Emma Thompson

On this date in 1959, talented British actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson was born in London. Her mother Phyllida Law (with whom she has acted), sister Sophie Thompson, and father Eric Thompson (now deceased) were all actors. Thompson studied English literature at Newnham College at Cambridge University (graduating in 1980), where she became active in the university's famous theatrical group, the Footlights Revue. She started her career with some BBC radio gigs, followed by appearances on a sketch comedy series called "Alfresco," with Hugh Laurie, and a popular sitcom, "The Young Ones," in Britain. In 1990, Thompson co-starred with Jeff Goldblum in "The Tall Guy," her first major film. Thompson won a BAFTA and an Oscar for Best Actress in her 1992 role in "Howard's End." She adapted Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility for the screen, the screenplay for which she deservedly earned an Academy Award for Best Adaptation in 1996, and starred in the film of the same title. Thompson gained an Emmy for guest starring in an episode of "Ellen" in 1997. She played the leading role in the 2001 TV production of "Wit," about a woman dying of cancer. Her most memorable films include roles in "Much Ado About Nothing" (1993), "The Remains of the Day" (1993), "In the Name of the Father" (1993), "Primary Colors" (1998), "Love Actually" (2003), the series "Angels in America" (2003), in which she played an angel, "Stranger than Fiction" (2006), "Last Chance Harvey" (2008), and has had a recurring role as Professor Sybill Trelawney in several of the Harry Potter films (which star freethinker Daniel Radcliffe). "I think that the bible as a system of moral guidance in the 21st century is insufficient, to put it mildly. I feel quite strongly that we need a new moral lodestone if we can't rely on what is inside our own selves," she told The Australian in 2008.

"I'm an atheist; I suppose you can call me a sort of libertarian anarchist. I regard religion with fear and suspicion. It's not enough to say that I don't believe in God. I actually regard the system as distressing: I am offended by some of the things said in the Bible and the Koran, and I refute them."

—Emma Thompson, "Acting on outspoken beliefs," by Jane Cornwell in The Australian, Oct. 15, 2008

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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