“I think farts are pretty much universally funny,” says actress Emily Mortimer over a cappuccino; “Especially when they’re not meant to happen.”
It’s not the type of sentiment you’d expect from Mortimer, with her delicate features and posh English accent and tendency to quote 18th-century romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. But on-screen, Mortimer is no stranger to a little titillation. Not a profile goes by, including this one, without mentioning her custard-smeared sex scene with Ewan McGregor in Young Adam, or her role in Lovely & Amazing,where she strips naked and requests — and receives — a brutal critique of her body’s flaws. Off-screen, she confesses to a conflicted attitude toward misbehavior. “I have a very good mother and a very naughty father,” she says. “I think that’s why I’m so confused about this ‘being bad’ thing. I have a tendency to be bad, but I also have guilt, which is a real problem.”
At a noisy cafe in DUMBO in January, Mortimer is the picture of innocence: dressed in a fair-isle sweater vest and jeans, her creamy skin scrubbed free of makeup. Her pretty, simple looks mean she’s able to disappear into a myriad of different roles: she looks just as natural in a power suit and heels as she does in Jane Austin-esque finery. And her low-key lifestyle means her performances are never overshadowed by tabloid headlines of drunken debauchery. So who is the real Emily Mortimer? Is she the sweet, chatty actress, wife and mother, with the posh English accent? Or is she the wicked, snarky Brit who often turns up in interviews?
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