hampton's biopic based on Michael Holroyd's book, Carrington (1995, the film won the 1996 Special Jury Prize at Cannes).
The second Academy Award arrived in 1996 after Thompson wrote the screenplay for Ang Lee's adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, the drama comedy Sense and Sensibility (1995, Thompson also starred as daughter Elinor Dashwood, alongside future companion Greg Wise). Afterward, Thompson starred as a recently widowed photographer in Alan Rickman's directorial debut, adapted from the stage play by Sharman MacDonald, The Winter Guest (1997, opposite her real-life mother, actress Phyllida Law) and made the Emmy winning guest appearance as a British actress named "Emma Thompson" who reveals she's a lesbian from Ohio, on the ABC sitcom "Ellen" (on November 19, 1997 episode).
Filmmaker Mike Nichols cast Thompson to play the wife of a presidential candidate (played by John Travolta) in his hilarious and troubling fictional adaptation of Joe Klein's 1996 best-seller novel, Primary Colors (1998) and writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez handed her the role of FBI Agent Sadie Hawkins in his crime drama film Judas Kiss (1998, starring Carla Gugino and Simon Baker). She then appeared as a cameo in Ben Elton's screen version of his own novel, the romantic comedy Maybe Baby (2000, starring Hugh Laurie and Joely Richardson).
In 2001, Thompson earned two Emmy nominations for writing the screenplay and starring as a famous professor forced to reassess her life when she is diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, in the HBO adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Wit. The drama was helmed by Mike Nichols and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Later that year, Thompson lent her voice to Captain Amelia in the animated film Treasure Planet and became Hugh Grant's sister and Alan Rickman's wife in writer-director-producer Richard Curtis' ensemble comedy Love Actually (2003). She also portrayed Antonio Banderas' journalist wife Cecilia in Christopher Hampton's adaptation of Lawrence Thornton's novel, the acclaimed Imagining Argentina (premiered at the Venice Film Festival).
Thompson rejoined director Mike Nichols to play The Angel of America/Nurse Emily/Homeless Woman in the HBO miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner's play, "Angels in America" (2003). The miniseries, that also starring Al Pacino and Meryl Streep, gave Thompson a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Actress in a Television Movie or Miniseries.
In 2004, director Alfonso Cuarón cast Thompson to play Sibyl Trelawney, the ethereal and quirky professor of divination, in the big screen version of J.K. Rowling's third best-selling children's novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (starring Daniel Radcliffe). On her role in the film, Thompson revealed, "I have a nervous breakdown in the film and in one scene I get to stand at the top of the stairs waving an empty sherry bottle which is, of course, a typical scene from my daily life, so isn't much of a stretch."
Soon, moviegoers will watch Thompson playing the title role of a nanny who uses magic to tame the seven horrible children under her care in Kirk Jones' family comedy Nanny McPhee. Director Marc Forster also cast her to act opposite Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah in his upcoming romantic, drama comedy Stranger Than Fiction.
"The very phrase [British film industry] depresses me. I don't think we've got a film industry, and never have had. We've been making bloody awful films." Emma Thompson
- Evening Standard British Film: Best Actress, Love Actually, 2004
- Empire Awards: Best British Actress, Love Actually, 2004
- London Critics Circle Film: British Supporting Actress of the Year, Love Actually, 2004
- Humanitas Prize: 90 Minute or Longer Cable Category, Wit, 2001
- Valladolid International Film Festival: Best Actress, Wit, 2001
- Emmy: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, Ellen, 1998
- Venice Film Festival: Pasinetti Award - Best Actress, The Winter Guest, 1997
- London Critics Circle Film: British Screenwriter of the Year, Sense and Sensibility, 1997
- Academy Awards: Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Sense and Sensibility, 1996
- Academy Awards: Best Actress, Howard's End, 1993