Emma Thompson, the Love Actually actress, would like to see more actresses cast in roles that are traditionally meant for men.
After an all-female version of Julius Caesar — with Frances Barber in the title role — was staged in London last year, Emma Thompson says that “gender-blind” casting is the way ahead as it affords new ways of looking at the classics.
“Is the heroic role unisex?” ruminates the 54-year-old Oscar-winning actress. “Or does it mean there is an area of life which remains unexplored, which contains stories which remain untold? I suspect that’s the case and it will be very interesting as this generation gets into its stride to see what those stories turn out to be.”
Although the idea is unlikely to appeal to the purists, Miss Thompson has already spoken of her ambition to play Sherlock Holmes. “I have always been a huge Sherlock Holmes fan,” the star of Saving Mr Banks has noted. “I would love to play a character like that, but that’s a problem if you’re a female. I’m always likely to be overlooked for not being male.”
Miss Thompson has often spoken about the “bother” of having to conform to male expectations of women by making herself look glamorous when she goes out. “Having to look pretty, that’s what I mind, because it is so much more of an effort.”
“Colour-blind” casting — giving actors roles irrespective of their racial origin — is already regarded as routine in theatreland, but “gender-blind” casting is still novel.
Interestingly, Miss Thompson, who is married to fellow actor Greg Wise, was once mistaken for a man. In 2012, police called on her at her Scottish hideaway to warn her that a “naked middle-aged man” had been spotted lurking in her grounds.
It soon transpired that the well-meaning passer-by who had alerted them had actually seen Miss Thompson skinny-dipping in a nearby river.
After clearing up the confusion, Miss Thompson said that she was tempted to strip for the officer — to prove that her figure wasn’t really “that bad’’.