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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 21:20 GMT
From Oscar glory to Aids crusader

Emma Thompson with her Oscar
Thompson won Oscars in 1993 and 1996 - but in recent years she has become an Aids campaigner
Emma Thompson enjoyed the 1990s as one of the most successful British stars in Hollywood - but is now devoting much of her energy to the fight against Aids.

The daughter of actress Phyllida Law and stage director Eric Thompson, she was born in London in 1959.

Thompson was part of the Cambridge University Footlights theatre group, which also numbers comedians Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Morwenna Banks among its previous members.

She made her mark with her co-star - and then husband - Kenneth Branagh in the 1987 TV mini-series Fortunes of War - before the world of feature films beckoned.


Thompson shone in a variety of roles - from the slapstick of the Richard Curtis' comedy The Tall Guy to the modern film noir of Dead Again.

In 1993 she won the best actress Oscar for her role in Howard's End in 1993.

She later went on to win acclaim for her roles in Much Ado About Nothing, Remains of the Day and In the Name of the Father, as well as the 1995 Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility.

The last two films saw her nominated again for best actress Oscars. She also won an Oscar in 1996 for her work adapting the screenplay for Sense and Sensibility.

I know I ought to feel crushed by the enormity of the problem, but I don't
Emma Thompson on the African Aids crisis

It was her relationship with fellow actor Greg Wise - after the end of her marriage to Kenneth Branagh in 1995 - that saw her change direction.

She took time off to have the couple's daughter, Gaia, who was born in 1999.

It was during this four-year break that the actress found herself diverting her energies.

Thompson began her Aids campaigning in 2001 when she announced she was putting her acting career on hold to help charity ActionAid, which works to help Aids sufferers in Africa.

'Psychotic detachment'

Thompson said she chose to get involved because of her daughter - she said that in 20 years' time she did not want to explain to her daughter why she had not done anything about the global epidemic.

In 2002, after travelling to Uganda, Thompson write an article in the Mail on Sunday in which she described her journey to refugee camps filled with Aids and HIV sufferers.

"I know I ought to feel crushed by the enormity of the problem, but I don't. I feel excited because there's a world of people committed to change," she said.

Thompson attacked what she called the "psychotic detachment" of western governments over the African Aids crisis at an ActionAid campaign launch in June of this year.

Ugandan children
Thompson has travelled to Uganda to help refugees

"Why in this world do we find money for war when we are faced with the Aids virus - the greatest threat to human existence in our history?", she asked.

Thompson's ire was raised by the shortfall in the Global Fund to fight Aids, which at the time was reportedly missing at least $1bn (636m) of the money it was promised.

Her growing involvement has not, however, meant the end of her acting career.

She is appearing - as fans of great British ensemble casts might expect - in the Richard Curtis comedy Love, Actually.

And she has also agreed to take on a role guaranteed to introduce her to a new generation of fans - she will play Sybill Trelawney, professor of divination at Hogwarts, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which will begin shooting soon.

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