Sunday, September 24, 2006

dbackdad's favorite actors: part three -- emma thompson

You may be getting the feeling that I only like British actors. Not true. There are plenty of American actors that I like but Sadie already covered a few of them (Norton, Hanks). I'll certainly work up to a few more eventually. But in the meantime, I'm definitely going to continue with my trend. And I do believe that most of the best actors are British. And Emma Thompson is certainly no exception. She's of the ilk of period-piece actresses that I really like.

Probably the first thing I saw her in (and still one of my favorites) is Howard's End. This was based on a E.M. Forster novel (he also wrote Room With a View and A Passage to India). The movie examines the interactions of social classes in 1930's England but I believe that the truths it exposes are applicable to all ages and countries. The acting is superb by a cast that includes Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter. I believe that what I like about Thompson is her ability to show passion and feeling subtly in what some might consider fairly buttoned-up dialogue.

She again starred with Hopkins in Remains of the Day. Her acting was great but I was not as big a fan of this movie as some were.

A good deal of her career was spent acting in movies directed by her then husband, Kenneth Branagh. The first of these that I saw was Henry V. It's well-made but if you're not into Shakespeare, then you might want to skip it. Also Shakespeare ... but not quite as dry is Much Ado About Nothing. I think this film is brilliant and has some of Shakespeare's funniest writing. The cast is stellar (with the exception of the miscast Keanu Reeves) and included Denzel Washington, Thompson, Branagh, Michael Keaton, and Kate Beckingsale. Two more of Branagh's films, Dead Again -- a noirish thriller, and Peter's Friends -- a dark comedy, are also very good.

Not content with just being a great actress, Thompson is an award-winning screenwriter, having won an Oscar for Sense and Sensibility. This adaptation of a Jane Austen novel was very good and does a nice job of conveying the humor of the book. Again, a nice cast which includes Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and Tom Wilkinson. Thompson also wrote the family movie, Nanny McPhee, which we just recently saw and highly recommend.

She does not confine herself to period pieces and as on occasion starred in political films, most notable: In the Name of the Father about a man falsely accused of an IRA bombing, and Primary Colors - a fictionalized account based on Bill Clinton and those around him. She is very funny in this film. She is also very funny in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, ironically following in the footsteps of a similarly over-the-top performance by her ex-husband Branagh in an earlier Potter film.

Some Thompson trivia from IMDb:

Was originally slated to play the role of "God" in Kevin Smith's Dogma (1999). She was unable to perform due to her pregnancy.
She is the only person to have won Academy awards for both acting and writing. She won Best Actress for Howards End (1992), and Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility (1995).


Reel Fanatic said...

I definitely agree with about the great Ms. Thompson ... She has made many excellent films, but if I had to pick one it would be "Much Ado About Nothing" .. that one was just so much fun from start to finish

Sadie Lou said...

I just loved Nanny McPhee. It was a wonderful children's movie. You're so right on--She shines as an actress because she radiates class and beauty. I think every performance she gives is the very, very best she is capable of and you can't say that about all actresses. Good nomination and it's easy to see why she's one of your favs.

greatwhitebear said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your choice. Love both Thompson and Branagh as actors. One of my two or three favorite movies is "Dead Again", with Branagh, Thompson, Andy Garcia, Robin Willaims, Derek Jacoby.

"How many times can you die for love?"