Period Dramas on the Hollywood Horizon….

So… I haven’t posted in a while (but my time has been usefully spent reading tons of books, adding ever more books to my collection, watching (and in many cases re-watching!) hoards of period dramas and importantly… keeping up to date with all the exciting new ones which are due to be released this year!

For lovers of period dramas – what do we have in store?! Well! A great deal…

Firstly, fans of The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald have a new adaptation to look forward to. Released Christmas 2012, this Hollywood version stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Carraway and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. I’m expecting a gorgeous adaptation of this classic American novel (see the trailer here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rARN6agiW7o ). Although being a HUGE Toby Stephens fan I fear my bias may mean that I think ultimately he will be play the better Gatsby… (Unfair? Maybe. Infact. Yes, definitely.)

In September, we have the Tolstoy masterpiece, Anna Karenina released, starring Keira Knightley in the title role. Supporting cast of Jude Law as her older husband, Aaron Johnson as dashing lover and Domnhall Gleeson as Levin (Bill Weasley in Harry Potter!) and many many more fantastic actors and actresses. I have to say this is one of my favourite novels. Ever. And I fear for the portrayal of these characters on screen (I have seen the 2000 Helen Mcrory version and the 1997 Sophie Marceau version and was sadly less than convinced…) – hopefully the sumptuous production and amazing cast will make it an enjoyable experience. I remain sceptical of the ability to cut down this wonderful novel into a tight Hollywood movie -style adaptation… (we shall see!) – if anyone has any good Tolstoy recommendations please do share!

For Henry James fans, we have a modern day adaptation (ok, so not technically a period drama, but I can’t miss off a James film – there are so few about!) of What Maisie Knew. This film is based on the 1897 novel by Henry James which focuses on Maisie, the young daughter of a pair of irresponsible and warring parents. The story surely translates so well into a contemporary setting with it’s depiction of a dysfunctional family and quite frankly I am so excited to see Julianne Moore and Alexander Skarsgard in this movie. More Henry James adaptations is all I can say (regardless of the era they are set in!!) See the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE4Q_7YNlAo

Another(!) Great Expectations will also be released in December, starring Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter (Voldemort and Bellatrix for HP fans!!) and Holiday Grainger and Jeremy Irvine as Estella and Pip. And as much as I love, love, love, this novel – I can’t help but wondering when we will get some other Dickens adaptations (Hard Times/Tales of Two Cities/Dombey & Son PLEASE?! Anyone else with me on this one?)

And finally… what I am most excited about (but which will not be coming until next year…) a biographical re-telling of Dickens’ secret love affair with actress Nelly Ternan starring Ralph Fiennes as Dickens and Felicity Jones as Nelly.

The screenplay is based on the biography ‘The Invisible Woman’ by Claire Tomalin (on my to-read pile!) and charts the intriguing love life of one of my favourite authors. Fiennes will no doubt be an amazing Dickens.. and Tom Hollander is also set to play Wilkie Collins – another of my all-time favourite authors (Dickens’ best friend and popular 19th Century novelist specialising in ‘sensation’ novels). – I have high expectations for this…!!

There are LOTS lots more (including the upcoming television dramas we have to look forward to – what would Sunday night be without some period drama excitement to keep us entertained?!) but I will curtail my enthusiasm for now and post again soon. If anyone has any exciting tips for me to look out for then please let me know!!

Aside

New Wuthering Heights Adaptation

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2011/oct/21/wuthering-heights-film-heathcliff

I’ve just been reading this article on the casting choice of Heathcliff for Andrea Arnold’s new adaptation of Wuthering Heights and I was really interested about people’s thoughts regarding James Howson as Bronte’s (anti?) hero.

Casting a mixed race actor in the role has never been done before, and this article seems to imply that this was Bronte’s original intention for the character of Heathcliff. Highlighting Bronte’s description of him as “dark-skinned gypsy” and a “lascar”, it could indeed be argued that the previous adaptations with Heathcliff played by actors like Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hardy and Laurence Olivier fail to fully portray what Bronte intended… However.. I’m not sure that I agree with this. Essentially what is important is the acting and the portrayal of the role (and as I’m a stickler, how close the adaptation sticks to the original plot!!) I think the  casting is an interesting choice and it highlights a racial dimension to the story which has perhaps been underplayed in other versions (although I don’t think this is necessarily all that overt in the actual text).

Interested to hear what other’s think. Definitely looking forward to watching this verson. Kaya Scodelario is cast as Cathy and I think she will be great! Trailer here for those who are interested : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoOuB9PAVug&feature=player_embedded Still not sure what my favourite version has been so far (and there have been so many!! over the last few years) – but there is always some room for more Bronte. (Although I would love love love an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette or Shirley instead of remaking the same novels.)

A re-read will definitely be in order before watching this! Also going to see We Are Three Sisters next month – a Chekhov inspired play about the life of the Bronte Sisters.. Can’t wait!!  http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/sep/14/we-are-three-sisters-review

Andrew Davies’ New Adaptation ‘South Riding’

Mr Davies is back, bringing to our screens an adaptation of Winifred Holtby’s novel ‘South Riding’. Set in 1930’s Yorkshire, the three part series focuses on the politics and romances of a fictional northern town. I for one am hugely excited about this drama (I love Sunday night period drama viewing!!) and the cast is fantastic. Anna Maxwell Martin plays the lead Sarah Burton, a spinster headmistress alongside David Morrissey as Robert Carne, a stern (but surely terribly charismatic?) farmer- two wonderful actors who have both wowed in past period pieces (Anna in Bleak House, David in Sense & Sensibility)- surely a match made in acting heaven?!

I haven’t yet read the novel the series is based on but I did see the recent guardian review: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jan/30/south-riding-winifred-holtby-review . It sounds like something I would really enjoy, maybe it is the “inevitable comparisons to Jane Eyre” which lured me in..! Don’t think I will have chance to grab and consume the novel before the series begins so may have to read post-watching. Either way, I am sure I am in for a treat..!!

As a slight aside, I am also looking forward to Davies’ other period project, a new screen adaptation of The Three Musketeers due to be released this year. It stars Matthew Macfadyen as Athos- need I say more..!?

The Many Faces of Mr Rochester

Soo……. as a huge Bronte fan, I am inordinately pleased we have another adaptation of Jane Eyre to look forward to this year! Michael Fassbender is a divine for choice for Rochester (though perhaps a little too young and handsome?!) but I thought I would pay homage to all the actors who have played the role before (and those who I *wish* had gotten the chance to play the role…

Toby Stephens is perhaps my favourite Rochester so far.. I thought the chemistry between him and Ruth Wilson was great, and he really had the brooding, surly-type acting down to perfection. Again, he was perhaps a little too handsome (or maybe I am biased?). Before Toby, we had Ciaran Hinds, who whilst is a good actor, was not for me the Rochester as I imagined.. maybe this was because this 1997 adaptation seemed so short and the characterisation wasn’t really strong? I don’t know. I just didn’t engage with the story as much (which is weird since I love the novel so wholeheartedly!)

 William Hurt in 1996 film version was a good choice; he definitely pulled off the role and casting him alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg was interesting! I have however only seen this version once before and don’t own it, so perhaps it should go on my ‘to-buy’ list..! I do have the 1983, BBC version which casts Timothy Dalton and this is another really good adaptation.. Dalton plays the part exactly as Bronte wrote it, and this series stays really close to the original novel.

And of course Orson Welles, who really set the standards high in 1943, pulling off a wonderful performance as Rochester alongside Joan Fontaine. I think this black and white version really captures the atmospheric, tense feel of the novel.

There are tons of other adaptations out there that I haven’t yet seen (though I would like to – you can never have too much Bronte!) Recommendations are greatly received. The 1973 BBC Adaptation with Michael Jayston could be interesting?

My personal choices (perhaps slightly inappropriate for Rochester) would have been Richard Armitage, Laurence Olivier, Jason Isaacs and Ralph Fiennes, among many others… Any other dream Rochesters?

Bronte Society Literary Competition

 Any Bronte lovers who are aspiring writers should definitely enter the Bronte Society’s Literary Competition. There are three entry categories : short stories, essays and poetry, and each entry must have a connection with the Bronte Sisters’ lives or works, or with people, places or objects connected with them. Which gives a huge scope….!

In each section first prize will be £500, second prize £250 and third prize £100. Also all entrants who are not already Society members will receive one year’s free membership of the Bronte Society(!)

Deadline for entries is 31st January 2011 so there is still a couple of months to have a crack at entering this competition. I am going to work on a short story, (although I usually find I have really trouble keeping the word count down!)

Anyone who is interested in entering should find out more information on www.bronte.org.uk – good luck!!!

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