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A Minute With: Emma Thompson on comedy, bathing suits and success

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, donning a bathing suit on the French Riviera alongside Pierce Brosnan in the British romantic comedy "The Love Punch" was too good to pass up.

The film, directed by Joel Hopkins and opening on Friday in the United States, follows divorced suburban London couple Kate and Richard as they attempt a diamond heist in France after their pension fund goes bust.

Thompson, 55, known for roles in period dramas "Howards End" and "Sense and Sensibility," spoke about her work in comedy, her early influences and success.

Q: What drew you to "The Love Punch"?

A: The opportunity to appear in a bathing costume has been something sadly missing from my CV. I said to my agent, "Please, God, get me something where I can get into a bathing costume." And this is what came up.

Also, I've worked with the director before and I like him very much, and the idea of a heist movie set as it were in the Home Counties (suburban London) of England with a very witty notion, and then it turned out to be Pierce, which was not so shabby.

Q: You have appeared in period bathing costumes in films?

A: That's right. I still only appear in period bathing costumes in real life. I wear those very, very long Victorian draw things in various shades of navy. (Laughs)

Q: "The Love Punch" is decidedly British with its sense of middle-class and middle-aged humor. Do you think some of that might be lost on foreign audiences?

A: If Americans can adore and enjoy Monty Python, they can deal with a bit of mangled French. God knows the most extraordinary bit of Python is mangled French, isn't it? In the "Holy Grail," you know? So I don't think there's any problem with that at all. A lot of very American humor goes down very well over here, and very, very British humor goes down very well across the pond.

Q: Do you have a preference for drama or comedy?

A: I'm British and I like being funny, so it's what I grew up with. I was a comedian until I was 27, so it's natural to me to want to stretch those muscles. I had just done 'Saving Mr. Banks,' and that's quite sad. I do an awful lot of work that is sometimes very emotional. It's nice to do something that is designed to make people happy from start to finish.

Q: Did you look up to anyone when you were a comedian?

A: Lily Tomlin. For me, her writing in "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" was some of the greatest I'd ever come across. I really wanted to be her, and I did character comedy. Lenny Bruce I loved, just his way of talking about the world and his unflinching sort of way of speaking.

Q: How do you define success?

A: If you're spurred by the desire to be successful, then I would strongly recommend you don't go into this business. If that's what spurs you, then blood will flow. What spurs me is a curious and mysterious resonance inside a story that makes me think, "Oh, I want to do that." I want to be part of that story. I want to tell that story.

Success is nice and necessary if you're going to have a long-term career. You have to have a fair degree of success, otherwise you just don't get the opportunities ... I would say success is useful. It is very useful in ... that you get the chance to choose from a slightly wider variety of projects.

I feel incredibly fortunate because I've got so many choices. I think there aren't many women of 55 who can say that.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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