To the best of my knowledge, Emma Thompson is the only Oscar-winning actress (and screenwriter) who’s ever said that extreme vulgarity in modern comedy is “just like watching somebody getting their dick out and putting it on someone’s shoulder.” (You only get to read it, but I had the pleasure of hearing it spoken aloud, as if by Jane Austen herself.)
In The Love Punch, Thompson and Pierce Brosnan play a long-divorced couple who begin to fall back in love with each other as they try to steal a diamond from the unscrupulous billionaire who sank their financial fortunes. Celia Imrei (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Timothy Spall (Harry Potter) play their couple-friends who become their partners in crime. It’s an old-fashioned caper of a movie from writer/director Joel Hopkins (Last Chance Harvey), and while there is no pecker-on-shoulder contact, there’s one crazy turn after another as the four friends try to right a wrong.
In a slightly NSFW exclusive clip from the film, which opens in theaters on May 23, the ex-spouses decide that it’s time to fight fire with fire. And if that means they have to act like the Pink Panther diamond thief, so be it. Then, in a charming interview, Thompson discusses working with James Bond, marriages that go the distance, and the number of times men have asked to marry her. For the record, she’s already married to actor Greg Wise (Sense and Sensibility) — and my proposal did not count.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Sometimes, you see a film and think, “Gosh, that looked like the actors really had to suffer through hell for their art.” I didn’t necessarily get that impression with The Love Punch.
EMMA THOMPSON: Yes, I think that would be a fair assessment. We did used to grab each other and go, “Are we really being allowed to do this? Are we really being allowed to get dressed in scuba-diving gear and totter about the Croisette like a bunch of prunes?” It’s heaven. Plus, Pierce brings all that Bond, Remington Steele stuff along with him, and the fact that he’s playing an ordinary sort of office worker who lives in the Home Counties and just happens to be very good looking, is sort of divine. And the fact that it’s his wife who can drive — he can’t. He hates heights. She’s the sort of one who gets to do all the adventures stuff.
Watching you and Pierce, I had to actually go back to IMDb.com to confirm that you hadn’t worked together before because the two of you have such an easy rapport. Had you known each other for a long time?
Yeah, we keep on bumping into each other and going, “C’mon, we’ve got to do something.” And this came along, and there was something so right about it because the relationship is so nice. It’s not the first flush of romance. The fact that they were once married, and that they’ve got through all the hurt of being separated, and then suddenly discover that their history and friendship is reignited by this strange and hilarious adventure that they share, you think, “Would it were so for all of us.” For lots of people in long-term relationships, really, stealing a diamond is all they need to kick start everything again.
In the film, your character gives some common-sense marriage advice to a bride-to-be, saying that liking one’s husband is much more important than loving him.
There’s a lot of wisdom in that.
I think so. If you’re gong to spend 50 years of your life with someone, you better like them, right?
Oh, you better like them, yeah. God. Interestingly, in various studies that have been done on longtime married couples, the criteria for the partners changes over the course of their history. Towards the end of their lives, people say the most important thing in your marriage is that your partner is your intellectual equal. Because in the end, you’ll be conversing more than you’ll be having sex and more than you’ll be dealing with your children. You’ll actually be talking about things, and you’ll have to converse about what’s going on in the world. By then, your kids have left home, so you’ve got to have something to share, and the workings of your minds are very important.
Joel Hopkins also directed you in Last Chance Harvey, with Dustin Hoffman. That film had a very different tone than this. Was there something specific that you liked about this, in contrast?
I thought it was just very witty. And it’s light as well. Sometimes I find when I go and see comedies these days, there are areas of them where the broadness and the vulgarity just has become too much for me. It’s just like watching somebody getting their dick out and putting it on someone’s shoulder. It’s just not funny anymore. We’re not 17 — well, I’m not 17 anymore. That’s too much for me. As you know, I’m probably the last person who could ever be described as a prude, but I think there’s a point at which some comedies recently just get — I don’t know, something in the vulgar stakes goes slightly wrong for me and leaves me with a bit of a sour taste. So what I found very attractive about this was that it kind of harkened back to the olden days of caper, fast-talking, 1930s Hollywood movies where people just did ridiculous things while talking a lot very, very fast. There was a charm and a sort of levity to it, and an intention to make you or help you just enjoy this hour and half with these extremely charming people.
I was at the National Board of Review banquet in New York in January where you were honored for Saving Mr. Banks. I’m going to apologize in advance for saying this a little bit, because it might be uncomfortable. But you were so charming, and I said afterwards to my wife, “Men must have proposed to her every other day.”
So that’s my question: How many times have you been proposed to?
Oh God. [long pause] I don’t think it’s above half a dozen times. I don’t think it’s more than that, although I do get proposed to a lot more now that I’m actually married. But I think that’s because people know they’re safe and they know perfectly well I can’t accept.
You know, when I was in my 20s, I was the only guy roommate who watched Sense and Sensibility over and over.
Yes, that makes you kind of weird, but I love you for it. Are you married? It’s my turn now. Give my best to your wife, would you?