Daryl McCormack and Emma Thompson star in "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande." Photo courtesy of the Sundance Institute
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Emma Thompson said she and her co-star Daryl McCormack rehearsed their movie, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, which premieres virtually at the Sundance Film Festival Saturday, in the nude. Even their director, Sophie Hyde, disrobed for rehearsals.
"Sophie, Daryl and I rehearsed entirely nude and talked about our bodies, talked about our relationship with our bodies, drew them, discussed the things that we find difficult about, things we like about them, described one another's bodies," Thompson said at a virtual Cinema Cafe talk at the Sundance Film Festival Saturday.
Thompson, 62 plays Nancy, a woman who hires male escort Leo (McCormack). Thompson, who last appeared topless on screen in 2003's Imagining Argentina, said nude scenes were difficult to reconcile at her current age.
"It's very challenging to be nude at 62," Thompson said. "She stands in front of a mirror alone and she drops her robe."
Thompson said filming the mirror scene reminded her that she has trouble observing herself objectively. However, Thompson said she's able to be more objective when she simply looks at herself below her shoulders.
"If I'm not near any mirrors and I look down at my body, I'm fine," Thompson said. "It looks great from where I'm standing. I can see my toes. Everything looks fine. As soon as I look into a mirror, I see nothing but flaws."
Thompson has been acting in film, television and stage since 1982. The Oscar winner for acting in Howard's End and writing Sense and Sensibility said she has struggled with demands on her appearance since her 20s.
"Nothing has changed in the dreadful demands made upon women in the real-world world but also in acting," Thompson said. "This thing of having to be thin is still the same as it ever was, and actually in some ways I think it's worse now."
As challenging as the mirror scene in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande was, Thompson said it was important to document a natural body. Thompson said Hollywood bodies achieved via physical training or cosmetic surgery present a distorted image.
"I don't think I could've done it before the age that I am," Thompson said. "And yet, of course the age that I am makes it extremely challenging because we aren't used to seeing untreated bodies on the screen."
The nude scenes in the film involved a slightly bigger crew than just Thompson, McCormack and Hyde. Thompson said the closed set still included the cinematographer and focus puller, who she called "an angel in human form," and all of whom made her and her co-star comfortable.
"We went on set at the beginning of the day," Thompson said. "We'd take our clothes off. We'd wander around, pick things up, sort of be together. The crew were very used to it. It makes you so vulnerable and yet so dignified at the same time that there's a very tender atmosphere."
Prior to even the nude rehearsals, Thompsons said she and McCormack spent time taking walks together around London's Heath. Thompson said frolicking around the muddy land helped the actors form a close bond.
"That was very important that we could hold onto each other and laugh," Thompson said. "Actually, that's what we've done the entire time: held onto each other, slid about and laugh. That walk kind of was emblematic of the whole journey."
Thompson said Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is therapeutic for Nancy. She hires Leo because she's never experienced an orgasm in her life. Thompson said their time together alone in a room reveals more of Nancy's psyche.
"There's nowhere to hide," Thompson said. "It's an absolute X-ray of her life, her desires, her passions."