Emma likes Hayley just the way she is


It seems like every time I
think an actress is particularly gorgeous, someone in Hollywood decides
to tell her she’s too fat.

A case in point: up-and-coming
British actress Hayley Atwell, whose projects this year include
the Woody Allen film Cassandra’s Dream
(out in the U.K. on May 9), the Keira Knightley

flick The Duchess (out in the U.K. on August 29, and the U.S.
on September 12) and the big-screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel
Brideshead Revisited
(out in the U.S. on July 25, and the U.K. on
September 23). Now, I don’t know about you, but Atwell looks pretty
perfect to me:

But apparently Miramax Films
(the studio behind the new adaptation of Brideshead) didn’t think
so. According to U.K.
website The First Post
Atwell has reported that she was asked by the film company to lose weight
for her role as Julia Flyte. It was only when co-star Emma Thompson

(who will play Lady Marchmain) heard the news that things got resolved:

Says Atwell: “I went
round to Emma’s one night and she was getting very angry that I wasn’t
eating all the food she was giving me. I told her why and she hit the
roof.” The no-nonsense Thompson was so outraged that she called
the producers the next day and threatened to resign from the film if
they forced Atwell to lose weight. Faced with Thompson — a two-time
Oscar winner — on the warpath, Miramax Films swiftly relented.’

Not that I’m condoning Miramax’s
original, obnoxious request, but how great is that story? I love the
idea of a riled-up Emma Thompson ripping a strip off some older male
film executive (who is probably a hell of a lot fatter himself than
Hayley Atwell is).

Still, while not a surprise,
it’s madly frustrating that this sort of pressure is still being placed
on attractive, healthy young actresses. I remember, when Titanic
came out in 1997, how irritated I was by a review in The Financial Times. The film critic wrote casually that the beautiful
Kate Winslet
needed to “watch the calories.”

Little did I know
that his remark was probably one of the less offensive out there; the
British tabloids had a field day, with coverage whose idiocy and insensitivity
was later parodied by the satirical U.K. magazine Private Eye

as: “Fatty Winslet: no wonder the Titanic sunk with you on it, eh?”

Atonement actress Romola Garai has been frank about the fact that
she was pressured to lost weight while working on the Hollywood film
Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights

Garai said, “The filmmakers
were obsessed with having someone skinny. I just thought, why didn’t
they get someone like Kate Bosworth, if that’s what they wanted?”

For the record, here’s what
Kate Bosworth has been looking like in recent years:

Yeah. Sad, huh? And scary.

What is to be done for these
actresses? I wish Emma Thompson could just ride in (on her white horse
— or is that just my fantasy?) and rescue them all. Because after all,
it’s not easy to withstand pressure when you’re young and trying
to establish yourself in your career, and the people holding the plum
roles you covet are telling you you have to starve yourself to get them.

Romola Garai has decided to
put her foot down, saying after her Dirty Dancing experience
that “I think if I was asked by a director to lose weight, with no
good reason in the script, then I would say no.” But — perhaps not
coincidentally — her most recent work has been in theatre, not in

I guess we just have to hope
that as more women become successful and powerful as film directors
and executives, the pressure on actresses to diet themselves into fragile,
sickly, unthreatening waifs will lessen. Although I have to admit I’m
not totally confident — though we may not always like to admit it,
women can be as critical and demeaning of other women’s bodies as
men can.

I’ll just have to put my
faith in people like Emma. And remind myself of a time when it was downright
fashionable for movie stars to look like this:

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