It’s “terribly important” for girls to see women in top-flight careers on the big screen, according to Dame Emma Thompson who plays a high court judge in her new film.
The Oscar winner, 59, was speaking at the London premiere of The Children Act, an adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel of the same name.
Thompson’s character is a judge who finds herself conflicted by the case of a teenager who has leukaemia but is refusing treatment.
She said it was the first time a female judge had been the central character of a film.
“If you think about the way in which the iconography was changed when Barack Obama became president,” she said. “In exactly the same way, as soon as you see a powerful role, a government role, a role like this, being taken by a woman, as a young woman you see that and think, ‘Oh I can be a judge’.”
She argued that more needed to be done to help women and people from less advantaged backgrounds to break into the judiciary.
“It’s all right having dreams and everything, but they have to be backed up by the intentions of your government and if they are cutting educational opportunities for people, in particular people from lower-income environments, the pool from which people are going to be able to come up to become judges, if they are women, is getting smaller and smaller,” she said.
“My friends who are judges are saying it is getting smaller, necessarily because of what has happened with austerity and Brexit.”
She added: “This is all about educational opportunities, and also about challenging the automatic routes that mostly men, mostly white men, can take through Eton and Oxbridge.”
The Children Act will release in UK cinemas on August 24.
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