Emma Thompson shares how rigid beauty standards dictated her career

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  • “Nothing has changed in the dreadful demands”

    National treasure Emma Thompson has shared how unrealistic beauty standards and ideals had a serious impact on her acting career.

    Talking during a Cinema Café panel at the Sundance Film Festival, she discussed a recent fully nude scene which she filmed for drama-tragedy Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, sharing: “I don’t think I could’ve done it before the age that I am.”

    The two-time Oscar winner shared that a lot of preparation went into making sure the scene, with actor and co-star Daryl McCormack, was approached sensitively.

    In the movie, she stars as a widowed teacher, Nancy, who has never had an orgasm. As a result, after her partner dies, she decides to hire a male escort to experience one for the first time – all of which is portrayed on screen.

    But the star admitted that, despite the crew’s best efforts to make her comfortable, the scene was still “very challenging” to shoot.

    She went on to explain that this was largely because of the “dreadful demands” that are still imposed on women to look a certain way or be a certain weight.

    “It’s very challenging to be nude at 62,” she said, explaining that in the scene, Nancy simply “stands in front of a mirror alone and she drops her robe.”

    “Nothing has changed in the dreadful demands made upon women in the real-world world but also in acting,” she continued. “This thing of having to be thin is still the same as it ever was, and actually in some ways I think it’s worse now.”

    She doesn’t believe she would have been able to film such a bold scene any earlier in her acting career, because of such unrealistic and unfair beauty standards. With age, she implies that she’s grown more comfortable and confident in her skin – as she should – but that it took time. Similarly, seeing her totally un-retouched body on-screen was daunting and posed a challenge in itself as, sadly, this still isn’t the norm.

    “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,” she shared.

    On how they ran through the scene to make sure both actors were comfortable, Thompson shared: “[Director] Sophie [Hyde], Daryl, and I rehearsed entirely nude and talked about our bodies, talked about our relationship with our bodies, drew them, discussed the things that we find difficult about, things we like about them, described one another’s bodies.”

    Bravo to Emma for opening up the discussion and encouraging more to be done to break said unrealistic standards.

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