“I Knew That It Had to Be Made”: Dame Emma Thompson on “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”
CONTENT WARNING: This article contains themes of a sexual nature and may not be suitable for all readers.
Dame Emma Thompson’s (Professor Trelawney) latest movie, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, has been making waves with its exploration of age, body image, sexual pleasure, and sex work. As such, much of the focus of the press tour has been on the groundbreaking topics the movie explores. And in true Thompson style, she has not shied away from sharing her thoughts on these themes.
In Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Thompson takes on the role of Nancy Stokes, a retired teacher in her 60s who hires a young sex worker by the name of Leo Grande (played by Daryl McCormack) to explore her sexual pleasure. As might be expected in a movie exploring this subject, there are several intimate scenes. However, there are also many dialogue-heavy scenes that explore a different kind of intimacy. They told Empire that after 12 pages a day of emotionally honest lines, filming the physical intimacy scenes at the end of the 19-day shoot was “fantastic because there weren’t any words. It was just us with no clothes on in a room.”
Alongside the physically intimate scenes in the movie, there is one scene in which Nancy looks at her body in the mirror. This scene, which required Thompson to be fully nude, has been called brave. Thompson responded to this in an interview with BBC News, “The reason people say it’s brave is because it’s not normalized. So that’s all. The fact is, we don’t see normal bodies on the screen ever.”
The perception of female bodies and in particular, aging female bodies is a subject Thompson is keen to explore. In a piece penned for Vogue, Thompson shared that she is no stranger to negative thoughts about her body, even when preparing for such a body-positive movie.
I don’t know if you’ve ever taken all your clothes off in front of a young person you don’t really know. Never assume anything. But if you haven’t, I’m here to tell you that it’s a little bit intimidating. Especially if you’re a post-menopausal woman in her sixties who’s recently eaten far too many Tunnock’s Tea Cakes owing to lockdown comfort-seeking, and the young person is in startlingly perfect shape owing to playing someone whose job requires them to be in perfect shape.
But this discomfort continued to drive Thompson to make the movie. Speaking to RTÉ Arena, she stressed the importance of accepting our bodies for what they are rather than trying to change them.
I just thought it was completely original. […] I knew that it had to be made. […] It’s terribly important that we start to normalize what our bodies actually are and learn instead of using up all our energy hating them and doing things to them that will try to achieve something that’s impossible to achieve.
This is a sentiment she repeated on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. However, she also jokingly admitted that after filming, it dawned on her that people were actually going to see the movie.
What have I done? […] I had taken a sort of a leap of faith, and I’d placed my faith in the audience.
For all the focus on Thompson’s role as Nancy, she has made it clear that she hasn’t always been seen as the “right” type of woman for this kind of role.
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.
An interview with Elle revealed she was only offered “wife roles” in her 40s, which she found “really very boring.” Thankfully, her experience with Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is one of a number in the past few years that she has felt lucky to do.
I’ve had the most extraordinary opportunities in the last few years, and a lot of those have been written by women. So I feel incredibly privileged and lucky. I really do.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is available to stream on Hulu now.