Emma Thompson Loses Herself in the Role of Nanny McPhee: Well, I had a lot of interesting experiences with that makeup because when it first went on, Peter King who's wonderful and just won an Oscar for 'Lord of the Rings,' he put it on me and first of all it worked. But then having thought about 'Nanny McPhee' for all this time sent me through absolute hell trying to write the film. It was a very difficult film to write and a very difficult film to produce, but it was just a kind of relief or something seeing this character who had nothing to do with me at all.
The children didn't know that it was me. We just said, 'Nanny McPhee is here.' I would walk in and they were like, 'Huh. Nanny?' I said, 'Hello. What are you doing? What's your name?' It was rather formal and well behaved and then one of the little ones said, 'What have you done with Emma?' I said, 'I've had her killed.' Then they knew it was me. They knew that no grownup would ever say anything so terrible about me. So they knew me well by then. They said, 'It's you.'
Actually, I've got another good story about that makeup. The house, that house which cost a lot of money, but anyway one day in the summer I was wandering around there going, 'I smell burning. Is there a burning smell or is it just me?' Invariably other people would stop and say, 'Yeah. I smell it.' Suddenly we saw smoke coming out of that little hat thing on the house, and because of the big lights outside which create so much heat, they started It got hot inside, but inside of the actual fabric of the piece the guys were all up there trying to find the fire.
The fire engine was called and of course in my country the fireman are always gorgeous. I don't know why. British aren't really known for their physical loveliness but firemen, generally speaking, are gorgeous - just so you know. They arrive and of course I go to flirt with them. All of us are in our makeup going, 'Oh, hi. What's your name?' I'm this size and the guys are very sweet and everything, but we didn't realize it before it was too late. That's my story. That's the point. You forget that you're in the bloody makeup.
Emma Thompson on Inserting the Romantic Storyline in "Nanny McPhee:" Evangeline [played by Kelly Macdonald] in the original draft was that tweeny. You know what that is? The in-between age. My grandmother was in service when she was 13 as a servant and when I killed Mrs. Brown, then I realized that Mr. Brown was going to have to have some sort of romantic interest.
It wasn't as arbitrary as it sounds. I just thought of all those kids movies that I had enjoyed when I was child. I remember loving the fact that in 'Chitty, Chitty Bang, Bang' he finds a wife and in 'Mary Poppins' the parents are brought together again and that people find something that they need. And the particularly romantic love for children - if it's not like 'Basic Instinct' (laughing) - it's such a lovely thing for them and they love to watch it. I loved the love story when I was a child, and the fact that it makes sense for the family.
It was pointed out that chaos within a child's life always has to do with the parent and, generally speaking, it has to do with the absence or the loss of a parent. In most kids stories, including all of the fairy tales, someone is dead or in prison or away or at war. Either mom or dad isn't there and that means that everything is out of whack.
It's fascinating really. I'd really like to research it more because when I started to work out what myth 'Nanny McPhee' actually was, I realized that she was more like shame than anything else. In fact that myth, that form, story form, is probably very ancient and it has to do with chaos. It has to do with a situation where chaos reigns and all the powers that be and the authority that exist cannot do anything. They cannot act. They cannot restore balance or harmony. A stranger or an outsider comes in and restores balance or harmony or order and then has to leave or die. They cannot stay. That's the thing about it they have to go. That's the story. I've realized that it's an ancient strand, that little collection of narratives that we have as humans is a very, very old one and probably exists in a lot of the Greek myths.