Darryl McCormack and Emma Thompson can now be seen in the dramedy, "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande." Photo courtesy of Hulu
NEW YORK, June 17 (UPI) -- Oscar-winning actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson says she wanted to star in the new sex dramedy, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, because it told a story she had never seen portrayed on screen.
Now streaming on Hulu, the film follows Nancy Stokes, a retired school teacher and widow whose life changes when she hires the titular charismatic sex worker (Daryl McCormack), who is half her age.
Most of the critically acclaimed movie shows the pair over the course of several meetings where they talk about their lives, dance, laugh and have sex in Nancy's London hotel room.
"Normally, a script will come through and you go, 'I know what this is,' because it fits into something that you've seen before. I've never seen this before," Thompson told UPI in a Zoom interview Wednesday.
"I knew the character. I've seen the character before, but I've always seen her in relation to someone else doing something interesting."
The Love Actually and Harry Potter actress recalled having an "immediate and visceral response" to Katy Brand's Good Luck to You script because it took a woman Thompson described as someone commonly seen as a "backup character" and placed her at the center of a fascinating story.
"Nancy, being this very normal woman who has had this very normal life -- nothing untoward, did everything right, ticked all the boxes -- suddenly does something that is so out of character and crosses every boundary known to woman and man," the actress said. "It was just an utter delight to read."
Peaky Blinders alum McCormack reacted similarly to the screenplay.
He said he was most intrigued by how the story unfolds largely in a single location in which two strangers gradually become more comfortable with each other as their candid conversations drift from family to careers to aspirations to disappointments in-between sexual encounters.
"It really did touch on a lot of topics and themes that I think are really important to display, especially on camera and screen, particularly with regards to freedom, intimacy and non-judgmental exploration and liberation," McCormack said.
"To see that embodied in a young man was really compelling and exciting, because I haven't seen that type of young man portrayed on screen."
The two characters are the whole film, and the camera seldom looks away from them as they bare their souls and their bodies.
However, Thompson insisted she had no lasting reservations about being that vulnerable for that long because they trusted each other and their director, Sophie Hyde.
"We kept saying when we were feeling a bit nervy, 'How do we make it so alive all the time?'" Thompson said.
"It's a wonderful script, but, nonetheless, it's two people in a room," she acknowledged.
"Somehow, the dynamism of it, what's happening between them, is a kind of tectonic plate shifting all the time. Some of it is absolutely seismic.
"So, what happens on their faces and their bodies, that is our landscape. We don't have New Zealand or a cityscape, but we do have these two bodies, which have so much to tell us."
The stars praised Hyde and director of photography Bryan Mason for doing their best to make viewers feel as though they are right in the hotel room with Leo and Nancy.
"It is that intimacy that is the fertile ground for all of this to take place," McCormack said.
The script's scenes were filmed in chronological order to make it as easier for the actors to chart their characters' emotional growth as the story progressed.
"Navigating that dance, it being simple takes, back and forth, and primarily long scenes, it was an exploration in terms of our bodies, in terms of how the characters sat or stood or what gestures gave away the internal journey that they were going on," McCormack said. "That was a joy to explore -- both the external and internal -- simultaneously."
Nancy and Leo's voices came naturally to Brand as she was writing the screenplay.
"I really started to enjoy hearing them talk to each other. What would actually happen in this situation, how would it play out?," Brand said.
"And so I wrote it quite freely, that first draft, but I was excited by it. I felt a thrill of writing that dialogue and hearing them talk."
Brand revealed she wrote the script with Thompson in the hope that she would want to play the role of Nancy.
"I knew that she would have a certain cadence and a way of delivering lines, a way of being funny," Brand added. "But also true at the same time."