'Put some weight on girls!' Emma Thompson on Hollywood's obsession with skinny starlets
By Emma Thompson 17th April 2010
Militant: When Emma Thompson was at university, she shaved her head, wore dungarees, glasses and looked like John Lennon
What sort of mother lets her ten-year-old daughter wear high heels? You might be surprised to discover that Emma Thompson - actress, ardent feminist and about as principled as they come. The revelation comes as something of a shock. She's been chatting away about her relationship with Gaia - conceived via IVF - and it's all lovely, if predictable stuff. At first she talks a little earnestly about her approach to motherhood, explaining that boundaries are important. 'With Gaia, I make sure that the boundaries are reasonable.
'I only fight the battles I really think have to be fought. Some of the battles I will lose on purpose, so that she gets a sense of power over her own existence.'
A lovely theory, but in practice it has meant her principles being trampled underfoot, almost literally.
'One of the battles I have let her win is allowing her to have a pair of high heels,' she confesses, apologetically, well aware that Emma Thompson is the last woman on earth you'd expect to allow a pre-teen to totter about in heels. 'I thought, you know, I am not going to push this. I can't walk in high heels, but actually I would like her to be able to walk in heels because they look nice. And she loves them. I loved them when I was little. If I had been allowed to have high heels I would have been so happy, but no. So she has a little pair of high heels.'
Where does that one fit into feminist theory, then? In her university days, Emma was about as strident as they come. She says that she 'became quite militant, shaved my head, wore dungarees and glasses and looked like John Lennon'.
That was then. Has motherhood, erm, added another dimension to her feminist thinking? She laughs, and comes out with a line that only Emma is capable of uttering.
'No, I think motherhood blows your whole inner world out and up and over and inside out. I think you might as well swallow a hand grenade. That's what motherhood is like.'
Even though she is a mother first, Emma also leads a rather glamorous showbiz life - although she somehow manages to make even this seem mundane.
Liberal: Ardent feminist Emma lets her daughter Gaia, 10, wear high heels
Take the fact that she shares a driver with Kate Moss. Some people would boast about it. She points out that the press are forever disappointed because she is snapped in the back of the car and not Moss.
'Because of her, the paparazzi know the driver's car, and so when he's driving me around they'll sometimes follow us and I'll get out and they'll go, "Oh". It's just fantastic. It makes me laugh so much every time. I say, "No, let me get out, let me get out!" I just want to see their faces drop.'
That she's not Kate Moss is something she's keen to emphasise in another regard too. Her disdain for the film industry's obsession with turning every young actress into a size zero is legendary.
Emma for PM: The actress, who starred in the sequel to Nanny Mcphee this year,
Two years ago she went ballistic when she heard it had been suggested that a young actress on the set of Brideshead Revisited lose a stone in weight. Did she really threaten to quit? 'Absolutely! I would have broken my contract and taken the story to the press. I am a bit of a fundamentalist about all that size zero stuff - I would have made a big, fat fuss. That was no joke. I would have walked off the set.'
Ask what can be done about such attitudes and she doesn't shrug, like most actresses of her calibre would.
'Put on weight and say F*** off,' she retorts. 'Demand bigger sizes. Go into places where you can't get a 38D bra and say, "I want a 38D bra and give me one. If you can't, I am never coming here again."'
If ever there was a battle to be had, in a bra shop or anywhere else, you would really want to have Emma Thompson by your side. She has always been a natural leader. Indeed, her mother, fellow actress Phyllida Law, and sister, Sophie, also an actress, both say that Emma really should be prime minister. Given that there is a vacancy at the moment, it's really hard to disagree.