Emma Thompson discusses real and pretend screenwriting and ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

Emma Thompson is pretty much all the awesome.

One of the best things about hiring her to play P.L. Travers in “Saving Mr. Banks” is that Thompson is an accomplished writer in her own right, and when she portrays the creative process, she’s not imagining what it’s like. She knows. She’s done the hard work herself, and she’s damn good at it.

She’s also someone who can effortlessly play sophisticated, but who is unafraid of being massively silly. The first film I really remember seeing her in was “The Tall Guy,” a very funny and very silly romantic comedy. She has always come across as ferociously bright, but without being obnoxious about it. There are people who love to make sure that you know they are smart, and they will hammer that point until it becomes almost infuriating, but Thompson is one of those people who just projects a sort of radiant intelligence without working at it.

If it sounds like I’m sort of crushing, it’s because she remains eminently, effortlessly crushworthy, and sitting down to talk to her at the recent press day for “Saving Mr. Banks” only reminded me again how charming she can be. Considering what a big picture this is for Disney, it was a very high-tension day for everyone on the lot. This was an important junket for them, and with Tom Hanks sitting out the TV interviews in favor of one single interview he did a few days earlier, Thompson was by far the most important puzzle piece of the day. Everyone spoke about her and to her with a sort of hushed reverence, and yet when I walked in to do the actual interview, the first thing I noticed is that she was barefoot, relaxed and comfortable as we began our conversation.

I’d love to talk to her about her craft as a writer fully sometime. I read her script for the new version of “Annie” the night before we spoke, and she made some big choices in adapting the material. Our chat covered that, the oddity of Nanny McPhee somehow being the person who wrote “Mary Poppins,” and plenty more. I hope you enjoy the short chat as much I enjoyed it, and I certainly hope it’s not the only time I end up speaking to the delightful Thompson.

“Saving Mr. Banks” opens in theaters everywhere