Emma Thompson has been in a revelatory mood of late.
A week after talking for the first time about Kenneth Branagh's affair with Helena Bonham-Carter that ended their marriage in 1995, the Oscar-winning actress and screenwriter has opened up about being a victim sexual abuse when she was 8 years old—a trauma she says she suffered at the hands of the magician hired by her parents to perform at her birthday party.
"He was an old man with gray hair. And he took me behind a door and said, ‘Would you like a sweetie?'" Thompson told The Mirror in London. "I said, ‘Oh, yes please,' but I had a funny feeling. He gave me the sweet and said, ‘Will you give me a kiss?' and I said yes. So I went up to kiss him on the cheek and he planted his mouth on mine, stuck his tongue in my mouth and wiggled it about. I thought it was my fault—children always think it's their fault."
And it was first-hand knowledge of the pains of youth, coupled with the increasingly early life lessons that kids are exposed to these days via technology and social media, that prompted the Saving Mr. Banks star to pen a guide about sexual and emotional development for her own daughter, 13-year-old Gaia.
"There are so many more pressures," Thompson explained. "The sort of sexual questions being put to young kids is horrifying to me, but that's what's out there—boys and girls watching pornography, boys showing girls hardcore porn on their iPhones. I'm in a constant state of anxiety but I know these kids have to negotiate these thickets by themselves. We can only help by listening, being aware, by not turning away and by not saying, ‘Oh, that's all so disgusting I can't even think about it.'"
"So," she continued, "I wrote my daughter a handbook about where emotions are felt in the body, about sexual feelings and the connection between sex and emotions. And I drew pictures and said, ‘You know, you can sometimes feel things in your loins you don't feel in your heart, and you need to look at that. If you listen to what's going on in your emotional language, you will be able to keep the sexual activities safe.'"
Gaia is Thompson's daughter with husband Greg Wise, who played the dashing Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility. The couple are also parents to a son, 26-year-old Tindyebwa, a former child soldier from Rwanda whom they informally adopted in 2003.
And be sure to savor the actress' performance in Saving Mr. Banks as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers opposite Tom Hanks as Walt Disney while you can—Thompson, who recently had her hands and footprints immortalized in cement at Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre, also told the Mirror that she's going to be busy just being the parent of a high school student for a while.
"I was very lucky because I got three good films in a row [referring to Beautiful Creatures and the upcoming The Love Punch] before Gaia starts her next patch of school, which I'll have to be there for," she said. "So I'm not going to be back for a long time."