It wasn't an easy decision for Emma Thompson to shoot a scene in the nude for her critically acclaimed new film, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande.
But it proves to be a transformative moment for her character Nancy, a retired religious studies teacher and mother of two, who dares herself to hire a handsome young sex worker (Daryl McCormack) for the night after spending over five decades living strictly by the book.
"She's someone you can relate to," the actress tells PEOPLE in this week's issue of her character. "She's a very ordinary person, just doing something extraordinary."
The film follows the widower's white-knuckle quest for pleasure, sure that there's more to sex than the perfunctory bedroom act experienced in her milquetoast marriage — and yet afraid to push herself to find out what that might be.
"I think women's pleasure has never been at the top of anyone's agenda," says Thompson, 63, whose character ticks off a to-do list for her appointment's activities to Leo, including the giving and receiving of oral sex.
"Do I undo your belt? Do you do it? What's normal?" Nancy asks plainly in the comedic drama, her brow furrowed.
But Thompson's character, whose dry wit and hesitancy drives the film's comedic bent, ultimately achieves something she didn't see coming: respect for her body. In a final scene, the two-time Oscar winner faces the mirror, alone and naked, her character reclaiming a body she had never thought to prize.
It wasn't an easy scene for Thompson, and only three other people were on the closed set when she shot it, including director Sophie Hyde.
For more about Thompson, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
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"Emma isn't immune to the culture we are all soaked in which tells us that our bodies will never be enough," says Hyde. "So doing this moment fully as Nancy, having had some access to the greatness of what her body is capable of, Emma had to really trust in that idea and sink into it. Which she totally did."
Thompson mulls how the film has affected her view of herself. "Whilst I've never really accepted my own body as anything to write home about, and I've always thought it was not much, not really at all, attractive, nonetheless, I have lived in it and experienced pleasure in it," she says. "I think the more we can accept our bodies — and not love them, you don't have to love them — but you do have to accept them in order to experience anything inside them."
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is now streaming on Hulu.