Holla if you love some Emma Thompson! God, I love her so much. She’s one of my heroes, no joke. Smart, funny, interesting, a humanitarian, a writer and actress, all of that and she’s in a solid marriage (with Greg Wise, who is HOT). Plus, she just looks fantastic. She’s 53 years old, she loves a glass of wine and LOOK AT HER SKIN!! She has beautiful skin, and she’s not Botox-ing or filler-ing or anything. I love her.
These photos are from outside the ITV studios, where Emma was making an appearance on a UK show. I got excited for a second because I thought she might have a new movie coming out, but it seems that her latest project is something very, very different. She was contacted by a publisher to write a new Peter Rabbit/Beatrix Potter story. Here’s more:
In the summer of 2010, the Oscar-winning actress and writer Emma Thompson received an intriguing package in the post. Inside was a small cardboard box with a half-eaten radish leaf and a letter from Peter Rabbit. The letter said Thompson’s “certain mischievous twinkle” in her eye made her the perfect person to write another adventure for the rabbit – a sequel to Beatrix Potter’s beloved children’s story.
“It was such a witty invitation,” Thompson tells me, “and it was very clever because in a sense I was completely tricked.” She laughs in that familiar warm and spontaneous way. If Frederick Warne,” – the publisher of the Peter Rabbit stories – “had sent some official letter I would have said don’t be ridiculous, I can’t think of anything I want to do less than step into the footsteps of a genius like Potter.” But the publisher’s sweetly cunning ploy worked, and next week sees the publication of The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson, published for the 110th anniversary of the book’s original publication.
The story has a nice symmetry with the way in which Beatrix Potter first created her animal stories. In September 1893 Potter heard that Noel Moore, the young son of her ex-governess, was unwell. To cheer him up she sent him a letter with the story of Peter Rabbit who, unlike his goody-goody siblings Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, disobeys his mother and breaks into Mr McGregor’s garden. Potter also included charming sketches that she later coloured-in for the 1902 published version. She honed her skills through drawing insects and mushrooms and had even submitted a scientific paper to the Linnean Society (it was rejected because she was a woman).
Thompson is attracted to the darkness in Potter’s stories. “Some of them are profoundly unsettling,” Thompson tells me, “and of course those were my favourites when I grew up.” When Mr McGregor chases Peter Rabbit there is the real danger he will share his father’s fate – being baked in a pie for the farmer’s table.
“When I was doing Nanny McPhee,” says Thompson, referring to the two hugely successful films she wrote and starred in, “people would say: but there’s death and there’s divorce and there’s disappointment. But children more than anyone instinctively know that life is full of danger.” She adds: “I’m sure if you asked Jo Rowling, she’d say the same thing.”
In this respect (and others), Thompson takes inspiration from her father, Eric, who wrote and narrated The Magic Roundabout television series. “He would say, ‘please don’t say I’m writing for children’,” she recalls with passion. “It’s patronising to write for children as though they came from another planet. Dad said he wrote to please himself.”
In the same way, she says, “Potter didn’t write for children, she wrote for everyone.” She insists her Nanny McPhee films and The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit are not exclusively for children. “This separation of us all out into camps according to our age or our sex is depressing. I don’t think it’s culturally healthy.”
Thompson’s father read her the Beatrix Potter books when she was a child, and her new book resonates with her childhood visits to Scotland. The Further Tale, like the original, finds Peter Rabbit squeezing under the gate into Mr McGregor’s garden.
He then hops into a basket covered with a tartan picnic cloth, eats the cheese and pickle sandwich inside, and promptly falls asleep. When he wakes up he finds that Mr and Mrs McGregor have taken him up the High Road. There he meets a huge black rabbit called Finlay McBurney who turns out to be his cousin.
“I thought that Potter had been so influenced by Scotland as a child,” says Thompson, “so it seemed right that he should visit.” It’s also a homage to the Scottish side of her family and – once more – her father: Eric wrote a book based on The Magic Roundabout characters called Dougal’s Scottish Holiday.
Well, Emma has gone a long way in explaining the frankly terrifying London Olympics Opening Ceremony, right? “Children more than anyone instinctively know that life is full of danger.” I mean… I think that’s debatable. Obviously, when you’re talking about Beatrix Potter or JK Rowling, I think you’re talking about a certain level of scariness and thrills. But, as with everything, there are limits. You don’t want kids to see a lot of gore or anything truly terrifying. But! I did like this: “This separation of us all out into camps according to our age or our sex is depressing. I don’t think it’s culturally healthy.” She’s amazing.
Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet.