Dame Emma Thompson isn’t just one of her generation’s finest actors; she’s also an award-winning screenwriter who’s contributed to more movie screenplays than you might realize, including upcoming holiday rom-com Last Christmas. Here’s a guide to every film she’s had a hand in writing.
1. Sense and Sensibility
Thompson made history with her screenplay for 1995’s Jane Austen adaptation starring Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and Thompson herself. When she collected the Best Adapted Screenplay award at the following year’s Oscars, she became the only person ever to have won Academy Awards for both acting and screenwriting. (Thompson took home her acting Oscar three years earlier for her performance in Howards End). Though Sense and Sensibility was her first ever movie screenplay, it wasn’t exactly an instant success; Thompson’s said she spent around five years perfecting the script in between acting work on other movies.
2. Nanny McPhee and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang
Thompson wrote and stars in these successful family movies based on the Nurse Matilda novels by Christianna Brand. In the first film, Thompson’s magical Nanny McPhee is hired by a Victorian widower (Colin Firth) to bring some discipline to his seven unruly children. In the second, she helps a frazzled farmer’s wife (Maggie Gyllenhaal) to keep her kids in line while their father is off fighting in World War II. Comparisons to Mary Poppins are obvious and probably unavoidable, but Thompson’s movies have a slightly darker vibe and an interesting twist: the better-behaved her children become, the younger and more attractive-looking Nanny McPhee gets!
3. Pride and Prejudice
Novelist Deborah Moggach is credited with writing the screenplay for director Joe Wright‘s adaptation of Jane Austen’s most famous novel, which stars Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. But it’s understood that Wright later asked Thompson to rewrite parts of the script, which is why she has a “special thanks” credit at the end of the movie. The scene where Charlotte Lucas (Claudie Blakley) tells Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet that she intends to marry Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) is one that Thompson is believed to have written.
4. Effie Gray
This rather underrated period drama tells the story of an infamous Victorian love triangle involving author and painter Euphemia “Effie” Gray, painter John Everett Millais, and art critic John Ruskin. Thompson wrote the screenplay and co-stars as Gray’s close friend Elizabeth Eastlake, but the movie’s release was delayed by more than a year because of two lawsuits alleging that her script had breached the copyright of previous works about Gray. Both cases were settled in Thompson’s favor, but she conceded in December 2013 that the movie’s time had “probably passed,” and it eventually came out the following October without much of a promotional push.
Last year, Thompson said that “the best bit of working in America was meeting and working with Mike Nichols.” She appeared in the revered director’s 1998 movie Primary Colors and his 2003 miniseries Angels in America; in between, they teamed up for this Emmy-winning TV movie, an adaptation of Margaret Edson‘s Pulitzer-winning stage play. Thompson stars as an English Literature professor diagnosed with ovarian cancer, offering a sensitive and affecting portrayal of how being treated for the disease can change a person’s life. For the teleplay she and Nichols wrote together, they won the Humanitas Prize, which recognizes film and TV writing intended to promote human dignity, meaning, and freedom.
6. Bridget Jones’s Baby
Thompson was drafted in to rewrite the screenplay for the third and most recent Bridget Jones movie, and is duly credited as co-writer alongside Helen Fielding, author of the Bridget Jones books, and Dan Fazer (Borat, Brüno). She also has a small but hilarious supporting role in the “threequel” as Bridget’s plain-speaking obstetrician, so it’s nice to think that she might have written some of her character’s zingy lines herself.
7. Last Christmas
Thompson also co-wrote this lovely-looking holiday rom-com based around the music of the late, great George Michael. As the just-released trailer reveals, it follows a relationship that develops between Emilia Clarke‘s jaded holiday store sales assistant and a more upbeat character played by Henry Golding. Thompson co-stars as Clarke’s concerned mother, so it’s no exaggeration to say we have pretty high hopes for this one.
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