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Gwyneth Paltrow Recalls Bill Clinton Falling Asleep (And Snoring!) During ‘Emma’ Screening

Gwyneth Paltrow Recalls Bill Clinton Falling Asleep During Emma Screening in Front of Her 355
Gwyneth Paltrow, Bill Clinton. Noam Galai/Getty Images for Clinton Global Initiative

Gwyneth Paltrow effortlessly played the matchmaking Emma Woodhouse in the 1996 adaptation of Emma, even if the film did not captivate every viewer.

During Paltrow’s Thursday, March 21, appearance on “Hot Ones,” host Sean Evans asked whether former president Bill Clinton actually “passed out asleep” during a screening of Emma at the White House following a widespread rumor that claimed as much.

“True. He was snoring right in front of me,” Paltrow, 51, replied with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Wow, I guess this is going to be a real hit movie.’ But it was! So f–k you, Bill Clinton!”

Paltrow starred as the titular character in the adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel of the same name. As in the classic book, Paltrow’s Emma fancies herself a matchmaker for her friends. At the same time, Emma captivates the attention of Frank Churchill (Ewan McGregor). The film was written and directed by Douglas McGrath, who died in 2022.

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Emma came out around the same time as Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, another Austen book, and Amy Heckerling’s Clueless. Heckerling, now 69, had also adapted Emma but set it in contemporary Los Angeles, with Alicia Silverstone starring as Emma analogue Cher Horowitz.

“I didn’t know whether to be worried or not,” McGrath told reporters in 1996. “I saw Clueless after shooting. I really enjoyed it, [and with Sense and Sensibility,] I kind of fell for the whole thing.”

McGrath also predicted that Emma would be a hit in the United States — Clinton, now 77, aside — compared to Austen’s home country of England.

“I think Emma will get slaughtered in Britain,” McGrath quipped at the time. “Because of our sacred relationship with Jane. That film, more than any of the British attempts, actually does do something slightly different with it. I think it’s very interesting. It’s a very modern portrayal of that girl, as modern in its tone as Clueless. And I think the British will find that deeply upsetting.”

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Emma ultimately proved to be a box-office hit and critical smash. The flick grossed nearly $40 million worldwide and earned two Oscar nominations for costume design and original score, winning the trophy for the latter.

Not only was Emma critically acclaimed, but Paltrow pulled off an impressive British accent despite being from California.

“I have a relatively good ear for that kind of thing, so I had grown up making prank calls doing accents and that kind of thing and making my friends laugh,” she recalled on Thursday. “But it turns out to actually do it properly, you have to relearn how to speak. The English accent is so different, and the muscles are different, like, where you place the tongue on the teeth, and the mouth is so different. Certain muscles are more relaxed and certain are more tensed.”

Emma was adapted again in 2020, starring Anya Taylor-Joy as the leading lady.

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