Emma Thompson: ‘Children… instinctively know that life is full of danger’

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.

[From The Telegraph]

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.

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26 Responses to “Emma Thompson: ‘Children… instinctively know that life is full of danger’”

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  1. KellyinSeattle says:

    She does look really good – Whatever happened to the blank slate theory – kids are born open, and react to their environment? Blah blah blah…..I don’t buy that kids are ready to wet themselves over the terrors of life….most kids, healthy kids….but traumatized ones, yeah. And once we’re older, we all know that life has scary connotations…can I get off my soap box yet? :)

  2. maggiegrace says:

    God. Love her.

  3. eileen says:

    Yeah. she’s awesome.

  4. marie says:

    I love Emma Thompson but… umm what? I know a child’s instinct about a person is very rarely wrong, but I dunno if that translates to everyday life..

  5. ladybert62 says:

    Along with Helen Mirren, Ms. Thompson can do no wrong in my eyes.

    And she looks fantastic for 53! Go Emma!

    • ol cranky says:

      I used to say the same thing but didn’t she support Polanski?

      • Boxy Lady says:

        She did at first until someone, a fan maybe, clued her into the facts of Polanski’s case and then she withdrew her support. There was a story about it on the BBC website some time ago.

      • Lindy says:

        Yes, she admitted she had been wrong in supporting him without understanding all that had happened, withdrew her support, openly condemned his actions, and then donated money to a charity that works with victims of sexual violence.

        And I totally agree with her that kids can handle more than we give them credit for. In fact, there’s a developmental psych theory that sees classic fairy tales (not the sanitized Disney versions, rather the ones with some dark, grim, scary elements) as a kind of “sandbox” for children. Historically, those kinds of dark stories and images have allowed kids to think about, question, and engage with life’s harder realities, but in a sort of safe space that’s clearly sectioned off from actual reality.

  6. RocketMerry says:

    Lovely! She is such an amazing woman and actress!

  7. Kate says:

    I like how she called JK Rowling “Jo.” It makes me think they are friends. Man, I’d love to have lunch with those two. What a conversation.

  8. Nanea says:

    My first memory of Emma is of her reciting a poem and eating grapes in Much Ado About Nothing.

    Emma is more than amazing, and the new Peter Rabbit sounds like something my twins will find under their pillows once the sailing/regatta season is over.

  9. juicyjackie says:

    Its debatable if she hasn’t had something done around the eyes; but if she has it looks great. One of my favourite quotes is one of Emmas:

    “Its unfortunate and I really wish I wouldn’t have to say this, but I really like human beings who have suffered. They’re kinder.”

  10. tracking says:

    Obvious intelligence, forthrightness, and a big genuine smile are so refreshing in this biz. Lovely lady.

  11. Liane says:

    I want to be her if I ever grow up.

  12. TrustMeOnThis says:

    Love her; loathe the outfit (you must REALLY like her not to nitpick that top/jackety thing with the clashing prints! Swifty dresses better than that, and so does Katie H!)

    IDK about “kids instinctively know life is full of danger” though. I did, but my life wasn’t terribly secure growing up. The kids of the helicopter parents probably don’t even catch cold! Or wouldn’t if the parents could prevent it. I think this is why scary stories exist, actually.

    Also, WTF is up with the hate for the olympics opening show? It was awesome! And it was weeks ago. Shouldn’t we be hating on the conventions or something now?

  13. Violet says:

    I’m not sure if I agree with Emma on this particular point, but I still adore her. She’s aging gracefully and looks absolutely fantastic, far more vibrant than her Botox-y counterparts.

  14. C. C. Cedras says:

    She is my idol and I will forever love her acceptance speech for “Sense and Sensibility” at the Golden Globes. Best. Acceptance. Speech. EVER.

    • divax says:

      loved the scene in “Love Actually” where she realizes that the Xmas gift from her husband is not for her – it’s for his mistress. She breaks down in the bedroom all by herself and I don’t think I’ve ever bawled so loudly in a movie theatre… GREAT actress

  15. taylor says:

    I adore her! Always. She manages to be so much MORE in everything she does. (Also, I just saw Wit for the first time–couldn’t before because I knew I’d cry–and she’s amazing, as always!)
    But that haircut is not her best look, IMO.

  16. NYC_girl says:

    I love her, and her husband Willoughby.

    • Tanah Merah says:

      Oh My Goodness, I didn’t realise who she was married to. He must be nice in person, but after playing Willoughby and a psycho in a Ms Marple, I can’t look at him without shuddering!

      Anyways, as for Emma, she is WONDERFUL, and I love her!

    • Lisa says:

      Ahh! I haven’t watched Sense and Sensibility the same way since finding that out. He’s so foppish in that movie. It’s funny when you see them together now, looking like a normal couple.

  17. Lacie says:

    Meh. Children know what you tell them. PEOPLE have instincts about danger, but children don’t know what is dangerous and what isn’t until we tell them.

  18. Loulou says:

    I’ve loved her since The Tall Guy. As a grown woman, I’ve even watched Nanny McPhee (it helps too that Colin Firth is in there too..) Quickly, I saw The Tall Guy with a director who pulled up in a limo and was on a completely other tangent than me but Emma Thomson was so good in the movie, even a lame attempt at a casting couch-ish “date” doesn’t erase the memory of her great performance. She’s always spectacular on the screen.