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Emma Thompson on playing Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast and ageism towards women in film

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha
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Emma Thompson is known for divulging exactly what's on her mind. 

And what's been filling Thompson's thoughts as of late? Britain's response to the refugee crisis, ageism in Hollywood and preparations for her role as the iconic Mrs Potts in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast remake. 

In a recent interview with Vulture, the star speaks out on feeling anxious about living up to Angela Lansbury's original take on the lovable teapot, having already played Mrs Lovett, one of Lansbury’s most famous roles, in a recent concert adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

“Imagine walking once more into Angela’s shoes!” Thompson, 56, says. “I think I just had to make her as warm and round and scouting as possible.”

“I have spent a lot of time considering the emotional life of crockery,” she adds.

The actress is to star alongside Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth) and Emma Watson (Belle), to name a few, in the film scheduled to be out on 17 March 2017. 

Emma Thompson is to play the lovable Mrs Potts

Emma Thompson is to play the lovable Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Thompson went on to express her frustrations toward the extreme age gap between male actors and the actresses that play their female love interests on screen, which has been up to 15 years in some films.

“The age thing is insane,” says the actress. “It was ever thus. I remember saying years and years ago, when I was 35, that they’d have to exhume somebody to play my leading man...Nothing’s changed in that regard. If anything, it’s got worse.”

In her recent film A Walk in the Woods, Thompson is cast as the wife of the decades-older Robert Redford, 79. She says she jumped at the chance to “play opposite a legend,” but she wants to continue to challenge ageism in the entertainment industry. “I remember somebody saying to me that I was too old for Hugh Grant, who’s like a year younger than me, in Sense and Sensibility. I said, ‘Do you want to go take a flying leap?’”

Robert Redford and Emma Thompson in A Walk in the Woods

Robert Redford and Emma Thompson in A Walk in the Woods

The actress also spoke out against women who don't consider themselves a feminist. “I’ve been a card-carrying, radical feminist since I was 19...Any woman who says they’re not a feminist is basically saying that they don’t believe in equal rights for women.”

“Any woman who says, ‘I hate my bum, I hate my body,’ is essentially expressing a kind of misogyny. All women who come up with that need to think very carefully about what it is they’re saying. Including me!”

Amid headlines on the refugee crisis in Europe, Thompson made an appearance on Newsnight last week saying the UK must open their doors to more refugees. “The idea of 3,000 people in Calais who have been through unspeakable things makes me feel very ashamed,” she said. “We're not even missing our quotas. That’s really shaming. So I think it's got a lot to do with racism. If these people were white, European, that were coming from some dictatorship in Bosnia...I think we would feel quite differently about it.”

The actress also spoke passionately about climate change for which she has come under fire for making inaccurate statements regarding timescales, today. In the interview, Thompson said, “If they take out of the earth all the oil they want to take out, you look at the science – our temperature will rise 4 degrees Celsius by 2030, and that’s not sustainable”. Scientists have since said she was off by a few decades but that Earth's temperature is expected to rise. 
 

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha

Sejal Kapadia Pocha covers stories about everything from women’s issues to cult foods. She describes herself as a balance between Hermione and Luna Lovegood.

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