'I've never liked my body, and I never will' – Emma Thompson talks misogyny and self-image as a woman in her 60s

Emma Thompson speaks candidly to woman&home about breaking down unrealistic body standards in her latest film, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Emma Thompson: 'I've never liked my body, and I never will'
(Image credit: Getty)

If there's one message that Emma Thompson hopes viewers take home from her new film, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, it's that women are allowed to love their bodies – even if she doesn't love hers. 

Emma Thompson has called women's relentless self-criticism a "waste of our time", urging for a total reset of our attitudes to the female form. 

The Oscar-winner's strong words come off the back of her latest film, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, in which she plays Nancy Stokes, a woman in her mid-50s who hires a sex worker to help her fulfill a simple mission – to have an orgasm for the first time in her life. 

The British sex-positive drama, written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, also sees Emma take on a new challenge of her own – her first full-frontal nude scene. The experience has undoubtedly been challenging for the 63-year-old, who, despite being widely regarded as one of the most successful UK actors of all time, admits to woman&home that she has "never liked my body." 

As her character Nancy's meetings with the charismatic and engaging Leo (Daryl McCormack) unfold inside a luxurious hotel suite, the retired schoolteacher too finds herself battling a chronic disdain for her physical reflection. What ensues is 90 minutes of intimate conversations about everything from poor body image to the stigma of female pleasure – two issues that Emma, unfortunately, knows all too well, both on and off the screen. 

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) and Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

(Image credit: Louise Jackson/Nick Hall )

In an exclusive interview with woman&home, Emma, speaks candidly about this deep-rooted culture of shame around women's bodies – and why she thinks Good Luck to You, Leo Grande could be a force in finally splintering its monolithic bedrock. 

"It's not even internalized, the body hatred that women feel," she says. "[In] the conversations I've had with women, they will say, 'I do actually actively hate my body.'" 

Emma also acknowledges that she shares this discomfort in her own skin, admitting that, like Nancy, she has always suffered from poor body image. 

"I have never liked my body. Ever," she says. "And I never will, those pathways are so deeply carved in my brain." 

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

(Image credit: Louise Jackson/Nick Hall)

Despite this, Emma hopes that Good Look to You, Leo Grande can offer a palate cleanser to the sugared editions of the female body that have dominated TV and film for far too long. Its final scene, which sees Nancy examining her naked self in the mirror without judgment, is a jarring reminder of how rarely the 'untreated' woman appears on screen – and a refreshing vision into an alternative reality in which women are free to just be. 

"It's [the film] a new neural pathway that you could go down," Emma says. "You could get into it and go, ‘Oh, I could look at my body like that. I could inhabit it like that. I could feel joy in this place about which I am so vile, so hateful, so judgemental.'" 

Emma goes on to denounce this self-talk for what it is – a dysfunctional but normalized behavior that only serves to further disempower women in our already patriarchal world. The louder it gets, the quieter we become, and the closer to the corners of society we are shoved. To Emma, this vitriolic nitpicking isn't just a benign side effect of being a woman – it's a total attack on our value as individuals. 

"What is wrong with us?" she demands. "What a waste of our time. What a waste of our energy, our passion, our curiosity, our humanity, in this misogyny." 

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande hits UK cinemas on 17 June 2022. 

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.