It’s a double standard that has Emma Thompson livid. The 61-year-old actress has decided that enough is enough and now is going after Hollywood for too often pairing older actors with younger actresses, while not affording older actresses the same luxury as younger men.
Emma Thompson, the two-time Oscar winner who has starred in movies such as Dead Again, Howards End, Much Ado About Nothing, Sense and Sensibility, Love Actually, Late Night, and the upcoming Disney movie Cruella, was speaking about another new movie she will be starring in, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Thompson plays Nancy Stokes, a 55-year-old widow, who was never really fulfilled with her sex life while married, decides it’s time for some adventure and good sex, so she hires a sex worker who is some 30 years her junior. According to Thompson, it’s time Hollywood sees this.
Emma Thompson spoke on the CultureBlast podcast, “It’s completely acceptable for George Clooney – who is delightful – to have someone who is 40 years younger than him or 30 years younger than him. If I have someone playing opposite me in a romantic way, they have to exhume someone, because I’m 61 now. Do you see what I mean? It’s completely and utterly unbalanced. If Leo Grande, the film that we make, speaks to people and people aren’t averse to seeing someone who’s 61 largely naked with a very much younger person, it’s going to be very interesting. We’ve got to keep being brave about that.”
Hollywood is rife with a history of older men and younger women on film, so it’s no surprise that Emma Thompson is tired of the double standard at play. Recently, 3-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis starred in his final film (he has since retired from acting), Phantom Thread, with actress Vicky Krieps, who was 26 years younger than him. Even more recent was the Gary Oldman film Mank. The 62-year-old Oldman portrayed Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz while his onscreen wife Sara was played by 33-year-old Tuppence Middleton. The strange thing about this casting was that in real life, Mank and Sara were the exact same age.
Of course, there are instances of older women romancing younger men in Hollywood films, but they are few and far between, as Emma Thompson points out. The Graduate is one example where Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft, seduces the younger Benji (Dustin Hoffman). While she is meant to be much older in the film, Bancroft was only six years older than Hoffman. In Florence Foster Jenkins, Meryl Streep played the lead while her unfaithful husband was played by Hugh Grant, who is 12 years younger than Streep. Of course, there was also the famous Harold and Maude, the dark comedy which saw the pairing of Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort, and although their age gap was 52 years, showing that people can have a connection despite being wildly different age was sort of the point of that Hal Ashby classic.
There are plenty more instances of older women playing around with younger men, but Emma Thompson does have a point. Hollywood prefers to see their older actors paired up with younger women, though it’s a trend many actresses in Hollywood tend to break. Emma Thompson is not only bound and determined to say it, she is also bound and determined to show it.
Emma Thompson’s Leo Grande film, which is in pre-production, will be directed by Sophie Hyde, who had this to say via MovieWeb about Thompson’s involvement, “I’m thrilled to be working with the tremendously funny and heartbreakingly honest Emma Thompson to explore intimacy and desire, and to put on screen a relationship that feels unexpected and delightful. At a time when our need for each other is so vividly present, it will be a delight to create and show this connection between two people, which is funny, sexy, and moving.”