Great Britain has produced some of the best actresses to have ever graced the screen, some even better than those raised in Hollywood. The big names include Audrey Hepburn, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Helen Mirren; but even with such a wide range of talent, no one seems to do poise and haughtiness like Emma Thompson, or should we now say Dame Emma Thompson, who turns 60 today.
Thompson came from a family of performers – her mother and sister are both actresses, and her father and godfather were both playwrights. Initially though she did not think of becoming an actress, but pursued it at Cambridge starting in its prestigious sketch comedy troupe Footlights along with good friends Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. The three would go on to start their acting careers as sketch comedians in several BBC programs.
Thompson’s career blossomed when she performed at West End, and then began acting in Shakespeare like Henry V (on film), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and King Lear (both on the stage). A landmark moment for her as an actress was her role in 1992’s Howard’s End alongside British veterans Anthony Hopkins and Vanessa Redgrave; Thompson won Best Actress at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, and the BAFTAs that year.
She continued working alongside peers like Fry and Laurie, her then-husband Kenneth Branagh, and other British actors like Hopkins, Imelda Staunton, and Daniel Day-Lewis. As a big admirer of novelist Jane Austen, Thompson spent five years writing a screenplay to Sense and Sensibility (1995), and even acted as the spinster sister Elinor; she won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, making her the only win a writing and acting Oscar.
Her recent performances were in ensemble films like Love Actually (2003) and the Harry Potter series (from 2004-2011 as Sybill Trelawney), well-loved movies like Nanny McPhee (2005, which she also wrote) and Saving Mr. Banks (2013), voice roles in Treasure Planet (2002) and Beauty and the Beast (2017), and even a return to the stage as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2014).
She is only one of eleven actors to have two Oscar nominations in the same year (The Remains of the Day and In the Name of the Father in 1993, a year after her Howard’s End win). During the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2018, Thompson was appointed as a dame for her services to the dramatic arts. Not bad for an actress who likes playing “women in a frock”, we hope her birthday celebrations are just as captivating!
Check our other Birthday Milestone pieces below:
- Birthday Milestone: Francis Ford Coppola
- Birthday Milestone: Jackie Chan
- Birthday Milestone: Jane Goodall
- Birthday Milestone: Diana Ross
- Birthday Milestone: Ron Howard