Saving Mr Banks (2013)

Emma Thompson – P.L. Travers

Author P.L. Travers delighted generations of children all over the world with Mary Poppins.

In this movie she is described as a snobby stubborn woman who throws tantrums and abides pears, Americans, cartoons and who thinks it’s blasphemy to drink tea from a paper cup.

She flies to Los Angeles to meet Walt Disney and her trip is emotionally distressing, because it stirs up long-buried memories about her childhood and her alcoholic father. “It’s as if my subconscious is attacking me,” she says, talking on the phone at night with her agent.

She hates the idea of having her book made into a film, so she tries to get Disney and his team lose their patience. She is rude to everyone. The only person who can break through her dry heart is Ralph, the limousine driver, to whom she signs a book before leaving. He is the only person allowed to call her by name.

Emma explains how she approached playing this role. To embody Pamela Travers, she had to study her posture, her gestures and also her shrill and annoying voice.

Pamela is pretty nasty a lot of the time but she is also a vulnerable creature, with a not-so-cheery disposition. But in some isolated moments, Mr Disney makes her smile and he manages to surprise her, especially when he takes her to Disneyland and forces her to take a ride on the carousel.

I love the scene in which she finally let herself go and dances.

Great performance by Emma whose character was not easy to play.

What is all this jollification?

They all had difficulties.

Emma Thompson Top 5

This is my personal ranking of the 5 best roles played by Emma.

Do you agree? Please, let me know which one do you prefer and why.

1 – Miss Kenton – The remains of the day (1993)

Head housekeeper at Darlington Hall.

She developes an emotional relationship with the butler, Mr Stevens, who rather hides and overlooks his feelings.

She realizes Mr Stevens’ blind trust in Lord Darlington and often faces him with harsh words.

She loves him (and he probably reciprocates her love) but they are unable to express their feelings. Lovelorn struggle is a heavy burden to stand so eventually she makes a rash decision to spite him and this will sadly lead their lives to unhappiness.

2 – Fiona Maye – The children act (2017)

Leading High Court judge.

She is a smart career-oriented woman who neglected her husband for work.

She is called on to decide the fate of a 17-year-old boy Jehovah’s Witness who, for religious reasons, refuses a blood transfusion.

She decides to visit him in hospital and this encounter will change their lives.

3 – P. L. Travers – Saving Mr Banks (2013)

Author of Mary Poppins.

Shrew, annoying, hard to please, flies to Los Angeles to negotiate the sale of Mary Poppins’ rights to Walt Disney.

She is complicated, contradictory and inconsistent but she is also a vulnerable creature; she befriends Ralph, her personal driver but, above all, the only American she doesn’t hate.

4 – Katherine Newbury – Late night (2019)

Popular talk show host.

Her show is in decline and she tries to revitalize it by hiring a young Indian woman.

She is despotic and overbearing but also ironic and witty.

This is a funny character to play. Emma Thompson truly seems like a born talk-show host.

5 – Margaret Schlegel – Howards End (1992)

Intellectual woman of the early 1900s.

She is profoundly forgiving and understanding, passionate about art, literature and political discussions, friendly and cheerful.

She spends her days in intellectual conversations aided by her wealthy inheritance.

She takes care of her younger siblings, Helen and Tibby, taking on the role of a mother figure and she marries a pragmatic close-minded businessman not inclined to philosophy and literature.

This character earned Emma the Oscar for the best leading actress.