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My Fair Lady: Thompson Wants Laurie as Higgins

My Fair Lady: Thompson Wants Laurie as Higgins

Emma Thompson has won Oscars for both acting (Howard’s End) and writing (Sense and Sensibility). And she is coming to accept how satisfying both can be. “I always thought acting was my compulsion,” she says,” but that writing was a different form of creativity because it is so back to the knuckle. Acting is a natural thing because you are using your body, it’s like singing. I was wrong about that. Both can answer the same need. I feel better after writing for two hours.”

Thompson is back in her fave Bel Air Hotel bungalow promoting Last Chance Harvey, an unassuming romantic comedy that Joel Hopkins wrote for her some eight years ago. She revived it by bringing in as her leading man her co-star on Stranger than Fiction, Dustin Hoffman. “There are no special effects, no sub-plots, no heroes, no villains,” she says. “It’s just people talking and acting and falling in love and the obstacles that arise within the soul.”

Meanwhile she’s still pursuing her other muse, adapting the classic Lerner and Loew musical My Fair Lady for the screen for Columbia Pictures. She writes long-hand for the first draft, then moves to the computer, she says. “There is a connection between the brain and the arm and the pen.”

Keira Knightley is signed on to star as Eliza Doolittle. While Thompson’s old Cambridge cohort Hugh Laurie is her first choice for Henry Higgins, she has to finish the script first. And that choice will be made by the film’s eventual director. (She won’t be ready to direct, although she has some projects in mind, until her 8-year-old daughter is grown.)

Thompson revelled in checking into the source, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. “I love it,” she says. “You can’t contemporize this. I love that period anyway. I loved investigating Shaw himself and his relationship with women and actresses.”

My My Fair Lady Higgins poll was a pitched battle between fans of Colin Firth and Jeremy Northam, who finally won. Who do you want to play him?

In the meantime the sequel to the family fantasy comedy Nanny McPhee is getting under way in January, written by and starring the snaggle-toothed Thompson. It’s about “two sets of children and war between two families who don’t understand each other,” she says. And it stars a baby elephant.

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

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