Emma Thompson is one of the greatest actresses that this country has every produced – she has delivered fantastic performances both in front of the camera as well as behind it as a writer over the years.
This week she is back on the big screen in Saving Mr Banks, as she takes on the role of author P.L. Travers. The film follows Travers as she heads out to L.A. to meet Walt Disney, a man who has been trying to get the rights for Mary Poppins for twenty years.
To celebrate Thompson’s big screen return we take a look at some of her finest acting performances over the years.
– Howard’s End (1992)
In 1992, James Ivory brought Howard’s End to the big screen, a film that was an adaptation of the novel of the same name by E.M. Forster.
Howard’s End is a movie that successfully gives us an insight to the different classes as the film follows a
businessman who thwarts his wife’s bequest of an estate to another woman.
Thompson is joined on the cast list by Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter and Prunella Scales, who all deliver wonderful performances.
However, it is Thompson who really does shine in the role of Margaret Schlegel, and this was a role that really saw her come into her own as an actress.
Howard’s End went on to be nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture; Thompson would scoop the Best Actress prize for her central performance.
– The Remains Of the Day (1993)
Thompson reunited with Anthony Hopkins in 1993 for another literary adaptation. The movie was based on the novel by
Kazuo Ishiguro, and saw James Ivory in the director’s chair once again.
The Remains of the Day is widely regarded as one of the best Merchant Ivory films, which boasts fantastic performances from Thompson and Hopkins.
Hopkins plays a butler who has real pride in his work, but he plays a terrible emotional price for serving his master so faithfully. Thompson is the new housekeeper who ever tried to get to know the man behind the cold butler façade.
The fact that Thompson and Hopkins had worked together before really does help the chemistry as they both deliver devastatingly powerful and totally heartbreaking performances – this is a film that you have to see if you are a fan of either actor.
The film picked up eight Oscar nominations, with Thompson being nominated for Best Actress once again – this time she lost out to Holly Hunter.
– In The Name of the Father (1994)
Released in 1994, In The Name of the Father saw Thompson team up with director Jim Sheridan and actor Daniel Day Lewis.
The movie was based on the true story of the Guildford Four, who were falsely convicted of the IRA Guildford pub bombings. Daniel Day Lewis took on the role of Gerry Conlon, while Thompson played lawyer Gareth Peirce – who uncovered the evidence that got their convictions quashed.
From star to finish In The Name of the Father is a powerful and intelligent movie that never slips into melodrama. Sheridan mixes the fact-based story with a more intimate tale of a family that is put to the test.
This may have been a supporting role for Thompson but she really does shine as the lawyer who is determined to uncover the truth. Day Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite also shine as an estranged father and son.
Another film and another Oscar nomination followed for Thompson as she received a Best Supporting Actress nod; this was one of seven nominations for the film.
– Sense and Sensibility (1996)
With Sense and Sensibility Thompson not only showed off her acting talents but her writing skills as well, as she adapted the much loved Jane Austen novel.
The movie follows Mrs Dashwood and her two daughters who lose their wealth after their husband/father dies as the rules of inheritance state everything must go to Mr Dashwood’s son from his first marriage.
Thompson really did deliver a witty and funny take on Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, as she penned a script that kept the spirit of the novel but got to the drama as quickly as possible.
Directed by Ang Lee, the movie was lush and beautifully shot – not to mention it was packed with great performances from the likes of Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman and Gemma Jones.
Thompson picked up a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for her work. Thompson was also nominated for Best Actress and the film for Best Picture.
– Nanny McPhee (2005)
Thompson may be playing the author of Mary Poppins this week, but the actress brought her own governess to the big screen in 2005 with Nanny McPhee.
The movie was adapted from the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brands, and saw Thompson pen the screenplay as well as take on the title role.
Nanny McPhee follows the title character as she arrives at a house to be the governess of seven children belonging to widower Mr Brown.
If you haven’t seen Nanny McPhee then it is a film that you really should check out, as it is a lot of fun. It is a mix of family problems and magic, with a great performance from Thompson at its heart.
Nanny McPhee is cleverly written and packed full of interesting characters – it really is a child’s film to be treasured.
– Last Chance Harvey (2009)
In 2009, Thompson teamed up with fellow Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman for Last Chance Harvey: a film that was written and directed by Joel Hopkins.
Last Chance Harvey follows the blossoming relationship between American Harvey Shine, and Kate Walker who meet in London when Harvey is over at his daughter’s wedding.
Harvey is a man who has focused on his career; as a result, he has ruined all of the relationships he has had – including the one with his daughter. Kate on the other hand, struggles with relationships having been hurt in the past.
Last Chance Harvey is a fascinating film about the relationship between these two very different characters, Both Thompson and Hoffman deliver fantastic performances as characters that have almost hid away from the world.
This is a tender and touching film that looks at relationships in later life, and taking a chance on them when they come along.
Other great Emma Thompson performances include An Education, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix and Much Ado About Nothing.
Saving Mr Banks is released 29th November.
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