×

Emily Mortimer on Her Literary Influences and Return to the Big Screen

During the three-season run of “The Newsroom,” Emily Mortimer was a standout among the ensemble cast. Now, the English actress, who appeared in “Shutter Island” and “Hugo,” is returning to the big screen in the adaptation of Penelope Fitzgerald’s 1978 novel, “The Bookshop.”

What’s your background with literature?

My dad [“Rumpole of the Bailey” creator John Mortimer] was a novelist and playwright and I grew up surrounded by books. I studied English literature and Russian literature at Oxford. As I got older and started having kids, books sort of faded for a while. When you’re raising kids, it’s an achievement to just get your teeth brushed by the end of the day, let alone read a book. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve come back to reading again.

Is there a favorite genre or author?

I love Dickens. My dad was a big Dickens fan. He instilled a passion for Dickens in me, and I think [his books are] wild and funny. On the surface, they’re full of Victorian morality, but underneath it, there’s a kind of absurdity to them, almost a surrealism. They’re just great about the human condition, and some of them have brilliant thriller plots.

Did your literary history help you connect with your bookish character in “The Bookshop”?

I certainly have known people like Florence who love reading, and there’s a sort of freedom about them. Being a reader gives you a highly developed inner world, an escape that makes it possible to endure more pain and strain and hardship in the real world. I was aware of that with Florence.

Why is it important for people to keep reading in a screen-centric era?

There’s a great thirst for books still. But obviously the world is changing, and the way people come to books and the way people read is changing. As a format for entertainment, I think the novel is incredibly important — especially in this day and age where everything is sound bites and most of what we read is a concentrated version online; you miss the nuances of life by only getting your information that way. I think novels are a very important aspect in sound-bite culture, because in a novel there are gray areas, and it takes a long time for a story to unfold. There’s room for confusion in the gray areas of life. There’s too much moral certitude in the world we live in.

Things You Didn’t Know About Emily Mortimer

AGE: 46 BIRTHPLACE: London FAVORITE PODCAST: “S-Town” FAVORITE TV SHOW: “Search Party” STRESS-RELIEVING TECHNIQUES: Vodka, hot baths

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • The Garden

    Bragason Brings ‘Woman at War’s’ Geirharosdottir to ‘The Garden’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Acclaimed actress Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, best known for “Woman at War,” is set to star in writer/director Ragnar Bragason’s dark comedy “The Garden.” Currently in post-production and to be pitched at Haugesund’s New Nordic Films over Aug. 20-23, “The Garden” is Bragason’s sixth feature and his first one since the 2013 Toronto entry “Metalhead.” “I did [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras to Receive San Sebastian Career Achievement Donostia Award

    Costa-Gavras, the Greek-born France-based director of some of the most famed movies of political cinema, from 1969’s “Z” to 1981’s “Missing,” will receive a career achievement Donostia Award at this September’s 67th San Sebastian Film Festival. The filmmaker will collect his prize on Sept. 21 at a ceremony held at San Sebastian’s Victoria Eugenia, where [...]

  • Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), Leonard (Bill

    China Box Office: New Animations No Match For 'Nezha' Domination

    Chinese animation “Nezha” continued its run as China’s biggest hit of the summer, maintaining its top spot at the box office even 25 days into its run with a weekend gross of $41.2 million. The tally made it this weekend’s fourth highest grossing film worldwide. Meanwhile, two other new animated titles performed unremarkably. The flop of [...]

  • Samuel-W.-Gelfman

    Samuel Gelfman, Roger Corman Film Producer, Dies at 88

    Samuel Gelfman, a New York producer known for his work on Roger Corman’s “Caged Heat,” “Cockfighter” and “Cannonball!,” died Thursday morning at UCLA Hospital in Westwood following complications from heart and respiratory disease, his son Peter Gelfman confirmed. He was 88. Gelfman was born in Brooklyn, New York and was raised in Caldwell New Jersey [...]

  • Margot Robbie stars in ONCE UPON

    Box Office: 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Pulls Ahead of 'Hobbs & Shaw' Overseas

    Sony’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” might not have hit No. 1 in North America, but Quentin Tarantino’s latest film is leading the way at the international box office, where it collected $53.7 million from 46 markets. That marks the best foreign opening of Tarantino’s career, coming in ahead of 2012’s “Django Unchained.” “Once [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Leads Crowded Weekend With $21 Million

    The Bean Bag Boys, the self-appointed nickname for the trio of best friends in Universal’s “Good Boys,” are conquering much more than sixth grade. They are also leading the domestic box office, exceeding expectations and collecting $21 million on opening weekend. “Good Boys,” which screened at 3,204 North American theaters, is a much-needed win for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content