Thursday, September 28, 2006

Big name actors sign up for Miss Marple (NEWS)

ITV's Miss Marple mysteries, which star Geraldine McEwan as Agatha Christie's famous spinster sleuth, are due to feature a raft of heavyweight acting talent, according to The Stage. Four new Miss Marple films have been commissioned by ITV including Nemesis - the last Miss Marple mystery novel Christie actually wrote. This episode lines up Richard E Grant, Ronni Ancona, Laura Michelle Kelly, Amanda Burton, Johnny Briggs, Anne Reid, Ruth Wilson (currently Jane Eyre) and singer Lisa Stansfield.

New pics from The Other Boleyn Girl shoot (NEWS)

Some great pics, sourced from AQMB (via Oscarwatch forums) from The Other Boleyn Girl, currently commencing production in the UK. Scarlet Johansson is playing Mary Boleyn and Natalie Portman, who looks great in these shots, even in a very non-period purple tracksuit, is playing her more famous sister Anne. Kirsten Scott-Thomas has been snapped on set too, sharing a joke with her colleagues.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mansfield Park cast update (NEWS)

Austenblog reports that a Blake Ritson has been added to the cast list for next year's TV version of Mansfield Park. It seems likely that Blake would play Edmund Bertram, who has remained uncast so far. The production company for this project, Company Pictures, also lists Blake Ritson alongside Billie Piper, which would again indicate that he is playing her romantic lead.

Pirates of the Caribbean sequels galore? (NEWS)

According to Pirates of the Caribbean fansite, Keep to the Code, China Daily Online has published a report that a further three films - yes, THREE more films to follow after the forthcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End (due May 25th 2007) are currently being discussed by Disney executives. Furthermore, contracts are apparently being discussed with certain actors but there is no official news of this yet and it is important to bear in mind that this is media speculation only. Johnny Depp, who plays the iconclastic Jack Sparrow with such attractive panache, has said on record that he would be happy to continue playing the roguish but nice pirate. For more on this story see Keep to the Code. Filming for Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End is ongoing. However latest reports suggest a few technical gremlins have been besetting the production units currently camped out in Palmdale, California, where specially converted aircraft hangars are being used to host filming in progress. The film is planned to wrap in November.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Movie stills from new Harry Potter adaptation

The first publicity stills from Warner Bros.'s 2007 adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix have been released to Newsweek and various other media outlets and are now circulating the Web at a rapid rate; see, for example,; Clearly the Harry Potter publicity machine is cranking into action. According to Mugglenet reporters who have visited the movie set at Leavesden Studios, UK, we are due a teaser trailer in November, ahead of the movie's release next July. Here are the photos made available by Warner Bros so far - the first of many no doubt!

As for the photos themselves - I'm not convinced that Umbridge looks sufficiently gruesome ... Umbridge, to my mind, is one of the most chilling and evil fictional baddies we have, and I hope this film ensures we get a strong sense of that - of course I have full faith in the acting powers of Imelda Staunton, who is one of our finest working actresses.

I absolutely love the shot of Harry pinioned to the floor in a grim, concrete underpass, adorned with graffitti - I presume this scene depicts Harry's self-defence against the dementors when they attack him and his chubby cousin Dudley at the start of the novel. I'm really hoping for some down and dirty, all-gritty realism in this picture; especially with David Yates at the helm, who is a tried and tested TV director of the highest calibre. This film needs to be angsty and dark in tone. And this time I want less of the Gothic hyperbole and more downright ugly Muggle-ness to express that.

Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood looks sweet enough in the movie still devoted to her - although she's also a spit for Tom Felton who plays bad boy Draco Malfoy in the movies ... didn't the producers realise this when she auditioned for the part?

Overall, not bad-looking so far. Am looking forward to more info and pics, although I somehow imagine they will soon be tough to avoid.

First pic of Kidman as Mrs Coulter online

A photo of Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter, the villainess star of the Hollywood version of Philip Pullmans's first novel from the His Dark Materials trilogy, re-titled The Golden Compass from the print title Northern Lights has emerged online. The $150m production has been in production since September 4th.

Kirsten Scott-Thomas joins cast of The Other Boleyn Girl

Kirsten Scott-thomas has joined the cast of The Other Boleyn Girl, an adaptation of Phillipa Gregory's best-selling novel focussing on Anne and Mary Boleyn' s romantic entanglements with Henry VIII, and is set to play their mother, Lady Boleyn. Spanish actress Ana Torrent has been attached to the project, according to IMDB (, as King Henry's first wife Katherine of Aragon. Natalie Portman is portraying the tragic, mercurial Anne Boleyn in this production with Scarlet Johansson taking on her sister Mary. Eric Bana plays Henry VIII and Jim Sturgess is George Boleyn.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jane Eyre, BBC1 (Episode One) --- (REVIEW, JANE EYRE- 1/4, BBC1, 2006)

The new BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre, broadcast tonight, has been hotly anticipated, and strongly tipped by numerous magazine and newspaper articles here in the UK as this Autumn's red hot period romance. TV critics galore seem to be literally panting over the thought of Toby Stephens (Rochester) sporting a tousled, windswept wig and tight breeches whilst coming over all sultry with the latest 'plain Jane' Eyre - who, as it turns out, is never quite so plain as we're led to believe. This adaptation is definitely keen to sell the sexual attraction between the central romantic duo. Indeed, Jane's abuse-ridden childhood is fairly charged through at a fine gallop to ensure we get an adult Jane to Thornfield Hall and her first melodramatic encounter with a disgruntled Rochester on a chill, foggy day, as soon as is narratologically feasible, without completely confusing the poor viewer.

For all this, I couldn't help thinking that the much-truncated Lowood school sequences were still potentially confusing for a Jane Eyre 'novice' - we barely meet poor long-suffering Helen Burns, which somewhat diminishes the impact of her sad, untimely demise. Disappointing too are the opening scenes with young Jane languishing in a fantastical desert (supposedly symbolising her isolation) and again when she is banished to the Red Room, a terrifying experience in the novel and brilliantly enlivened in the 1996 Zeferelli filmic adaptation, with a junior Jane captured superbly by a soulful Anna Paquin.

This version's junior Jane is none other than Georgie Henley - little Lucy from last year's blockbuster The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. One gets the feeling that Georgie was signed on first by the producers, and Ruth Wilson (older Jane) was partly chosen because of her strong physical resemblance to the child - although Wilson has many other glowing attributes to recommend her too, with a strong performance and subtly expressive demeanour. She is an improvement on Georgie, who is too round-eyed and jolly - and possibly a little too young as well.

There are two decent scenes from this version of Jane's otherwise disappointing 'childhood' sequences, which warrant mention. First there is a small moment when the loathsome Reed family are seated en tableau, dolled up to the nines, awaiting their family portrait, completely ignoring wee Jane, sat alone on the window seat. More affecting still is the famous moment when Jane is forced to stand alone on a stool at Lowood, branded a liar in front of her schoolmates by the heinous Mr Brocklehurst. The director Susanna White has recreated this scene with real pathos.

Thornfield is represented by a suitably splendid Haddon Hall (Derbyshire). Mrs Fairfax (Lorraine Ashbourne) is too cheery for my liking. Far better the slightly harrassed demeanour of Gemma Jones in the 1997 ITV version. Adele seems too old for her part, and indeed, the only half-decent Adele I have ever seen in a Jane Eyre adaptation is Josephine Serre in the 1996 film version.

But, most importantly, does Toby Stephens truly cut a swaggering enough dash in his breeches as moody Rochester? He is a handsome sod, that's for sure. And certainly his arrival does breathe fresh life into this production. His attraction to Jane is fairly obvious here, and it is interesting that we are certainly set to see more of the cut and thrust of their verbal exchanges than is common in contemporary TV romance. This is one of the best-loved 'meeting of minds' in romantic fiction, and this adaptation is set fair to relay this to us.

Even so, there is a slight sense of staleness in this particular couple's repartee ... a feeling that this is too well-worn, too well-known ... we've been here before, and the actors seem to know this too. It's obviously hard to inject freshness and vitality into a pairing which has become so iconic and beloved by audiences and readers the world over. Worse still, there is a slightly trite moment (which is taken straight from the novel) when Rochester studies Jane's dark, surreal sketches with intense interest ... and it is all too clear (and cliched) that the dark, broody man recognises his soulmate. How can an adapter make this moment fresh for a modern audience, when this is the source material for a 1001 formula romances - even though this is the original, the real McCoy? It's a tough ask. But perhaps a little more adventurous spirit, a will to approach the material with renewed vigour, was needed at this juncture.

Cinematographically there is much to recommend here. Colours are lush, suitably sombre-toned and Gothic, editing is fast-paced. There is a rather unsubtle motif in play - a red scarf occasionally wafting in the breeze from a window in the North Tower, where all of us who have read the novel know, lurks poor mad Bertha. It is a neat signification device but a little too obvious - red signifying danger and of course fiery passion, the tumultuous sexual journey which led to Bertha's eventual incarceration, and of course, a foreshadowing of her final inflammatory demise.

Overall this is highly watchable, if a little unoriginal in scope and treatment. Maybe it fares poorly in contrast to the BBC's triumphant Bleak House, broadcast in Autumn 2005. I am surprised that some previewers in the press were hailing this production as a continuation of that particular vein of excellent form, when in truth - based on this first episode - this adaptation falls short, even if both productions share the same director - although notably Susanna White shared direction responsibilities with Justin Chadwick during Bleak House.

Perhaps this is one Jane Eyre too many - albeit enjoyable for comparison purposes, and of course, it's a cracking yarn. But there is a sense here that no fresh approaches, new angles on such a well-told tale are being explored here, which is a shame ... of course, there are three more episodes to persuade me otherwise. But on first impressions, I must surprise myself with a continued preference for the 1996 Zeferelli film version, starring a growling, morose William Hurt as Rochester and a forlorn, sad-eyed Charlotte Gainsbourgh as Jane. The 1997 ITV version also stars a fine Jane in the form of Samantha Morton, but is badly let down by an over-the-top performance from Ciaran Hinds as Rochester, who bellows and rants throughout, while decked out in a devastatingly unattractive bushy black moustache which quivers and quakes on his top lip like a startled animal.

See Reviews of Jane Eyre, Episodes 2 and 3 and 4. Also Wide Sargasso Sea.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Robin Hood web site; Jane Eyre launch date

The BBC has launched a web site for its upcoming 13-part adventures series Robin Hood - see:

The BBC has also launched a web site for its 4-part period drama Jane Eyre which is due to commence on Sunday 24th September, BBC One at 9.00pm. See:

ITV 3 has re-run the 1997 version of Jane Eyre (19th September) which starred Samantha Morton as Jane and Ciaran Hinds as Rochester.

A review of the latest version will follow soon after Episode One is aired.

Sky One seals deal for Pratchett adaptation?

Rumour has it that Sky One is set to sign veteran British TV actor David Jason to star in a new Terry Pratchett adaptation. Joss Ackland is also set to star. More details as they emerge ...

Monday, September 18, 2006

More cast speculation for Persuasion 2007

According to both Austenblog ( and the listing for the 2007 ITV version of Persuasion on Internet Movie Database (, new cast members have been added. These are:
Marion Bailey - Mrs Croft
Peter Wight - Admiral Croft
Alice Krige - Lady Russell
Tobias Menzie - William Elliot
Joseph Mawle - Harville
Finlay Robertson - James Benwick
Mary Stockley - Mrs Clay
Sam Hezeldine - Charles Musgrove

It appears that Julia Davis has been confirmed as Anne Elliot's sister Elizabeth, but no news yet on her younger sister Mary, Charles Musgrave's wife. Neither is there information as yet on the remaining Musgrove family - Mr and Mrs Musgrove and their daughters Henrietta (and her cousin/lover Charles Hayter) and Louisa. Other missing castings include Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret, Mrs Smith and Nurse Rooke.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Casting update for Northanger Abbey 2007

Austenblog ( reports that the role of Frederick Tilney is to be played by Mark Dymond in ITV's 2007 production of Northanger Abbey.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Stellar cast for Focus Features's Evening

Much is expected of Focus Features’ adaptation of Evening, based on the best-selling novel by Susan Minot, which is due to commence filming in Rhode Island. Evening has been penned for film by Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, and features a mouth-watering cast which includes Claire Danes, Toni Collete, Vanessa Redgrave, Dame Eileen Atkins, Mamie Gummer, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Glenn Close, Natasha Richardson and Meryl Streep. Lajos Koltai is directing. More info at:

Plans for new children's fantasy adventure series

According to Variety magazine,, a six-part children's fantasy series, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, written by Michael Scott is to be adapted for the screen by Mark Burnett. The first volume of the series is due to be published by Random House in May 2007, reports Variety. Flamel is known as a famous alchemist from the 15th century who is shown to be alive in the 21st century and living in San Francisco. The books' protagonists are teenage twins Sophie and Josh Newman who are learning the arts of magic under Flamel's tutelage.

BBC greenlights The Diary of a Nobody

Clerkenwell Films, the production company currently shooting Persuasion for ITV, is set to produce George Weedon Grossmith's classic Victorian novel, The Diary of a Nobody for the BBC. Andrew Davies is expected to adapt the novel for TV.

Meirelles to adapt Brazilian modern classic

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles is set to direct Blindness, the 1995 novel by Jose Saramango, adapted for the screen by Don McKellar. The project is rumoured to be a joint Brazilian/Canadian venture, costing $25m, and will be shot on location in Sao Paolo, although the film itself will be English-language.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jackson takes on Temeraire

Peter Jackson is embarking on two new literary adaptations, according to The Hollywood Reporter ( He has optioned Temeraire, a historical fantasy series set during the Napoleonic Saga, written by Noami Novik. Jackson described Temeraire as combining 'fantasy and historical epic' - 'I can't wait to see Napoleonic battles fought with a squadron of dragons. That's what I go to the movies for.' The series comprises three books, although Jackson does not know yet if he will film these separately or as one single movie.

Jackson has also optioned Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. He is writing the adaptation with his regular scripting partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens with a view to directing the picture late 2007.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

BBC 4 set to air three new adaptations

BBC 4 is unveiling three new literary adaptations this Autumn. Random Quest based on John Wyndham's short story is set to be part of BBC 4's Science Fiction series while another short story, from Dennis Wheatley, The Haunted Airman, will air on Halloween. Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea (as reported earlier) is also scheduled. The prequel to Jane Eyre has been produced by Kudos and BBC Wales and stars Rafe Spall, Rebecca Hall and Nina Sosanya.

BBC plugs 'hip' new Robin Hood

'A unique blend of exhilerating action adventure, wit and romance - something for all the family on BBC One.' So promises Peter Fincham, Controller at BBC One regarding their Autumn series Robin Hood.

The Dominic Minghella-scripted series, filming in Budapest since April, stars Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood. Jonas comments: 'I think we've come up with something cool that's both modern and medieval, with a bit of street, I've even got a hoodie! He's a total legend, I'm privileged to play a character that is known and loved by millions.'*

The new Robin Hood also stars Keith Allen (Martin Chuzzlewit 1994) as the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham, Richard Armitage (North and South 2004) as the cruel Guy of Gisborne and newcomer Lucy Griffiths as Maid Marian. Robin's 'gang' stars Gordon Kennedy as Little John; Sam Troughton as Much; Harry Lloyd as Will Scarlett; Joe Armstrong as Allan-a-Dale; and William Beck as Roy.

*BBC press release - September 12th 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Fast and the Furious: ASL and its Aesthetic Impact on Literary Adaptation --- (EDITORIAL)

Unbelievably perhaps, I had my first ever viewing of the ITV/A&E period drama series Hornblower just this evening. Clearly the Hornblower series were highly popular adaptations of their time, and garnered a devoted fanbase, and as I had missed it first time round I was glad that ITV 3 in the UK was offering a second bite of the cherry to check out what the fuss was about.

I'm also a bit of a sucker for seafaring tales, preferably with a bit of decent swashbuckling thrown in for good measure. Hornblower has a fair bit of swashbuckling swagger, all enjoyable and of a strictly non-piratical nature, (or so it seems after the one single episode I have seen so far). Ioan Gruffud was wonderfully cast as the honourable midshipman at the heart of the story, and I always find Robert Lindsey, (Capt. Sir Edward Pellew), to be excellent value.

I couldn't help but notice however, that Hornblower, while fun and even quite thrilling, seemed slow compared to modern-day drama - even some modern-day literary adaptation, which has been purportedly developed and marketed in the 'heritage' mould, and is thus expected to lack the frenzied tempo often associated with Postmodern Film and TV. And yet Hornblower was first aired in 1998 - just eight years ago.

Has TV drama changed so much in such a relatively short space of time? Or is it just my powers of concentration which are fast diminishing?

It is of course far less surprising that a literary adaptation like Brideshead Revisited, first broadcast in the UK in 1981, a full twenty-five years ago, now seems to trundle along at a fairly slow and langorous pace. After all, it is well-documented that TV and Film productions have been edited at an ever faster rate for some years now, meaning the Average Shot Length (ASL) is increasingly shorter in duration. Therefore we should expect SOME changes in pace between then and now.

But the more leisurely tone of the more recent Hornblower compared to contemporary fare still surprised me. Perhaps then ASL is getting even faster and faster, and over a much shorter period of time than previously?

Anyway ... just to give some numbers to beef up the 'ASL' argument here: in an excellent 'Scriptwriter Magazine' article* extolling the virtues of British 'New Wave' TV drama in the late 1990s to the present day, Lez Cooke points out that the ASL in a single episode of Coronation Street on the 9th December 1960 was 9.7 seconds. This compares to an ASL of 4.2 seconds for an episode of the UK soap operasesque drama This Life on the 18th March 1996. Quite a difference.

However, the most striking aspect of Cooke's statistic is that This Life, which partly pioneered the mode of British TV drama usually associated with much of the Postmodern 'New Wave', is youth-oriented, cutting edge ... not the stuff of our dear old friend Midshipman Hornblower, even though the first episode of the first series was actually aired two years AFTER This Life hit our TV screens.

Perhaps then it's a question of genre? Maybe literary adaptation inhabits its own mode of production, pootling along at its own speed, revelling in its own style - often typifed by long, lazy, sumptuous establishment shots depicting bucolic landscapes, or winsome country piles? Or perhaps the sheer 'literariness' of many adaptations simply calls for longer 'talkie' scenes than the average TV drama or film, often typified by its snappy dialogue (even when this is featured in a seemingly verbose drama - many successful US TV dramas such as West Wing are a case in point). Such productions whizz from shot to shot, chopping from scene to scene, by virtue of rapid continuous editing. A series of filming techniques enhance this effect, and have become so ubiquitous it has even become noticeable when they are absent. New digital editing technologies such as AVID have rapidly become the norm and are swiftly having an enormous effect on what we finally watch ... a process which is clearly accelerating.

Filmic literary adaptations, as opposed to TV productions, have so far been more 'adventurous' in terms of style and execution. It's not simply a question of how the source story has been retold or updated or rendered simply derivative, an inspiration for a restructured narrative - that is a separate discussion - but it's about the look and feel of the thing. The aesthetic impact. Baz Luhrman's 1996 William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, for example, is stylistically a million miles away from Zeferelli's 1968 version of the same play. That's not to say the 'straight' adaptation is going out of fashion - but it increasingly serves a different purpose, even a different audience.

Despite this, Andrew Davies, the UK's most prolific adapter, has often been one to point out just how much TV drama today is speeding up, and his own adaptations are proof of this process too. His latest BBC venture, Bleak House (2005), assumed many of the filming techniques associated with 'New Wave' TV drama and Postmodern Film. And to fabulous effect. This adaptation, in my view, was Davies's most successful and brilliant yet - and much credit must also go to Justin Chadwick and Susanna White, the series's directors.

Davies's 2001 Trollope adaptation The Way We Live Now, also bears the hallmarks of postmodern filming techniques, often utilising hand-held cameras for a more realistic effect (although this also drew some criticism). In my opinion, this is another of Davies's finest works - although admittedly this production feels comparatively slow, when contrasted with Bleak House just four years later. But this is not to its detriment. Far from it. As always, there are multiple reasons for the success or failure of any production.

And obviously many of our best-loved and most successful dramas - adapted or otherwise - are 'Old School,' and all the better for it too.

However, it is always interesting to see how the same story can be recreated for different eras, different audiences. Not just in narratological terms, but also in terms of aesthetic reconfiguration. Of course, as new technologies come on line, more changes can be expected too. And much sooner than we think.

*'Scriptwriter Magazine' is a subscription print periodical, but has a website: www. The article 'A 'new wave' in British television drama' cited in this post can be found in the September 2006 issue.

- On a sidenote, I re-watched Roger Michell's romcom Notting Hill the other day, which is a 1999 production - not so long ago you would think - but even here, the film's narrative seemed almost plodding, drawn out ... perhaps, in part, the effect of familiarity, but even so, it was very apparent that Michell had allowed for long 'talkie' scenes, that actually served the story well, but would be less common in filmmaking today I feel. I did wonder however if the romance genre was less inclined to utilise the new, zippy modes of film production. When a romcom does venture into fresh technical territory and/or plays with narrative style, it stands out - Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, splendidly scripted by Charlie Kaufman, is a classic example. In this instance the disjunctured narrative and playful techniques make for a remarkable film, in all departments.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Northanger Abbey photos

Austenblog is featuring paparazzi photos from the Ireland-based shoot for 2007/s ITV production of Austen's Northanger Abbey. Definitely worth a peek! Check out

Mansfield Park casting rumours

UK newspaper The Daily Mirror has reported speculation that Eastenders star Michelle Ryan who plays Zoe Slater in the popular soap opera is set to play Maria Bertram in the forthcoming TV production of Mansfield Park. The newspaper also reports that Jemma Seagrave, Maggie O'Neill (recently appearing in Channel 4's Shameless), and Joseph Morgan (The Line of Beauty 2005) have also been cast, but no mention is made of potential roles. Douglas Hodge has also been cast, and looks likely to play Sir Thomas Bertram. Hodge comes with quite an acting pedigree when it comes to literary adaptation. He has played Tertius Lydgate in the BBC's 1995 Middlemarch, Roger Carbury in the BBC's The Way We Live Now 2001 and Pitt Crawley in Mira Nair's film version of Vanity Fair in 2004. Full details on the casting story can be accessed at

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Latest news on fresh outbreak of Austenmania

Is there any stopping the Austenmobile? In 2007 we have 4 new Austen adaptations slated for UK TV alone!

The BBC hopes to offer a two-part mini-series version of Sense & Sensibility, penned by 'adapter' laureate' Andrew Davies. As per usual where Davies is concerned, the up and coming adaptation has already courted controversy with the traditional scare-mongering rumours of a sex scene (shock, horror!) while some back story concerning poor Eliza and that 'cad' Willoughy's scandalous relationship is set to be foregrounded. No casting news as yet.

ITV plans an Austen Season with 4 telefilm productions:

Emma (1996, Meridian) is an older ITV telefilm, starring a pre-Hollywood Kate Beckinsale as a suitably snarky Emma Woodhouse with excellent support from Samantha Morton as giddy but sweet Harriet Smith and Mark Strong playing Knightley as a grumpy patrician.

Currently in production -

Mansfield Park (Company Pictures) is soon to be filming at Newby Hall in Yorkshire. The 90 minute telefilm will star Billie Piper as Fanny Price (a tad odd choice for the role maybe, but she is a pleasing enough actress) and Hayley Atwell, who was positively luminous in the BBC's recent Davies-scripted adaptation of The Line of Beauty, based on Alan Hollinghurst's Booker prize-winning novel. (In fact Atwell was the best thing in this series, which was a bit of turgid affair). We do not know who Atwell will be playing, although Mary Crawford looks a good bet. No news yet on who is due to play Edmund Bertram, but he can't possibly better Jonny Lee Miller's sensitive wee soul in the 1999 film version, can he? Maggie Wadey, who formerly adapted Wharton's The Buccaneers for the BBC in 1995, is adapting Mansfield Park, and Iain Macdonald is directing.

Persuasion (Clerkenwell Pictures) has been the source of some anxiety amongst Austenites as to who might play Captain Wentworth - one of Austen's favourite romantic heroes. There was some disappointment from a small band of fans calling for Richard Armitage (North and South, 2004) to take the role when the new Wentworth was finally announced, but the average punter should be very pleased indeed that Rupert Penry-Jones, currently famous as Adam Carter in the BBC's mega-series Spooks, is to be the man. Anne Elliot is to be played by Sally Hawkins (Tipping the Velvet 2002, Fingersmith 2005 - both BBC adaptations of Sarah Walters' works) and her repugnant father Sir Walter will be played by American actor Anthony Head. Comedy actress Julia Davis has also been cast, but we don not know yet who she will be playing. Simon Burke (Sons and Lovers 2003, White Teeth 2002, Tom Jones 1997) is the screenwriter. Adrian Shergold is directing. Some location shooting is set to take place in Bath.

Northanger Abbey (Granada) is controversially being filmed in Ireland, much to the chagrin of those Austenites who felt this could and should be shot only in Bath. Filming is underway according to local newspaper reports at Ardbraccan House, County Meath, and at a nearby churchyard. Dublin Castle is also expected to feature in the production. Felicity Jones takes on Catherine Morland, JJ Feild is to play Henry Tilney and Carey Mulligan (Pride & Prejudice 2005, Bleak House 2005) is the flightly Isabella Thorpe. Jon Jones is directing and Andrew Davies has written the screenplay. Rumours are rife (as always where Davies is concerned) of a nude bath scene.

Potted News Digest (1)

Just a very few of the literary adaptations set to come our way soon.

Expect a fresh outbreak of Austenmania on British TV in 2007; the Phillip Pullman Express is steaming into action with a new BBC adaptation of Ruby in the Smoke and production ongoing for The Golden Compass movie; Bronte Bonanza this Autumn on BBC; What Andrew Davies is up to (an awful lot BTW); Joe Wright undertakes Atonement; Potter News; King continues to rule the airwaves.

For more in-depth information, see below ...

Atonement underway

Working Title's film of Ian McEwan's Atonement is now filming in Redcar. The production boasts an impressive cast, including Keira Knightley as Cecilia, (Knightley has now concluded filming, and is now swashbuckling in California with the cast and crew of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End), James McAvoy as Robbie Turner, Brenda Blethyn as Grace Turner, Romola Garai as Briony and Vanessa Redgrave as an older Briony. The director is Joe Wright of Pride & Prejudice fame, and Christopher Hampton, whose illustrious career includes Dangerous Liasions 1988 and The Secret Agent in 1996, is the screenwriter. Hampton is also writing an adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - although no casting news is forthcoming.

Potter News Digest (1)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, directed by David Yates (The Way We Live Now, 2001) and written by Michael Goldenberg, is still filming with a release date set for July 13th, 2007, in the UK and the USA (for other release dates see Recent location shots have been featured on numerous web sites, including Most recent shooting has been at Kings Cross Station in London where Harry famously boards the Hogswarts Express. On-site rumours indicate that Voldemort himself will be surreptitiously present during one of these scenes - a sharp deviation from the book, and possible a welcome one too, as this ensures the audience is kept aware of Harry's true enemy before the finale and perhaps Harry's paranoia will be stoked to new levels too.

The next film in the series based on Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince has now been written by Potter scripting veteran Steven Kloves. but a decision on a director is still to be made by Warner Bros. Various names have been floated including Terry Gilliam (unlikely, although he was Rowling's number one choice apparently), M Night Shyamalan, Joss Wheedon (Buffy/Serenity) although he has said he wishes most to direct the final film in the franchise, and more recently James McTeigue (V for Vendetta), who is also slated to direct a remake of Logan's Run ( There is also a rather alarming rumour that Chris Columbus who directed the first two Harry Potter movies is also keen to return, which would make for a decided turn for the worse, that's for sure.

Slew of new King adaptations

A string of Stephen King adaptations can be expected in 2007 and 2008. First up is likely to be a Mikael Hafstrom-directed film, 1408, penned by Scott Alexander and Matt Greenberg, which stars Samuel L Jackson and John Cusack.

Perrotta satire set to storm to awards distinction

Tom Perrotta's postmodern suburban satire Little Children, starring Kate Winslet, is garnering rave reviews in pre-release screenings. The New Line film, directed and written by Todd Field, is viewed by many to have potential for Oscar glory - most especially for Winslet who is yet to score an Oscar, in spite of a glittering career as on of Britain's finest actresses. The movie trailer can be accessed at

The Pullman Express steams into action

The BBC is also set to roll out an adaptation of Phillip Pullman's Victorian crime caper The Ruby in the Smoke. Interestingly the novel's sympathetic heroine Sally Lockhart is played here by Billie Piper, alongside Hayley Atwell, as Rosa. Of course Piper and Atwell are now co-starring in Mansfield Park for ITV. JJ Feild is also starring - rumoured to be Frederick Garland - and the formidable Julie Walters has taken on the role of devilish villainess Mrs Holland. Release dates are yet to be announced. Brian Percival is at the helm. His former adaptation experience includes North and South 2004, and Much Ado About Nothing 2005 - both for the BBC. Adrian Hodges (adapted Metroland 1997, David Copperfield 1999, Lorna Doone 2000) has scripted the piece.

The first film in the much-anticipated Pullman His Dark Materials franchise, The Golden Compass, directed and written by Chris Weitz, is now in production. The New Line film is set for release in 2007. A notable cast has been assembled. Wee Lyra is being played by Dakota Blue Richards (with a name like that it is easy to imagine she has been groomed for stardom!), Lord Asriel is Daniel Craig, Mrs Coulter is Nicole Kidman, Eva Green is Serafina, Ian McShane is the voice of Iorek Byrnison and Clare Higgins plays Ma Costa. Filming is taking place on location in Norway and Worcester College, Oxford.

More BBC remakes being readied

The BBC's new series of Robin Hood is still set to grace our screens this Autumn, in spite of a robbery of some of the show's footage from location in Hungary. Some scenes are being reshot as a result of the incident.

The BBC has given the green light to film a new adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula with Marc Warren, Rafe Spall (son of the glorious Timothy, and soon to be seen in Wide Sargasso Sea) and Sophia Myles. Location shooting is due to take place at Tyntesfield, a Gothic extravaganza of a mansion close to Bristol, UK.

Bronte BBC Bonanza

The BBC's new four-part version of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre set to roll out this Autumn stars Toby Stephens as Rochester and newcomer Ruth Wilson as Jane. Stephens has starred in numerous adaptations, including The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in 1996 (Bronte territory again, this time, Anne), The Great Gatsby 2000, Cousine Bette 1998, Orlando 1992, Onegin 1999, Possession 2002 and The Camomile Lawn 1992. His co-star in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Tara Fitzgerald, now plays Mrs Reed, Francesca Annis stars as Lady Ingram, Christina Cole as Blanche and Pam Ferris takes on Grace Poole. Susanna White is the director - noted for her work on the 2005 adaptation of Bleak House, and Sandy Welch is the screenwriter. Welch formerly adapted North and South for the BBC in 2004 and Our Mutual Friend by Dickens in 1997. A special preview showing will take place at the British Film Institute on September 16th.

Notably a TV version of Jean Rhys's spin-off novel Wide Sargasso Sea, which charts the prequel to Jane Eyre's narrative is also due to be aired this Autumn, starring Rafe Spall as a young Rochester and Rebecca Hall as Antoinette, his doomed wife. The BBC/Kudos production has been directed by Brendan Maher (Kidnapped 2005) and adapted by Stephen Greenhorn.

A new film adaptation of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights from Ecosse Films is also due to go into production with Olivia Hetreed adapting the novel to screen. Hetreed's most high profile work to date has been the adaptation of Tracey Chevalier's bestselling novel The Girl with the Pearl Earring. This new version of the Bronte novel will focus on Heathcliff's status as a lowly immigrant and the youth of the characters will be brought to the fore.

Production plans are still underway for a movie version of Branwell Bronte's life - adding to the current trend for literary bio-pics (Becoming Jane starring Anne Hathaway is a further example). Jonathan Rhys Meyers takes on the role of Branwell in Bronte, flanked by a splendid cast: Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain), Nathalie Pressman (Bleak House) is Emily, and New Zealand newcomer Emily Barclay (the magnificent In His Father's Den) plays Anne. Hugh Dancy (Daniel Deronda) takes on publisher George Smith and Ben Chaplin (Washington Square) is Arthur Bell Nicholls, Charlotte's eventual husband.

Andrew Davies - busy bee ...

In addition to his commitments with Sense & Sensibility in 2007, there's to be even more Andrew Davies in the near future... Oh yes. Lots more. Rumours suggest that Britain's best-loved and loathed (in equal measure it seems) text-to-screen adapter will write Dickens's Little Dorrit for the BBC, re-make Forster's A Room with a View for ITV and pen a new version of Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, planned for 2008, and due to be made by Ecosse Films and Warner Independent. Jeremy Brock (Charlotte Gray 2001, Mrs Brown 1997) is set to co-write. Casting is still unknown, despite rumours of Jude Law coming on board as Sebastian. Davies is also working on a version of John Cleland's Fanny Hill - an adaptation where rumours of rampant sex, as is usual with Davies's work, (though normally unsubstantiated), will be well-deserved no doubt.

Great Books yet to be Adapted to Screen --- (EDITORIAL)

There are so many great, great books out there which have never yet been adapted to screen.

A Few For Starters:

The Quincunx by Charles Pallister - this is a weighty tome and a half. A rollicking epic trawl through Victorian England and a gripping thriller from start to finish. I guess I know WHY this has never made it to screen - the protagonist is a boy who grows up throughout the course of the novel (tricky to cast) and the narrative weaves through a number of expensive period locations: Victorian London - the posh and the poor (including some rather yucky scenes set in the sewers) and a grand country pile. And an enormous cast - worthy of War and Peace. All a tad pricey ... but this would be a spectacular BBC/Masterpiece Theatre TV series, believe me!

Katherine by Anya Seton - this was my mother's favourite romantic novel, but it's a lovely tale for any generation. Set in Medieval England, it charts the tale of Katherine Swyford who becomes mistress to John of Gaunt, the most powerful man in the realm. I know 20th Century Fox have optioned this book - so where's the movie? Come on guys! It's a classic.

The Hand of Ethelberta by Thomas Hardy - one of Hardy's minor novels, but a real ripping yarn with a supercool postfeminist heroine. Funny too.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Top 10 Adaptations --- (EDITORIAL)

OK ... this is to kick off Screen Stories good and proper. A bit of a puzzle for myself.
A Top 10 of my favourite adaptations - subject to change (REGULARLY). I should also add that most of these works are mainly post-1990 (or thereabouts), and are generally mainstream, popular fare, as that has been my key research era to date. But I will compile a more in-depth list in the weeks to come which offers some cherished old chestnuts too.

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER (hey, it's tough enough picking just 10!)

Bleak House (BBC, 2005) - an incredible piece of work from the UK's 'adapter laureate' Andrew Davies, which skillfully reworks Dickens's opus as gripping made-for-TV soap opera. Features some amazing acting performances and slick production values.

Adaptation (Intermedia/Propaganda, 2002) - classic Charlie Kaufman! A masterpiece of playful pontification from Hollywood's most innovative screenwriter, which stars Nicholas Cage in exceptional form as Kaufman himself, (and his invented twin brother), puzzling how to adapt Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief. This is a hugely enjoyable, reflexive film which effectively deconstructs the processes behind text-to-screen adaptation.

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban (Warner Bros, 2oo3) - Although this franchise has been lacklustre at times, this adaptation of JK Rowling's third novel was a splendid affair - a genuine cinematic, visual treat thanks to the genius of director Alfonso Cuaron.

Mansfield Park (Miramax, 1999) - a much-maligned adaptation of Austen's most serious work, but well-beloved by this blogger! Patricia Rozema has scripted a truly controversial retelling of Mansfield Park, replete with darker overtones and with a polemical political twist, as she bravely highlights key political discourses, for example, bringing the oft-ignored but all-pervasive theme of slavery to the fore. This work is far from perfect, but is a piece of courageous filmmaking.

The Way We Live Now (BBC, 2001) - more from Andrew Davies and the BBC. An excellent adaptation of Trollope's tale of political intrigue and the greedy machinations of hypocritical Victorian society. The most outstanding aspect of this adaptation however has to be the acting performances which are simply amazing - David Suchet makes for a memorable Melmotte, but the cream of the very creamy crop has to be Shirley Henderson as his feisty daughter Marie and Matthew MacFayden, as her would-be lover and general all-round cad.

Pride & Prejudice (BBC, 1995) - a must-have on any list of favourite adaptations, surely? The famous BBC version of Austen's favourite novel with Firth and Ehle as the sparring lovers. This adaptation firmly esconsced Andrew Davies as Britain's most popular adaptation screenwriter. The lush production values, gloriously filmed locations and witty repartee ensured this was a standout series which became a benchmark worldwide for quality TV.

Pride & Prejudice (Working Title, 2005) - tit for tat; it didn't seem fair to exclude the more recent re-telling of Elizabeth and Darcy's romance, most particularly when this is such an aesthetically exquisite piece of filmmaking. Keira Knightley makes for a fine Elizabeth Bennet - exceeding expectations - and her co-star Matthew MacFayden offers a more sensitively-wrought Darcy than the usual fare.

Sense & Sensibility (Columbia, 1995) - and to round off the Austen-fest, Ang Lee's delightful version of one of Austen's more awkward tales, penned with comic precision by Emma Thompson, who also puts in a fine acting performance as a 'mature' Elinor. Kate Winslet really paraded her acting chops with a magnificent performance, but it is Lee's direction which truly wins out here.

A Cock and Bull Story (BBC Films, 2005) - the most recent inclusion due to its clever reworking of Sterne's notoriously unadaptable The Life and Times of Tristram Shandy. This is meta-textual fancy at its finest with a marvellous central performance from Steve Coogan - although he is outshone by co-star Rob Brydon when it comes to straightforward funnies.

10 Things I Hate About You (Touchstone, 1999) & The Taming of the Shrew (BBC, 2005) - OK, a bit of a cheat here, both being retellings of the same tale. 10 Things I Hate About You has flaws aplenty but is a fun and feisty reconfiguration of the Shakespeare original, and the true leader of the pack in launching a whole new subgenre of US High School literary adaptations. Heath Ledger made for a highly watchable Patrick Verona (aka Petruchio) ... watch out for the tight leather pants! Mention must also be made of the BBC's 2005 version of the Shakespeare original, transposed to modern day Westminster. Fabulous acting from Shirley Henderson and Rufus Sewell as a cross-dressing Petruchio. This was part of the BBC's Shakespeare Retold series, which has been a real high point in literary adaptation in recent years, following on from an earlier foray by the BBC into updating Chaucer for a (post)modern audience. Special mention must also go (rather cheekily, rounding out this list of ten to twelve, if truth be told) to last year's modern version of Much Ado About Nothing starring Sarah Parrish, Damian Lewis and Billie Piper, set in a competitive TV newsroom - hugely entertaining with big performances.

A list of flops to follow ...

The Art of Stories --- (EDITORIAL)

This blog is devoted to Stories on Screen - Cinema, TV Series, Tele-Films - with a special interest in Text-to-Screen Adaptation. I have a particular interest in Adaptations because I am currently researching a PhD thesis on the transformative and interpretative processes involved in text-to-screen adaptation - but I am also a fan, an enthusiast, a lover of well-told stories. All stories. So this blog will talk about the narratives I both love and loath ... what I've been watching, what I want to watch, and even what I watched some time ago but feel mention is warranted all the same.

The 'high-brow' aim of this blog is to analyse, to deconstruct how screen narrative is crafted, to discuss the wider ramifications of narratives and their effects on society, and deliver news on the world behind the narratives we are destined to be watching on our screens before long.

Having said that, this blog is chiefly about entertainment and engagement - the opportunity to talk about film, TV and novels in whatever way we fancy.