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This Star Says She Was Deemed "Not Pretty Enough" to Play Sexual Roles

"I'm too mouthy, not pretty enough, not the right kind of body," Emma Thompson said.

Her new movie is all about sex, but Emma Thompson says that, for much of her career, she wasn't cast as characters with sexual lives. And the Oscar-winning actor believes that this is because of the way male film executives viewed her appearance, deeming her "not pretty enough" for these parts. In a new interview with The Times, Thompson opened up about her experience in the movie business, including the judgment of her body by those in positions of power, which had an effect on her career and the kinds of jobs she received. Read on to see what she had to say.

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Thompson thinks she's been typecast.

Emma Thompson at the New York premiere of "Last Christmas" in 2019
Debby Wong / Shutterstock

In her interview with The Times, Thompson talked about not being offered parts that included sexual intimacy.

"I've never really been offered sex scenes," she said (via People). "As my mother said, I've basically played a series of 'good' women. I do 'cerebral.'" She explained that this is because of the way people behind the scenes have perceived her. "I have also never conformed to the shape or look of someone they might want to see naked. And by 'they,' I mean male executives. I'm too mouthy, not pretty enough, not the right kind of body. And, crikey, you are constantly told what kind of body you have."

She's used to people talking about her body.

Emma Thompson at the UK premiere of "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande" in June 2022
Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

As an example of being "told what kind of body you have," Thompson pointed to an experience she had with a reporter.

"In one interview I did, the male journalist wrote that I'd put on a lot of weight since I appeared in Fortunes of War, and that my legs were 'now like tree trunks,' and that I'd 'let myself down,'" she said. "I was 31 and, quite frankly, no longer starving myself. I don't think anyone realizes quite how thin most actresses are in real life. They look quite… unreal."

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Her new film is about an older woman's sex life.

Daryl McCormack and Emma Thompson in "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande"
SearchlightPictures / YouTube

In the upcoming movie Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (on Hulu June 17), Thompson plays a widow who hopes to explore her sexuality and take control of her experience by hiring a sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). Thompson appears naked in the film, and she, McCormack, and director Sophie Hyde rehearsed unclothed and talked about their bodies in order to prepare.

"It's very challenging to be nude at 62," Thompson said during a Cinema Cafe discussion for the Sundance Film Festival (via Entertainment Weekly). She continued, "I don't think I could've done it before the age that I am. And yet, of course, the age that I am makes it extremely challenging because we aren't used to seeing untreated bodies on the screen."

Fortunately, an early sex scene was a comfortable one.

During a recent interview with Amanpour and Company, Thompson was asked if she's been "batting away" offers for sexual roles. "No, which may come as a surprise, but I suspect it's not," Thompson replied.

The actor continued, "I did my first big sex scene with beloved Jeff Goldblum, where we spent three days naked in [1989's] The Tall Guy, [writer] Richard Curtis' first film. And I learned a lot, actually, from that experience, and one of the things I learned was being naked on set made everyone terribly kind and sort of protective … Everyone was so sensitive, and actually, I salute that crew, because I thought to myself, if I ever have to do this again, I'm not going to be frightened."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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