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.

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