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STRANGER THAN FICTION

Emma Thompson As Novelist Karen Eiffel
"Harold suddenly found himself beleaguered and exasperated outside the bakery… cursing the heavens in futility.” -- Narrator

"No I'm not! I'm cursing you, you stupid voice! So shut up and leave me alone!!!” -- Harold Crick

The voice of Karen "Kay” Eiffel nearly drives Harold crazy as it relentlessly chronicles his every thought and move. But Karen Eiffel, as it turns out, is not just a comedic device. She is a fully fleshed-out character, an obsessive, self-destructive artist who is desperately trying to find an ending for a book that's taken ten grueling years to write.

It was Doran who first envisioned Emma Thompson in the role. Having collaborated with Thompson over 15 years on three previous films – DEAD AGAIN, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY and NANNY MCPHEE – Doran couldn't help but hear Thompson's unmistakable voice whenever she read Kay's lines. She also suspected the actress would relate to Kay since Thompson is also an acclaimed writer (she is the only person to ever win Oscars® for both acting and writing), as well as an adroit comedic performer.

"Emma is one of the great actresses of our generation,” says Forster of the decision to offer Thompson the part of Kay. "She's a sensitive and brilliant actress, and she's also a very intelligent woman. I knew she would bring not only her skill as an actress to the part, but also that intelligence.”

Thompson easily sums up why she was attracted to STRANGER THAN FICTION. "It was the best script I'd read in years and years," she states. "It was one of those rare instances where you think, 'Yes, absolutely, I'll do anything to serve this writing.' The way in which Zach Helm created a fictional reality and a real fiction — going both ways at once — is one of the most remarkable things I've encountered. There's nothing better than a combination of serious human inquiry and good gags."

"Emma said yes to the part on page 22,” laughs Doran. "I had to force her to finish the script before I called Marc and Zach to let them know she'd agreed. But she finished it and she just kept loving it more and more.”

Thompson knew she would enjoy embodying the author's eccentricities. "Kay is borderline bonkers," she laughs. "She has this bizarre and disgusting habit of putting out her cigarettes with a saliva-moistened tissue. She can't figure out how to kill her main character so she spends her days imagining all manner of death and destruction. You could say we meet her right at the end of her tether."

But Kay is in for an even bigger crisis when she learns that the fictional character she has been writing is somehow also a real person. "Suddenly, Kay's fictional world becomes reality," says Thompson. "And the big question for her is whether she's going to sacrifice her art and her creative soul for this very real man."

For Forster, Thompson was the perfect person to evoke that miraculous yet unsettling tension that arises at the moment when the narrator meets the character over whom she has the power of life and death. "What Emma brought to that sequence and to the film as a whole was beyond even my greatest expectations,” he says.

The appreciation between actress and director was mutual. "Marc is a true filmmaker with a very, very specific vision," says Thompson. "And he's a bit like me in the sense that I think we both like the subtleties rather than anything too big. So we tend to communicate almost telepathically. It's a great treat."

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