This is slightly embarrassing to admit, but my former roommates will attest that I love a good awards show: the gowns, the celebrity spotting, the general survey of cultural popularity, and, as a general rule, any awards show wins bonus points if it involves Neil Patrick Harris.
With the exception of a few dance numbers from the Tonys, I wouldn’t usually have any reason to revisit an awards show once it’s past and probably wouldn’t even give it another thought. However, in a recent moment of discouragement and in desperate need of a pep talk, I found myself returning to the 1996 Oscars via Youtube in search of one clip in particular.
I was still a little girl at the time, but old enough to start thinking about what growing up to be a young lady would look like. Too old for princesses, I found inspiration in the heroines of movies literature-based period films like Little Women, or Gwyneth Paltrow’s in Emma. I’m pretty sure I aspired to be Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma at some point. Or I maybe I just aspired to be married to Mr. Knightly.
Sense and Sensibility came out that year, and I already knew lead actress and screenplay writer Emma Thompson from Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V. Naturally I was thrilled when the film was nominated for several academy awards, including Emma Thompson for best actress and screenplay writer. She did not win for acting that year, but she won for writing the screenplay. This movie was her first screenplay, and she was the only woman nominated in her category. I watched her speech with rapt attention, but I wouldn’t realize until years later how much of an impression this made on me. As I thought about what kind of lady I wanted to be when I grew up, all the glamorous red carpet outfits or the pretty Jane Austen dresses seemed less important. Here was a pretty, young, talented actress whose wit and storytelling ability had beat out all the boys, and become the first person to win an Oscar for both writing and acting (having won for Best Actress in 1993).
Watching that Oscar victory was a subtle moment in my life’s history, but I found myself thinking back on it I started writing seriously and realized how much courage it takes to bare your soul in words and then put yourself out there, and take a chance that you might fail and might be rejected. Maybe its silly to look up to a celebrity I’ve never met, but Emma Thompson has continued to inspire me today as she has gone on to write books, screenplays, direct, leave the limelight to raise a daughter, return to the limelight as if she had never left, travel to the arctic, present an award with a martini in one hand and her shoes in the other, and act brilliantly per usual.
So here’s to you, Ms. Thompson!
Here’s her speech: