Yesterday, Emma Thompson finally got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Yay! Who knew that it takes two Oscars and, like, 20-some years of being a movie star to make it happen? Actually, I think celebrities have to pay for their own stars now, so it’s likely that whatever studio is promoting Nanny McPhee was all “We’ll cough up the money for promotion.” Emma looked stunning (for her), and she brought along some friends for her big day: her Nanny McPhee costar Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma’s ex-boyfriend and friend of 30-odd years, Hugh Laurie (more on him in a moment), and a lovely little piglet. The piglet stole the show! I love how Emma has taken to bringing a pig with her everywhere lately. She did at a premiere last year too.
Anyway, as part of her promotion for Nanny McPhee, Emma gave an extensive interview to The Hollywood Reporter this week (story via The Daily Mail), and she discussed in detail her work on the new adaptation of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady. Emma is adapting a new script, basically from scratch, with Carey Mulligan likely to star as Eliza Doolittle. Surprisingly, Emma has very little love for My Fair Lady in general, and Audrey Hepburn in particular. Emma describes Audrey as “fantastically twee” and “She can’t sing and she can’t really act, I’m afraid.” Oh, snap! If it was anyone else, Emma, I might be ripping you a new one:
She may be considered a screen and style icon, but Audrey Hepburn doesn’t have a fan in Emma Thompson. The Nanny McPhee star has describe the Old Hollywood actress as ‘mumsy’ and ‘twee’.
The Oscar-winner’s cutting remarks are published on the day she is honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In interviews with both The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety, the 51-year-old says the My Fair Lady star was not ‘a very good actress.’
Thompson – who is writing a new movie version of the hit musical – says she wasn’t a big fan of the 1964 film that starred Hepburn and Rex Harrison.
‘I’m not hugely fond of the film,’ she says. ‘I find Audrey Hepburn fantastically twee.’
When asked by The Hollywood Reporter what ‘twee’ means, Thompson says: ‘Twee is whimsy without wit. It is mimsy-mumsy sweetness without any kind of bite. And that’s not for me. She can’t sing and she can’t really act, I’m afraid. I’m sure she was a delightful woman – and perhaps if I had known her I would have enjoyed her acting more, but I don’t and I didn’t, so that’s all there is to it really.’
Hepburn – who died in 1993 – has long been considered a Hollywood icon. The Breakfast at Tiffany’s actress won an Oscar for her starring role in the 1953 film, Roman Holiday. She also played Eliza Doolittle in the 1964 movie version of My Fair Lady. But the actress’s voice was dubbed over and she is not heard singing the musical’s most classic songs such as I Could Have Danced All Night and The Rain in Spain. The voice of American singer Marni Nixon is heard instead.
Thompson says she is ‘thrilled’ to be writing a new version of the musical but she admits she doesn’t like the original movie and prefers Pygmalion – the George Bernard Shaw play upon which My Fair Lady was based.
In an interview with Daily Variety, she says: ‘I find it chocolate-boxy, clunky and deeply theatrical. I don’t think that it’s a film. It’s the theatre piece put onto film. It was Cecil Beaton’s designs and Rex Harrison that gave it its extraordinary quality. I don’t do Audrey Hepburn. I think that she’s a guy thing.’
‘I’m sure she was this charming lady, but I didn’t think she was a very good actress. It’s high time that the extraordinary role of Eliza was reinterpreted because it’s a very fantastic part for a woman.’
Thompson also doesn’t like the way Eliza Doolittle was portrayed in the film, a part she hopes Brit actress Carey Mulligan will play. It is the story of a working class flower seller who is taken in by posh phonetics professor, Henry Higgins. Higgins bets he can train her to speak in an upper-class accent in a bid to pass her off as a lady in society circles.
Thompson says: ‘The central relationship between Eliza and Higgins is a fascinating one.’
She calls him ‘dysfunctional’ and even accuses Doolittle’s father, dustman Alfred as selling his daughter into slavery.
‘He’s more brutal,’ says Thompson who admits to being a feminist. ‘It’s a very terrible thing he does, selling his daughter into sexual slavery for a fiver. I suppose my cheekiness is in saying: “This is a very serious story about the usage of women at a particular time in our history. And it’s still going on today. Yes, OK, it’s a wonderful musical, but let’s also look at what it’s really saying about the world.”’
Thompson also admits that fans of the 1964 Oscar-winning film may not like the new version.
‘Fans of the original won’t want another one to be made – and honestly, one has to just cope with that,’ she says. ‘[The original is] incredibly long. The audience can expect less songs.’
Thompson also speaks about her battle with depression in the interviews. After doing a ‘big performance’ she says: ‘I have to go and be sponged down in a darkened room for a couple of weeks. I do have a lot of weakness.’
One thing she does love is writing. Thompson reveals that her biggest inspiration for the Nanny McPhee films is Westerns. Likening the British nanny to Clint Eastwood, she says: ‘The stories are kind of based on Westerns that I grew up watching with my father – everything from High Chaparral to The Virginian. Stuff like that. There’s something in Nanny McPhee that I imbibed from Clint Eastwood and his ilk. Nanny is sort of Shane, really. She’s this mysterious stranger who rides in from out of town, changes everything using rather unorthodox methods to resolve conflict and then must leave.’
[From The Daily Mail]
Eh, personally I think Emma is wrong about Audrey in general and in My Fair Lady in particular. Have you ever gone back and watched My Fair Lady? Audrey is very lovely and I think she’s very underrated in the part. When it was a stage musical, Eliza was played by Julie Andrews, and when Hollywood got their hands on it, they shoved Audrey in the role, and you can tell she really worked at doing the accents and everything. But I do understand what Emma is trying to say about the money and slavery and all – I hate Eliza’s father in the film, and he does sell his daughter.
Back to Emma and Hugh Laurie – so, they used to date, forever ago. And Emma’s husband Greg Wise wasn’t at the event, so maybe Hugh had his ex all to himself? Do you think Emma and Hugh still get hot for each other? I’m kind of thinking they do. Because look at their body language. And because, even though I could swear to it, I think something is happening in Hugh’s pants. I just… oh, Hugh. I love him. And I think this man is laying some serious pipe.
Emma, Hugh, Maggie and the pig on August 6, 2010. Credit: Bauer-Griffin.