EMMA THOMPSON (Catherine Bryson) is one of the world’s most respected talents for her versatility in acting as well as screenwriting. She is the sole artist thus far to have received an Academy Award® for both acting and screenwriting.
In 1992, Thompson caused a sensation with her portrayal of Margaret Schlegel in the Merchant Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Howards End. Sweeping the Best Actress category wherever it was considered, the performance netted her a BAFTA Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Award, New York Film Critics Award, Golden Globe and Academy Award®. She earned two Oscar® nominations the following year for her work in The Remains of the Day and In the Name of the Father. In 1995, Thompson’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, directed by Ang Lee, won the Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and Best Screenplay awards from the Writers Guild of America and the Writers Guild of Great Britain, among others. For her performance in the film she was honored with a Best Actress award from BAFTA and nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award®. Her performance in Richard Curtis’ Love Actually earned Thompson Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 2004 Evening Standard Film Awards, London Film Critics Circle Awards and Empire Film Awards, along with a BAFTA nomination. In 2013, Thompson’s moving portrayal of author ‘P.L. Travers’ in Saving Mr. Banks earned her both the National Board of Review and Empire Best Actress Awards, along with Golden Globe, Broadcast Film Critics, SAG and BAFTA nominations.
Thompson is currently on location filming Alone in Berlin with Brendan Gleeson and Daniel Bruhl. An English language adaptation of Hans Fallada’s powerful novel, based on the true story of a working class couple who conducted a harrowing series of anonymous protests against the Nazi regime during Second World War, the film is being directed by Vincent Perez, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Thompson has completed filming on The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson opposite Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone; and on Adam Jones, starring Bradley Cooper.
In March of 2014, to the delight of both critics and audiences, she portrayed Mrs. Lovett in the New York Philharmonic’s staged production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, opposite bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, in the title role. The production marked Thompson’s New York Philharmonic debut, New York stage debut, and first time performing the role. She and Terfel reprised their roles this Spring, in a sold-out, limited run at the London Coliseum with the English National Opera, for the ENO’s first ever season of musical theater.
In September of 2014, Penguin Press published The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit, the third in the series written by Thompson. To celebrate the 110th anniversary of Peter Rabbit, Thompson was commissioned to write the 24th tale in the existing collection of Peter Rabbit stories. It marked the first time that Frederick Warne, the publisher, had published an additional title to the series, which Beatrix Potter wrote between 1902 and 1930. The book, entitled The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit, was published in September of 2012 to great critical acclaim and, in October of 2013, Penguin published The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit.
Thompson’s feature film debut came in 1988, starring opposite Jeff Goldblum in the comedy The Tall Guy. Her other film credits include Henry V; Dead Again; Peter’s Friends; Much Ado About Nothing; Junior; Carrington; The Winter Guest; Imagining Argentina; Primary Fiction; Stranger Than Fiction; Last Chance Harvey (Golden Globe nomination as Best Actress); Love Punch; Pixar’s Academy Award®-winning animated film, Brave; and Men in Black 3.
In 2010, she reprised the title role of the magical Nanny in Nanny McPhee Returns, for which she also wrote the screenplay and acted as an executive producer. Thompson created the character for the screen originally in 2004, in her own adaptation of Nanny McPhee, directed by Kirk Jones.
In 2004, she brought to the screen J.K. Rowling’s character of Sybil Trelawney in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for director Alfonso Cuaron, and in 2007, she reprised the role in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for director David Yates
For director Mike Nichols, she starred in the HBO telefilms Wit (2001, in a Golden Globe-nominated performance) and Angels in America (2002, Screen Actors Guild Award and Emmy Award nominations). For her performance in the BBC Two television production of Christopher Reid’s narrative poem, Song of Lunch, opposite Alan Rickman, Thompson was nominated for a 2012 Emmy Award (in the U.S. it aired on Masterpiece on PBS). Also in 2012, she portrayed Elizabeth II in the Sprout/SKY ARTS production Walking the Dogs.
Throughout the 1980s Thompson frequently appeared on British TV, including widely acclaimed recurring roles on the Granada TV series Alfresco, BBC’s Election Night Specialand The Crystal Cube (the latter written by fellow Cambridge alums Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie), and a hilarious one-off role as upper-class twit Miss Money Sterling on The Young Ones. In 1985, Channel 4 offered Thompson her own TV special Up for Grabs and in 1988 she wrote and starred in her own BBC series called Thompson. She worked as a stand-up comic when the opportunity arose, and earned £60 in cash on her 25th birthday in a stand-up double bill with Ben Elton at the Croydon Warehouse. She says it’s the best money she’s ever earned.
Thompson was born in London to Eric Thompson, a theatre director and writer, and Phyllida Law, an actress. She read English at Cambridge and was invited to join the university’s long-standing Footlights comedy troupe, which elected her Vice President. Hugh Laurie was President. While still a student, she co-directed Cambridge’s first all-women revue Women’s Hour; and made her television debut on BBC-TV’s Friday Night, Saturday Morning, as well as her radio debut on BBC Radio’s Injury Time.
She continued to pursue an active stage career concurrently with her TV and radio work, appearing in A Sense of Nonsense, touring England in 1982; the self-penned Short Vehicle at the Edinburgh Festival in 1983; Me and My Girl, first at Leicester and then London’s West End in 1985; and Look Back in Anger at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, in 1989.
Thompson is President of the Helen Bamber Foundation, a UK-based human rights organization, formed in April 2005, to help rebuild the lives of, and inspire a new self-esteem in, survivors of gross human rights violations. On behalf of the Foundation, Thompson co-curated Journey, an interactive art installation, which used seven transport containers to illustrate the brutal and harrowing experiences of women sold into the sex trade. Thompson and Journey traveled to London, Vienna, Madrid, New York and the Netherlands for exhibitions and interviews.
Last year, Thompson joined Greenpeace on their Save the Arctic campaign. She is also an Ambassador for the international development agency, ActionAid, and has spoken out publicly about her support for the work the NGO is doing, in particular, in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic that continues to sweep across Africa. She has been affiliated with the organization since 2000 and thus far has visited ActionAid projects in Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa, Liberia and Myanmar.
Thompson has served as President of the Teaching Awards since 2010. The awards are open to every education establishment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, teaching pupils between the ages of three and 18, to nominate and celebrate teachers (and schools) who transform lives and help young people realize their potential. She is a Patron of the Refugee Council and also patron of Edinburgh College’s Performing Arts Studio of Scotland.