Good Luck To You, Leo Grande: To celebrate the Cineworld Unlimited screening, we salute six great Emma Thompson roles

Emma Thompson is the gift that just keeps on giving, isn't she? Over the past three decades, the British star has illuminated the big screen with a string of sophisticated performances, playing everything from First Ladies to fashion moguls, toothless nannies to tearful wives. And the Oscar-winning actress is about to be seen in yet another different guise when Good Luck To You, Leo Grande arrives in Cineworld cinemas this month.


In Sophie Hyde's comedy-drama, Thompson plays a retired schoolteacher and widow who, having endured a boring marriage, seeks some saucy adventure. However, after arranging to meet a sex worker in a hotel room, she gets a little more than she bargained for.


Critics have been queuing up to praise both the movie and Thompson's performance, with J. R. Kinnard from PopMatters writing: "The premise of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande may sound crass but it's actually an exquisite examination of relationship dynamics through clever wordplay," and Nick Allen from describing its leading lady as "sensational in a part that relies on her voluminous nervous energy".


Good Luck To You, Leo Grande goes on general release on 17 June. However, if you're a Cineworld Unlimited member, you can see this brilliant movie at a special advanced screening on 14 June – click here to reserve your seats!


While waiting for the movie to land, we decided to look back at some of Emma Thompson's finest movie moments. She's certainly given us a few...





1. Sense And Sensibility (1995)


Adaptations of literary classics were something of a speciality for Thompson during the early part of her career, the London-born star appearing in Henry V (1989), Howards End (1992) – for which she won a Best Actress Oscar – Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and The Remains Of The Day (1993). So, it should've come as no surprise when she nailed the role of Elinor Dashwood in Ang Lee's Sense And Sensibility – despite being, at 36 years old, rather older than the teenage character in Jane Austen's original novel.


Though Thompson 'only' managed a Best Actress nomination this time around, she did win an Academy Award for her adapted screenplay, thus becoming the first person to ever win Oscars for both acting and writing.





2. Primary Colors (1998)


In Mike Nichols' comedy-drama – based on Bill Clinton's rise to power – Thompson played the First Lady to John Travolta's Governor of Arkansas (soon to be US President). And, despite the challenging subject matter, the British actress passed the test with flying, er, colors. Indeed, she scooped a gong for Funniest Actress In A Motion Picture at the American Comedy Awards, proving that she could play for laughs as well as drama.


But for Thompson, the most surreal takeaway from her Primary Colors experience must surely be the moment she received a phone call on set from a certain Mr Donald Trump. Claiming that the future US President invited her to dinner, she later told Vanity Fair: "I just said: 'Well, that's very kind of you. I'll ring you later.' And I just put the phone down and told everyone. It was a source of great amusement." 





3. Love Actually (2003)


As ensemble pieces go, Richard Curtis's seasonal epic is right up there with the best of them, provoking laughs and tears in equal measures. Of the sad bits, the one that gets us the most choked-up is the scene where Emma Thompson's character, a dowdy wife and mother, discovers that her husband (Alan Rickman) is in love with a younger, more attractive woman. After opening her Christmas present from him – a Joni Mitchell CD and not the necklace she'd spotted him secretly buying – she retreats to her bedroom for a moment of tearful contemplation.


Aided by Mitchell's Both Sides Now, which plays sombrely throughout the scene, Thompson delivers an achingly realistic portrayal of a broken woman who, despite her devastation, must quickly pull herself together so as not to ruin the family festivities. An acting masterclass. 





4. Nanny McPhee (2005)


Nanny McPhee was a real labour of love for Thompson. Not only did it take her seven years to write the screenplay – which was based on the Nurse Matilda series of kids' books – but playing the titular character required her to have multiple layers of make-up applied before each shoot, a process that left her totally unrecognisable to the film's child stars.


The positive reviews she received for her performance made it worth her while, though. One of the most memorable came from Jo Berry of Empire, who likened the Londoner's portrayal to a popular daytime TV celebrity: "Of course, it's Thompson's show throughout, thanks to her superb interpretation of McPhee as Mary Poppins meets TV's Supernanny with a bit of Anne Robinson mixed in." 





5. Saving Mr Banks (2013)


Three years after playing the aforementioned child carer for a second time in Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang, Thompson portrayed P. L. Travers – creator of the most famous nanny of them all, Mary Poppins – in John Lee Hancock's biographical drama. The British actress has described the role as the most difficult she's taken on, labelling Travers "a woman of quite eye-watering complexity and contradiction".


However, that didn't prevent her from delivering yet another exquisite performance, and she was soon lapping up the plaudits again. As well as receiving a BAFTA nomination, she got a big thumbs-up from the critics, with The Observer's Mark Kermode gushing that "Thompson dances her way through Travers' conflicting emotions, giving us a fully rounded portrait of a person who is hard to like but impossible not to love." 





6. Cruella (2021)


Sharing a screen with one of Hollywood's hottest young talents might intimidate some older actors/actresses, but Emma Thompson took it all in her stride when playing opposite Emma Stone (Cruella) in Craig Gillespie's retelling of the classic 101 Dalmations story. The veteran actress looked like she was having a whale of a time in her role as the Baroness – the narcissistic head of a London fashion house – and so compelling was her performance, it was hard to take your eyes off her.


It wasn't just audiences that Thompson managed to impress – she also gained a new fan in the film's leading actress. In a quote that perfectly sums up the British stalwart's allure to cinema audiences worldwide, Stone described her co-star as "unapologetically herself, autonomous, free, unbelievably intelligent and damn funny". Hear hear!