Emma Thompson is a British actress, activist, author, comedienne and screenwriter.
Let’s find out some intriguing facts about her!
1. Emma Thompson was born 15 April 1959 in Paddington, London.
2. Her mother is the Scottish actress Phyllida Law, while her English father, Eric Thompson, was involved in theatre and the writer–narrator of the popular children’s television series The Magic Roundabout.
3. Her godfather was the director and writer Ronald Eyre.
4. She has one sister, Sophie Thompson, who also works as an actress.
5. The family lived in West Hampstead in north London, and Thompson was educated at Camden School for Girls.
6. She spent much time in Scotland during her childhood and often visited Ardentinny, where her grandparents and uncle lived.
7. In her youth, Thompson was intrigued by language and literature, a trait which she attributes to her father, who shared her love of words.
8. In 1977, she began studying for an English degree at Newnham College, University of Cambridge.
9. Thompson believes that it was inevitable that she would become an actress, commenting that she was “surrounded by creative people and I don’t think it would ever have gone any other way, really”.
10. While there, she had a “seminal moment” that turned her to feminism and inspired her to take up performing.
11. She explained in an interview in 2007 how she discovered the book The Madwoman in the Attic, “which is about Victorian female writers and the disguises they took on in order to express what they wanted to express. That completely changed my life.”
12. She became a self-professed “punk rocker”, with short red hair and a motorbike, and aspired to be a comedian like Lily Tomlin.
13. At Cambridge, Thompson was invited into Footlights, the university’s prestigious sketch comedy troupe, by its president, Martin Bergman, becoming its first female member.
14. Also in the troupe were fellow actors Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, and she had a romantic relationship with the latter.
15. Fry recalled that “there was no doubt that Emma was going the distance. Our nickname for her was Emma Talented.”
16. In 1980, Thompson served as the Vice President of Footlights, and co-directed the troupe’s first all-female revue, Woman’s Hour.
17. The following year, Thompson and her Footlights team won the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for their sketch show The Cellar Tapes.
18. In 1982, Thompson’s father died as a result of circulatory problems at the age of 52.
19. The actress has commented that this “tore [the family] to pieces”, and “I can’t begin to tell you how much I regret his not being around”. She added, “At the same time, it’s possible that were he still alive I might never have had the space or courage to do what I’ve done … I have a definite feeling of inheriting space. And power.”
20. She first came to prominence in 1987 in two BBC TV series, Tutti Frutti and Fortunes of War, winning the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for her work in both series.
21. Her first film role was in the 1989 romantic comedy The Tall Guy, and in the early 1990s she frequently collaborated with the actor and director Kenneth Branagh.
22. The pair became popular in the British media and co-starred in several films, including Dead Again (1991) and Much Ado About Nothing (1993).
23. In 1992, Thompson won an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress for the period drama Howards End.
24. In 1993, she garnered dual Academy Award nominations for her roles in The Remains of the Day as the housekeeper of a grand household and In the Name of the Father as a lawyer.
25. Thompson scripted and starred in Sense and Sensibility (1995), which earned her (among other awards) an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress.
26. Other notable film and television credits include: the Harry Potter film series, Wit (2001), Love Actually (2003), Angels in America (2003), Nanny McPhee (2005), Stranger than Fiction (2006), Last Chance Harvey (2008), Men in Black 3 (2012), Brave (2012) and Beauty and the Beast (2017). In 2013, she received acclaim and several award nominations for her portrayal of P. L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.
She is an activist in the areas of human rights and environmentalism and has received criticism for her outspokenness.
27. She has written two books adapted from The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
28. Thompson, although born in London, has confessed to feeling Scottish: “not only because I am half Scottish but also because I’ve spent half my life here”. She frequently returns to Scotland and visits Dunoon in Argyll and Bute, where she owns a home.
29. Thompson’s first husband was the actor and director Kenneth Branagh, whom she met in 1987 while filming the television series Fortunes of War.
30. The couple married in 1989 and proceeded to appear in several films together, with Branagh often casting her in his own productions.
31. Dubbed a “golden couple” by the British media, the relationship received considerable press interest. The pair attempted to keep their relationship private, refusing to be interviewed or photographed together.
32. In September 1995, Thompson and Branagh announced that they had separated; their statement to the press blamed their work schedules, but it later emerged that he had fallen in love with actress Helena Bonham Carter.
33. Thompson was living alone as the relationship with Branagh deteriorated, and entered into clinical depression.
34. While filming Sense and Sensibility in 1995, she began a relationship with her co-star Greg Wise. Commenting on how she was able to overcome her depression, she told BBC Radio Four, “Work saved me and Greg saved me. He picked up the pieces and put them together again.”
35. In 1999, the couple had a daughter, Gaia, born when Thompson was 39. The pregnancy was achieved through IVF treatment; afterwards Wise and Thompson attempted to have another child using the same method. Three years of further IVF treatment were unsuccessful.
36. In 2003, Thompson and Wise were married in Dunoon.
37. The family’s permanent residence is in West Hampstead, London, on the same road where she lived in her youth.
38. Also in 2003, Thompson and her husband informally adopted a Rwandan orphan and former child soldier named Tindyebwa Agaba. They met at a Refugee Council event when he was 16, and she invited him to spend Christmas at their home. Tindy became a British citizen in 2009.
39. She is politically liberal and a supporter of the Labour Party; she told the BBC Andrew Marr Show in 2010 that she had been a member of the party “all my life.”
40. She supports the socialist Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
41. She has also expressed support for the Women’s Equality Party.