"I asked Emma Thompson about orgasms, ageing and motherhood lies. Her answers will change you."

Listen to this story being read by Laura Brodnik, here. 

Emma Thompson wants you to know you've been lied to.

About your body and your sex drive. 

About what happens to you when you age, your reflection, your internal desire to be a parent, and the horrors it can bring.

It is these themes, and so much more, that are explored in the double Academy Award winner's new movie, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.

The sex comedy drama tells the story of a retired religious studies teacher called Nancy Stokes, whose husband died two years ago. At the outset of the movie, we learn that Nancy believes she has led a sexually repressed life. 

Having only been with one man, who preferred the missionary position and believed that any form of oral sex would demean them both, this mid-sixties mother of two makes a decision that will change the course of her life.

She hires a sex worker called Leo Grande (played by Daryl McCormack) to help her tick off items on her sexual bucket list during a series of increasingly intimate meet-ups in a hotel room.

Watch the trailer for Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Story continues below.

Video via Roadshow.

For Dame Emma Thompson the allure of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande was being able to work through the frustrations she has with her own industry and the world we live in. A world that would tell even her, an actress whose filmography reads like the perfect blend of critical and box office success, that her 63 years on this planet now deem her undesirable.

“Within the movie, the relationship between Leo and Nancy is so interesting because she's paying to be desired by him but she can’t believe that he ever would," Emma told Mamamia. "Then as the movie progresses, you see that desirability is not about what you look like. It's about what you've exchanged. 

"This is why you’ve found yourself desiring the most bizarre people in the past, all because of the way you communicate with them. In the end, true desire is experienced by both of them and it's not a romantic issue. It's nothing to do with their bodies.

“I've had responses from eighty-year-old men about this movie," she continued. " Who have come up to me and said ‘I just talked to my wife about our sex life for the first time in 40 years’. I’ve also had 22-year-old’s stop me and say “I don't know how to bring myself to orgasm. I don't know who to ask.” 

“We just don't talk about sex when we get older. We don't talk about not being able to achieve orgasm. We've outlawed it, haven't we? We’ve said there’s something to be ashamed of, about these desires that we all have.

“It’s pleasure so why can’t we talk about it? We talk about food all the time.”


Listen to Mamamia's Head of Entertainment Laura Brodnik talk to Emma Thompson about orgasms, ageing and motherhood. Story continues below.

During the promotion for Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, much has been made about a particular scene in which Emma's character stands in front of a mirror completely naked, just taking in her body.

It shouldn't really be groundbreaking, but she knows that it is. Just for the simple fact that we rarely, if ever, see women in their fifties, sixties or seventies naked on screen, especially when their bodies are 'untreated' as Emma puts it.

In the same breath, she bristles at the idea of been labelled 'brave' for simply showing her body on screen and having this always be the central question thrown her way when discussing this movie. 

“By the time we get to this scene, the audience has watched the movie, so it’s not like they're going in, and suddenly, I'm standing there naked," she says, when asked if she had any reservations about filming the nude scene. "They’re watching a story about a woman called Nancy, so when they talk about my body I don't take that personally. 

“This is what I do for a living, it is my skill and my gift. I trusted the audience with this completely and as it turns out, justifiably so.”

"I think mirrors should never have been invented, they're not a very good idea at all," she goes on to say.  "Maybe we should all try this at home but I find if I look down at my own body... it's absolutely fine. It's actually really nice. 


"It's when I see it in a mirror that things change because that's my objectified image. I'm objectifying myself and so I have had to find a neutral gaze."

The idolization of motherhood, and its enduring connection to the idea of what a perfect woman is, is something that Emma was also desperate to explore through Nancy's eyes.

In the film, Nancy openly tells Leo that her children do not fulfill her. 

She loves them, of course, but their existence is not enough to make her feel as if she has lived a fulfilled life and so she is left wondering about all the other things she could have done had she known there was a life outside the set path of motherhood.

Emma shares daughter Gaia, 22, with her husband Greg Wise, and the couple informally adopted Tindyebwa 'Tindy' Agaba, a Rwandan orphan and former child soldier, in 2003 when he was 16.

With her role in Leo Grande, Emma wants to examine the other side of the motherhood story, both the horrors that go unspoken and the lies we've been told about it.  

“It’s not even about thinking that motherhood is not the ultimate goal, it's about thinking that you are not natural if you don't want to be a mother that we have to change," she said. 

“Whereas, if a man doesn't want to be a father, there's nothing unnatural about that. It might be preferable for him if he wants to be something like a famous politician because it looks good. But we don’t call it unnatural. 


“You don't have to have children to have a fulfilled and extraordinary life," she continued. "Once you've had a child, you'll never be the same again. But we don’t talk about that, we don't talk about the horrors of motherhood. And there are some horrors, but nobody wants to hear it.

“People don't want to be 'the bad mother' and we’ve been told stories about how to avoid that. But we haven't ever said there are other ways of being. What we need is new stories about how to be a woman.”

"With her role in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, Emma wants to examine the other side of the motherhood story, both the horrors that go unspoken and the lies we've been told about it." Image: Roadshow Australia 


When it comes to the biggest lie about motherhood, Emma believes women forget that they have been conditioned to want this, then continually punished for how it is done. 

"Everything is always seen as the mother's fault," she said. "I think as women we have to remember how much we are blamed for, we are always the ones blamed when things go wrong. 

“A dreadful aspect of the motherhood conversation is the 'super mum trope'. The idea that you can have it all. It's not true. It's a lie. 

“And if there have been so many lies. I just don't know where to start because we don’t speak about any of it. Honestly, you get any group of women in a room and ask them about this and they'll start to really talk. But we don't do that enough. 

"We need to learn that we can talk about these subjects," she concludes. "Without somehow causing the breakdown of society." 

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is in cinemas now. 

Laura Brodnik is Mamamia's Head of Entertainment and host of The Spill podcast. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature image: Getty/Roadshow Australia.

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