IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Scott Thomas reflects on family history, stardom

Some 15 years after her Oscar-nominated role in "The English Patient," Kristin Scott Thomas is winning raves for both her screen and stage work.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Some 15 years after her Oscar-nominated role in "The English Patient," Kristin Scott Thomas is winning raves for both her screen and stage work.

The 51-year-old actress is appearing in a production of Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" in London through next month, and she has a leading role in the drama "Sarah's Key," now in theaters.

The movie, an adaptation of a best-selling novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, tells of the roundup of French Jews during World War II.

Speaking recently by satellite from London, Scott Thomas (who lives in Paris) said she plays an American journalist in Paris who wants to find out what happened to a young girl named Sarah.

"And so what happens is the film flips backwards and forwards from present day to 1942, when there was a terrible roundup of the Jews by the French police. They took 13,000 people and took them to this big citing arena and then subsequently sent them by train and by bus, they sent them to concentration camps within France, and then sent them to death camps over the border."

Although Scott Thomas is British, "Sarah's Key" hit home. Her ex-husband's family went through some of the horrors depicted in the movie.

"My in-laws were on the run and in hiding and are survivors of the events of that time," she said. "My mother-in-law was hidden. My father-in-law was hidden. My ex-husband's grandmother spent her life during that time hiding in cellars and attics and constantly alert and aware of what was going on. So, when I met my new family, when I was a very young woman, I discovered this whole world that I had no idea about."

Many moviegoers got their first look at Scott Thomas in "Under the Cherry Moon," the 1986 musical starring Prince. It was released on the heels of his success with "Purple Rain," and was much maligned. But the film is a fond memory for Scott Thomas.

"I mean, it was such an extraordinary experience, being plucked from absolute obscurity, doing a play by Marguerite Duras in a field in Burgundy, and being whisked down to the French Riviera and hanging out with Prince and his band. It was just extraordinary, unbelievable, a fairy tale, the sort of thing that never happens to me," she recalled with a laugh.

Scott Thomas, whose film credits also include "Bitter Moon" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," now gets name-above-the-title status, at least in the art-house world, where she's enjoyed recent successes, including the lead in 2008's French-language "I've Loved You So Long."

"I'm a late developer," she said with a laugh. "I'm getting some really, really interesting roles, roles of women who are moving forward, who are searching for new things, searching for new lives.

"I'm getting roles about my generation. I'm getting these really interesting roles from French cinema. And I'm getting to perform on the stage in London, where there's the best stage in the world, with extraordinary actors in a beautiful play by Harold Pinter. Yeah, who could ask for anything more?"