Hollywood star and British acting institution Dame Emma Thompson has said the “sexist” movie industry stopped her from grabbing the more glamorous roles on offer.
A double Oscar-winner, Thompson’s acting chops cannot be questioned, but she admits she spent her career not putting herself forward for roles where the character was described as “beautiful”.
Speaking on The Pleasure Podcast, she said: “I’ve never been a Gwyneth Paltrow type. I didn’t ever fit the norms that are generally required to be a sexually castable person, if we are talking Hollywood, or even here.
“The profoundly prescriptive and sexist responses to people’s shape and who they were - in a sense, I was out of that a bit because I have always been a character actor.
“It felt like a relief – but if I was handed a script where it described the character I was going up for as ‘beautiful’, I wouldn’t go up for the role.
“I would just go ‘that is not for me’.
“So I was relieved by it but I was oppressed by it. Of course.
“As you get older, you are relieved of all of that but I haven’t had the same trajectory as someone like, say, Michelle Pfeiffer, which must be very hard when you are considered a great screen beauty and then to see that drifting away.
“I don’t notice it really because I have done other things. And because I have a political response to it –which is a kind of energy in itself.”
Thompson also discussed an experience she had in her 20s when an older man attempted to “take advantage of her”.
She revealed: “When I was about to be taken advantage of at the age of 20 or something by a much older man - he reached towards me to put his hand down my shirt.
“I grabbed his wrist and said ‘I think you are taking advantage’ and immediately he kind of took his hand away and stopped.
“He knew he was taking advantage as soon as I described it and used the words ‘taking advantage’.
“His shame instinct kicked in and stopped him from doing it and protected me from my own feeling of shame.
“It is a hugely powerful thing, to be able to say no in the right way.”
The Pleasure Podcast episode featuring Thompson speaking with hosts Naomi Sheldon and Anand Patel, is available on Spotify or can be listened to here.