The Love Punch press conference with Emma Thompson, Joel Hopkins and Celia Imrie
Promoting the nationwide release of their film The Love Punch, writer Joel Hopkins takes to the linen-dressed table of Claridge’s Mirror Room, along with beaming costars Emma Thompson and Celia Imrie. The film follows the endeavours of eight-years-divorced couple Richard (Pierce Brosnan) and Kate (Thompson), as they chase the youthful financier who bought out Richard’s company and robbed it of all worth. With the help of their friends Jerry and Penelope (Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie), they take on the ludicrous plan of breaking into the financier’s wedding by impersonating Texan wedding guests (after kidnapping them).
Joel, I believe the idea for the film came about with you wanting to work with Emma again – is that correct?
JH: Yes, I’d worked with Emma on Last Chance Harvey and we’d got through that and still remained friends…
ET: Yes – really marvellous!
JH: And we wanted to work together again and do something a bit more playful, and really it was a matter of, “So who do you want to work with now Em?”. And then you [Thompson] came up with Pierce. And as soon as she said it I thought, “Oh, well that’s not the most obvious couple in the world”, but then the more you think about it, it sort of brings a smile to your face and one of the things I’m most happy about with the film is that it works. You never know until you start shooting, but it very quickly became clear that, if nothing else, we’d got that right! There’s a good chemistry, almost like a classic screen couple in a way.
Emma, you were obviously friendly with Pierce, but were you confident that that would translate and that it would work out with the two of you?
ET: Yes, we’d always said how it would be good to do work together, but it’s finding the right thing and when Joel came up with a sort of Home Counties heist movie I said , “THAT’S IT! That’s a fantastic idea!” These people who live in Surrey and go off and steal a diamond, I just thought that was hilarious and we had to do it. And he’s got glamour, Pierce, but he can also be very surprising. You practically expect him to whip out some knitting at any time. He has glamour and the most extraordinary physical grace. He’s like a ballerina. That sounds odd but it’s like the way Jonathan Coates moves. He’s just got this extraordinary way of moving. And then he will also sit there and be doing the crossword and being very normal and Catholic.
JH: He’s very good at opening and closing doors. He just does it in a way.
ET: That’s the thing about movie stars – you can’t really be one if you can’t walk or run. And some people just can’t – I mean they can get about! But you don’t want to watch them moving around. It’s very important, that’s why he was one of the most successful Bonds because watching him just move is so wonderful.
Celia, what was the best and the worst costume?
CI: The worst were the scuba diving outfits. Because I put it on, which was a disaster, and then started to walk in it, which was even worse, fell flat on my face in the sea, and was picked up by the very gallant Mr Pierce. But I liked the unusual things I had to wear, especially my outfit arriving at the airport – I thought that was really groovy!
How was it working with Timothy – you’ve obviously worked with him before, was it a lot of fun?
CI: Delicious actually, and very un-talked about, which I think is the best. Because we didn’t sit down with pages of notes, it just really happened by magic – by osmosis. He’s very on-the-moment. At the end of scenes sometimes he’d just come up with a line and surprise us.
JH: We’d all wait for him too!
CI: Yeah, to finish the scene.
So was there lots of ad-libbing involved then?
CI: For him, yes.
ET: He was tortured by the scuba diving outfits though. He just said, “Argh can somebody let it out because there are bits of me in other places now. I don’t want them to be.” He was so miserable!
JH: On my first day working with the great Tim Spall, I get called to his trailer and he says, “Joel, sorry but this is just not going to happen,” and we were literally like, talcum powder… If you look carefully there are holes in the armpits and everything.
Emma, you get to do beach volleyball, paragliding, scuba diving – were these skills you had to learn or you were adept at?
ET: I’m certainly not adept at volleyball, but I do dive and I really enjoy paragliding. And I did my own stunt driving. I actually do the driving up and down the steps, with Pierce next to me, genuinely frightened. Each time we did it I drove up a step so the angle got more acute, and Pierce’s terror became more apparent, which of course made me want to go further. It was heaven to be driving an ex-James Bond around.
Were they not saying, “This is dangerous, should you be doing this?”
ET: No, they were pretty good actually.
JH: They were French about it.
ET: They were bloody French about it! They said “Ems, if you want to do it, you can do it, it is fine. You just drive along the steps here, and then you drive off there…” and he just let me do it didn’t he, it was fantastic!
Did the French enjoy having you guys around then?
JH: They really did. The number of times they came up to me and said how they really loved working with English actors and the discipline they had. French actors are known to, occasionally, not bother learning their lines and, occasionally, not bother to hit a mark and they just kept saying how much they appreciated the professionalism and the ‘rigour’.
Which were your favourite scenes to film?
ET: We had such fun – it’s so difficult to choose! I really loved that stunt driving. It made me want to do an action movie and more of that kind of thing. The dare-devilness of it, and being allowed to do something that’s illegal was just bliss actually.
CI: I loved dressing up as Dolly Parton in that wig. And that whole wedding scene I thought was absolutely hilarious; and just the beauty of being in France I absolutely loved! All the scenes we did together as a matter of fact, that was the best.
ET: Yeah actually, when the four of us were together, that was our favourite bit.
CI: Because we never quite knew what was going to happen next and I love that sort of day, when you really don’t know.
JH: One of my favourite scenes is with all four of them – the dinner scene. It was pretty hellish to shoot because we shot it in the middle of the night in a really grim suburb of Paris (we cheated – Paris/South of France). But I just love it. You’ve got four great actors, an OK script, and they’re just going for it. I actually wrote pages more but for me it was gold dust to get these four together, put them in a contained space and just let them go.
Emma, as a writer did you find yourself altering the script at all?
ET: Not as such, no. Joel’s always been incredibly… um …what’s the word where you work together? Collaborative! Oh God, it’s Alzheimer’s, I know it is. But yes, so Joel brought several drafts and I said what I thought – there was one draft where they’d only just got divorced and I thought there was just too much rage still, too much pain. So we did talk an awful lot over a couple of years I think. And Joel writes very well, very clearly. His writing is very limpid and clean. Once we’d done that we didn’t mess around with it at all. And what’s so lovely is it’s that fast talking – the only note you really ever gave us was ‘faster’ – because we don’t write those movies anymore, the fast talking thing is gone. Now everyone speaks [moderates voice] very very quietly and very slowly…
CI: And you’re asleep!
ET: So that [Joel’s] sort of writing is a treat.
Emma, your character gives some very good advice about love in the film. What’s the best advice you’ve all been given?
ET: My grandmother used to say that your heart’s no good as a heart unless it’s been broken ten times (cue “Awww” from the room). But I know what she means – that the secret is, you develop other things that shape the way in which you are able to navigate all your relationships, actually. So many different affections combined in that one word, and particularly with long relationships, you go through all kinds of different weathers, so it’s quite useful, that.
CI: I love what Betty Davis, my all-time heroine, said in her autobiography, which was, “Never rely on somebody else for your happiness”. And I think that’s rivetingly true because, well, what do I know, I’m not married, but I think that real falling in love probably only lasts about 18 months if you’re lucky, and then it changes into different things. I think it’s marvellous that the film takes place eight years after their divorce because in those years they’ve changed, they’ve lived and they come back and it’s quite wonderful, and it might not have been wonderful any earlier. I just think that our expectation of love is fancible bollocks actually.
ET: Seconded! I blame the French, they were the ones who introduced the whole idea of romantic love.
JH: I agree with everything that’s just been said. And I’ll leave it there.
Liam Neeson has reinvented himself as an action hero. Emma, would you like to see yourself in that role?
ET: Yeah. Totally. I think this is the sequel. If enough people go to see this film, then there has to be a sequel where these two have gone off on holiday and are captured by pirates and we have to go and rescue them. I’ve been obviously training a lot, but break my ankle just before we have to go and rescue them so that none of my training works at all. I should be really fit, but then break my ankle, because that’s just what would happen. Done. We’re on it!
If you could crash any wedding, who’s wedding would you crash?
ET: Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Because you know what’s gonna happen, you know. “Congratulations, enjoy it!”
CI: I think that’s rather embarrassing. I’d hate to be caught as an uninvited guest!
ET: This was the gag! We said, “We’re going to steal a diamond”, do this, that and the other, and she says, “But we’re going to crash a WEDDING?! That’s AWFUL!”, as if it was the height of iniquity!
One final quick question, Emma – what was it like kissing Pierce Brosnan, and Celia, how frustrating was it not to get to kiss Pierce Brosnan?
CI: Well actually she did it so many times, right beside me! That was quite hard.
ET: I just messed up the scene in various ways, as many times as I could. He said, “Look, have I been kissing you all day?” and I said, “Yeeaaah…”
JH: Is he a good kisser?
ET: Yeah, actually!