Emma Thompson is no stranger to giving awe-inspiring, critically acclaimed performances on the big screen, with a career spanning four decades and two Academy Awards to her credit. But despite a distinguished filmography that includes Sense and Sensibility, Howards End, Love Actually, Nanny McPhee, and Saving Mr. Banks, Thompson’s most recent role has her exposing everything for the first time, both physically and figuratively.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, which is currently streaming on Hulu, is directed by Sophie Hyde and written by Katy Brand. It centers on Nancy Stokes (Thompson), a middle-aged, widowed, and recently retired religious education teacher who, after a lifetime of sexual restraint, decides to hire a charming, young sex worker named Leo Grande, played by Peaky Blinders’ Daryl McCormack. Leo uses his abilities to assist Nancy in having a transformative sexual awakening, despite the fact that they may not seem like a conventional match on paper. As a result, the two unexpectedly connect on a human level.
“The concept [was] great and Emma’s brilliant, but together they just felt like magic,” Hyde tells Yahoo Entertainment during a recent interview for the resulting sex-positive dramatic-comedy. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, received acclaim and Oscar speculation for Thompson.
The film has received a lot of attention for its climactic, satisfying sex scene, which Thompson and company revealed wasn’t originally in the script but was added during production. While much of the two-hander is conversational, almost stage-like, as Nancy nervously considers if she’ll go through various deeds with Leo, the film has drawn plenty of attention for its dialogue.
“We moved towards it as a group,” Thompson, 63, says. “It was earned through our exploration of the characters and the situation and what was right. You couldn’t in a way have made a decision about the end until we’d been through the journey with them… These two people were having a good time without any reservations, without qualifications… And yet it was not a romance. I loved that. I thought that was radical to show intimacy without romance.”
The toughest thing Thompson has ever done, according to her, was a scene in the movie where Nancy is seen standing naked and staring in the mirror. The Harry Potter and Sense and Sensibility actress claims that “being Nancy” helped her get through it. eventually, despite some opposition.
“I mean, I was dragged, kicking and screaming. I was like, ‘Please don’t make me do this. Please,’” she recalls. “But I said, ‘OK. It’s all right. It’s not me… Nancy’s not objectifying herself… She’s not judging herself negatively or positively. It’s a weirdly neutral gaze and she’s looking at herself, not because of the outside, but because of the inside. She’s suddenly able to feel herself. So in a way it’s a rebirth. So that look in the mirror is the first time she’s ever seen her body, really.”
Hyde claims that she was aware of Thompson’s concerns.
“Because Emma’s an incredible person who’s very intellectually stimulating, and she has a lot of intellectual ideas, but she’s still like the rest of us, just soaked in a culture that teaches us we should hate our bodies,” Hyde explains.“You know, it’s not an easy thing to get out of… And especially as an actor, she’s confronted with that all the time… I knew that it was a difficult thing to do. I don’t think I realized just how hard the moment would be for her. Because she knows that for Nancy, Nancy’s just accessed this great pleasure in herself… For the first time in her life, she doesn’t care how it looks.”