In the mid-nineties, an uncoordinated high-tide of Austen adaptations hit the screens in wave after wave of Regency (and modern) delights. Some were rich multi-episode series, others, cinematic masterpieces meant to be viewed on the big screen. The 1995 production of Persuasion was at the fore of this trend that nurtured a new generation of Austen fans who embraced the discovery of Jane Austen’s brilliance with fervor. Today’s Trivia Challenge post unearths a number of interesting facts that are bound to surprise and delight. Take the quiz and read on for the answers.
- What article of clothing was worn in both the 1995 and 2007 productions of Persuasion, first by Amanda Root and then by Sally Hawkins, each portraying Anne Elliot?
- The scenes for this adaptation were filmed in what unusual but logical order?
- Sheldon Manor, near Chippenham, Wiltshire, England, was used as the location for the great-house at Uppercross. What other Austen adaptation features this location?
- How did the first viewing of this adaptation differ in the United Kingdom from the first viewing in the United States?
- Which Austen adaptation in production at the same time, nearly cast actress Amanda Root in a major role, which would have prevented her from portraying Anne Elliot in Persuasion?
- Two iconic images, one in the opening scene and the second in the closing were taken from stock footage from a 1980’s film. What was the primary object in both scenes?
- What common cinematic lighting technique was eschewed in the making of this production?
- This was the last film production credit for Susan Fleetwood, who portrayed Lady Russell. Why?
- Which scene was not in the original script, but was eventually added due to pressure from backers?
- Sophie Thompson, who portrays the hypochondriac Mary Musgrove in Persuasion 1995, was cast in a supporting role in another Austen adaptation the following year. Which Austen film character did she play in 1996?
There a few fairly easy questions thrown into the mix today, so I’m hoping you got at least a couple answers right. Yes, good guesses count. So how did you do? Read on for the 10 fun facts behind today’s challenge:
10.) Where fictional worlds collide. We are accustomed to adaptations of the same Austen work taking us to different locations to represent the same home. What is unusual for different adaptations of the same novel to select the same location, but Sheldon Manor, Chippenham, Wiltshire, England serves as the filming location of the Great House at Uppercross in both the 1995 and 2007 adaptations of Persuasion. The exterior shots are taken from different perspectives, and you wouldn’t necessarily recognize that it is the same house if it weren’t for the handy IMDB locations database entry.
9.) Which scene was shot first? How many times have we seen cast interviews where the first scene that was shot was in the middle or even the end of the film? Not so with this production. The scenes were shot in chronological order, a decision that supported Amanda Root’s gradual transformation from the faded spinster-sister to the lovely, blooming young wife we see by the end of the film. As her hope and happiness is gradually restored, we see it in her clothing, her posture, her hair, her face, and every aspect of her demeanor.
8.) Low Budget trick. The film is bookended by two ships, the first is seen during the opening credits, where Admiral Croft’s ship is in the distance as his crew rows to it in a longboat. The second is in the final scene, it supposedly being the ship Captain Wentworth is commanding with his new bride at his side, as they sail off into the sunset. The scenes are brief, and it would have certainly been an extravagance to put ships (of which there are not many left) in the water for 30 seconds of footage of ships. Both ships are actually of stock footage borrowed from the 1984 film, The Bounty.
7.) The “kiss-me, my cousins are Irish” spencer. The costume department for both productions selected the same pale-green spencer with cream-colored cuffs and lapels for the scene in which Anne was blessed with an on-screen kiss from Captain Wentworth. Amanda Root wears it when she follows the Captain out onto the street in Bath after she reads his letter, Sally Hawkins wears it in the final scene when her new husband surprises her with tenancy at Kellynch Hall as a wedding present. And that’s no Blarney.
6.) Hems not quite six-inches deep in mud. Producers wanted the film to feel real and lived-in, so natural lighting, (sunlight and candles), no makeup, and lived-in costumes complete with wrinkles, grime, mud on the hems, and salt on the uniforms were standard throughout.
5.) Lady Russell’s swan song. The actress who played Lady Russell, Susan Fleetwood, passed away just 5 months after the release of Persuasion. She had battled ovarian cancer for a decade.
4.) Transformed from the small to the big screen. Shown on television in England as episode 3 of season 11 in the Screen Two series, Persuasion was first seen as a theatrical release in the rest of the world. In America, under the Sony Pictures Classics label, the cinematic release was lukewarm, it was the first ripple of multiple waves of Austen adaptations that would follow in its wake. Later showings of it in the Masterpiece Classics arena renewed interest in the production, ultimately putting it in third place in the pack–both with critics and audiences, exceeded in popularity only by Pride and Prejudice 1995, and Sense and Sensibility.
3.) Sister to a Thompson, either way. Amanda Root, the Anne Elliot of Persuasion 1995 was a strong contender for the role of Marianne Dashwood in the 1995 production of Sense and Sensibility. She even read the part in an early read-through of the S&S script. Ang Lee and Emma Thompson wanted Amanda Root for that part, but conflicting film schedules made playing both parts impossible. So, instead of performing as sister to Emma Thompson’s Elinor Dashwood, she was sister to Sophie Thompson’s Mary Musgrove. Emma and Sophie Thompson are sisters in real-life, so it’s like some kind of twisted love-triangle, but with sisters.
2.) Where have I seen that face before? Actress Sophie Thompson was cast in Persuasion 1995 as Anne Elliot’s pouty, hypochondriac younger sister, Mary Musgrove. Her youthful appearance was set-aside in the following year when she dazzled us as the ridiculous town spinster, Miss Bates, in Emma 1996. She wasn’t the only cast member to take a second run at an Austen character in the ’90s. We also see Victoria Hamilton, who portrayed Henrietta Musgrove, as Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park 1999.
1.) PDA in a British film? Perish the thought…or not. The original screenplay did not include a kiss at all, let alone on a public street, but one of the backers, PBS affiliate WGBH Boston pressed for a kiss. The scene was initially filmed to meet that demand, and was only going to be included in the American distribution of the film. The director, Roger Michell, liked the romantic scene so well, however, that he ultimately left that lip-lock in the British version too.
Wasn’t that fun? How did you do on the quiz? Did you learn anything new today? Did you like how I saved the best one for last? We would love to hear your comments, and if you know of any trivia points to add to this collection, now is a fantastic time to share your knowledge. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Quiz Answers: 1.) A green spencer with cream cuffs and lapels. 2.) Chronological order. 3.) Persuasion 2007 as Uppercross. 4.) It was first seen on television in the UK and in theaters in the US. 5.) Sense and Sensibility. 6.) Ships. 7.) Artificial lighting. 8.) She passed away 5 months after the release. 9.) The kiss on the street in Bath. 10.) Miss Bates, (Emma.)