7. She’s prepared to speak out
Thompson hit the headlines when she spoke out on the contentious and highly unfashionable topic of racism among the English middle class. In 2003 she informally adopted Tindyebwa Agaba, a Rwandan former child soldier, but when he later attended Exeter University and suffered racist abuse, she caused a stir with some comments in a speech at the university itself. Following the furore, she returned to the university with her son to assist a seminar on racial integration.
8. She’ll admit when she’s wrong
Many were surprised when Thompson added her name to a petition calling for the release of Roman Polanski from house arrest. But one 19 year old student, Caitlin Hayward-Trapp, cornered her at an event and presented her with the case against Polanski. Upon reconsidering the facts, Thompson agreed to remove her name from the petition, showing an awareness of the consequences of her influence in public debate.
9.She’ll put her money where her mouth is
Thompson has been a vocal opponent of the long-feared plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport. In 2009, she joined together with three other Greenpeace members to purchase land half the size of a football pitch in the proposed construction zone. In Thompson’s words “I don't understand how any government remotely serious about committing to reversing climate change can even consider these ridiculous plans. It's laughably hypocritical. That's why we've bought a plot on the runway. We'll stop this from happening even if we have to move in and plant vegetables”.
10. …and her mouth where her food is.
My favourite of all Emma Thompson anecdotes concerns a dinner she threw for Hayley Atwell when they were cast together in the Brideshead Revisited adaptation. When pressed why she was not eating the food Thompson served her, Atwell confessed that the film’s producers had asked her to lose weight for the role. Thompson threw a fit and called the producers, threatening to pull out of the film unless they relented on their request. She got her way.
You can follow Matthew Hammett Knott on Twitter @mhknott.