Emma Thompson enlivened by role in her husband's film 'Dead Again'

On movies

September 05, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

Emma Thompson has done two films with her husband, Kenneth Branagh, ''Henry V'' and ''Dead Again.'' She's also worked with him on the stage but doesn't think such collaborations -- away from home -- have any effect on their home life.

''We met while we were working, so we take our professional relationship for granted,'' she said.

''It's not a big deal. It isn't a question of taking your work home. It just doesn't happen that way with us," she said. "I don't think we're that kind of people. Some people do that but we don't.

''We do, of course, talk about the work we are doing, but I don't call that 'taking it home.' I call that sensible discussion. If you collaborate, that is what you do from time to time.''

''Dead Again,'' currently showing locally, is a murder mystery in which Thompson plays a woman who is sure she has lived before, as a murder victim. Branagh directed and also stars in the film. Thompson's is a rather straight role, but she seems to be happy with that.

''It's a wonderful script,'' she said. ''It is most interesting, but I don't have any jokes. I'm traumatized throughout. I'm there to tell the story, not to provide comic relief.''

She attributes the making of the film to scriptwriter Scott Frank and Lindsay Doran, who acted as co-producer for the film.

''We owe it all to them,'' she said. ''Lindsay became interested in it five years ago. The script had been around for a long time. She believed in it for all those years. She and Scott are the reasons the film was made.

''They both got behind it," she added, "the same way Lindsay got behind 'Ghosts.' It, too, had been around for ages and ages. It is people like these who bring these things to the screen, and of course, it is a good script. As any actor knows, you cannot rise above bad material, however much money you put into it. A turkey script is a turkey script.

''Good films are made only with good scripts, and my hat is off to Scott and Lindsay, because you have to wait for something to bite, and that's what happened here. It bit Kenneth. He wanted to do the film really badly. That's how a good movie comes about, because that enthusiasm has to be communicated.''

She admits that the studio executives didn't know her ''from a bar of soap. They had no notion if I would work on the screen, but they did have the vision to let Ken get away with casting me,'' she said. ''They had to be worried. I could have been a total . . . disaster. They were certainly worried about both of us doing American accents.

''What Ken did was say, 'I've got Emma, she is part of my creative team.' It was really Ken moving in with his rep company, and I was part of it.''

And Thompson said she enjoyed doing the film.

''It calls for suspension of disbelief,'' she said. ''If you have your tongue in your cheek, you can appreciate the conceit and also the form. The film has an operatic nature. It's big, on a grand scale. The score is enormous. This is really a yarn, a big one, so you can make the grand geste at the end. It is not a film of stark realism.''

Interviewed recently in Washington, Thompson was asked if she was ever surprised by the way she sounds in her printed interviews.

''Surprised? I'm frequently astounded at some of the things they quote,'' she said of the media.

''It's classic. I may say something like wanting 'to head something off,' and it turns into me saying someone has two heads.

''I will read some of those things and say, 'I'm sure I didn't say that.' It's really quite extraordinary, but what astounds me most is when the quotes are accurate. That's not here, in the United States. I've not done that much press here, and I am impressed with the quality of the questions, the nature of journalism in this country, but at home, it is quite different.

''They can be vicious and irresponsible there," she added, "and there isn't much you can do about it. When the tabloids do such awful things to royalty, and they can't protect themselves, what hope have we got? Most of the stuff that is written has no basis in reality.''

Next for Thompson is ''Howard's End,'' based on the book by E. M. Forester.

The supporting cast includes Vanessa Redgrave, and Thompson says of Redgrave, ''she's wearing a wig in the movie . . . . She is absolutely wonderful.''

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