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Downton Abbey’s Lily James reveals how the early death of her father at the age of 54 makes filming death scenes so tough for her
- The loss of her actor father, James Thomson, was a low point in Lily James’ life
- The then 18-year-old drama student changed her name to honour her father
- She says his death came after death of his brother from motor neurone disease
- She found it difficult to when, as Cinderella in Kenneth Branagh’s reworking of the fairytale, she played the scene where she was told her father had died
She dazzled as Lady Rose in TV’s Downton Abbey and as Cinderella on the big screen, but behind Lily James’s rise to stardom lies deep family heartache.
The loss of her actor father, James Thomson – who died of cancer in 2008 at the age of 54 – was the low point of the then 18-year-old drama student’s life. Tragically, he never saw his talented daughter light up the screen.
The young actress changed her name from Lily Thomson to Lily James to honour her beloved father and said his death turned her into the workaholic she is today.
Miss James also revealed that the loss of her father came on the heels of the death of his brother, Bruce, who had motor neurone disease, and of her grandmother, actress Helen Horton, who had returned to the US to care for her son.
The loss of her actor father, James Thomson – who died of cancer in 2008 at the age of 54 – was the low point of the then 18-year-old drama student’s life. Tragically, he never saw his talented daughter light up the screen
‘A lot of my family died in the space of five years,’ she told the Daily Telegraph magazine. ‘But I am glad that my grandma died before my dad, because if she had seen that…’
Miss James, 30, said landing the role of Cinderella in Kenneth Branagh’s reworking of the fairytale for Disney was a delight – until she had to play a scene in which she is told that her father is dead.
‘I couldn’t really go there,’ she said. ‘Sometimes there was a coldness to me around that. I was trying so hard to hold on to something.’
Even though it has been more than a decade since her father died, she finds it difficult to speak about her hero.
‘He was so artistic and so bold. There was so much life in him. He was brilliant,’ she said.
‘Sometimes when I speak I feel relaxed, I feel completely at peace and calm. But there are other times when I feel more on edge.’
Even though it has been more than a decade since her father died, she finds it difficult to speak about her hero
The actress, who lives in North London with her partner, former Doctor Who actor Matt Smith, is preparing for the premiere of her new film, Yesterday, a modern-day fable about fame written by Richard Curtis, directed by Danny Boyle and also starring singer Ed Sheeran.
Miss James looks set for a long and successful career in showbusiness, but when asked about the next stage in her life, she said that, more than anything, she was looking forward to being a parent and creating a life for her children that is full of ‘freedom and mystical worlds’.
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