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Emma Thompson Had to Overcome Being ‘Trained to Hate’ Her Body for ‘Leo Grande’ Nude Scenes

"Probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to act, is standing in a relaxed manner and looking at my body without judgment."

Emma Thompson, Berlinale

Emma Thompson

Ekaterina Chesnokova/Sputnik via AP

Emma Thompson, aka true British royalty in Hollywood quarters, opened up about the insecurities conditioned into women from a young age. Thompson’s latest film, the 2022 Sundance dramedy “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” required the Oscar winner to strip fully nude and examine herself in the mirror.

“Probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to act is standing in a relaxed manner and looking at my body without judgment,” Thompson said in a recent Variety interview. “You ask any woman to do that, I bet you 9.9 times out of 10, they won’t be able to do it. But do it on camera? Forget it. We’re used to not liking our bodies. We’ve been trained to hate our bodies from very early on because they don’t match the impossible and actually cruel ideals that we are presented with.”

Thompson plays a widow who hires a male escort, portrayed by Daryl McCormack, to help reclaim her sexuality in the Sundance hit, acquired for release by Searchlight Pictures during Sundance.

“With all actors, parts come along and they meet you right in the center of yourself,” Thompson continued. “I hadn’t read anything like it and I never played anyone like that. Even though she’s a very ordinary woman, she’s doing something extraordinary and she’s learning from pushing through her own preconceptions … about what it means to be female, about what it means to be a woman. She learns so much from this young man.”

Thompson added that when audiences inevitably will call her “courageous” for going nude, she knows how to read between the lines of applauding the “impossible” body image ideals.

“What they really mean is: Emma Thompson is so brave to show her 62-year-old body with no holds barred. They mean she’s brave because she’s showing something that isn’t perfect, that’s not normally seen, and that will be quite shocking, in a way, because we’re not used to seeing untreated bodies,” Thompson said. “We’re not used to seeing bodies that haven’t been worked on to such an extent that they’ve become acceptable within the tiny, narrow limits of body perfection that we have been brainwashed into wanting, accepting, and receiving. But it was actually really brave of me.”

Meanwhile, director Sophie Hyde hopes “Leo Grande” will help normalize portrayals of sex work in media.

“We see onscreen so much representation of sex work that is deeply problematic, really negative portrayals or the ‘Pretty Woman’ thing where someone falls in love and finally gets to leave and be rescued or that it’s all dangerous,” Hyde said. “Coming to understand how varied it is and how normal and ordinary it is, as well, was brilliant.”

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