There are so many delicious bits of trivia surrounding this film, it was difficult to decide which ones to feature. The more information surrounding the production I learned, the more I realized that there was some sort of serendipitous magic that came together to make it happen. Just one example of this is that Emma Thompson started writing the screenplay at the behest of Lindsay Doran four years before filming started. Thompson thought they might want to do Persuasion or Emma instead, but Doran insisted on Sense and Sensibility. Unbeknownst to either of them, productions of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Emma were also in the works resulting in the famous mid-90’s cluster of Austen Adaptations.
- Name an award won by this film or by one of its cast.
- Efford House, the location used for Barton Cottage was owned by which member of the Royal Family?
- What theme was repeatedly represented in the film?
- Which scene filmed between Elinor and Edward was cut?
- What issue with Colonel Brandon’s horse caused unexpected delays?
- What material was used to make the gold-colored collar trim and skirt border on Marianne’s Wedding gown?
- Who reassured Kate Winslet at the end of the first day of filming that she would “get better?”
- The sheep in the film were sheared sooner than planned. Why?
- Did Emma Thompson or Kate Winslet wear wigs?
- What technical issue nearly derailed the project before it was even cast?
Did you know an answer or two? Or all ten? Check your answers–or learn something new–below.
10.) It’s nuanced, but it’s there. Director Ang Lee wanted the film title, Sense and Sensibility, to be echoed throughout the film, literally and symbolically. In the DVD commentary, when Elinor and Marianne are first in the frame together, he points this out. Another example of this is when Marianne is climbing the hill that has a vertical and horizontal hedge that she is traversing diagonally. This was his “Sense and Sensibility” hill, each axis representing one ethic.
9.) Lost in Translation. Sense and Sensibility was Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s first English-language film. Prior to filming, Lee spent six months in England to immerse himself in the culture and mindset. Even with this preparation, there were initially some language barriers and cultural differences to overcome. One of these cropped up early in the filming when Thompson and Grant approached Lee with some ideas on how to better a scene. Although Lee gave them the go-ahead to try their ideas, he was deeply distressed by what was perceived as a challenge to his authority as the director, since this was not how actors and directors worked in Hong Kong. Lee was direct and often came across as severe, telling Thompson not to look so old, (he meant “knowing”) and not to walk so heavy. He also reassured Winslet at the end of the first day that she shouldn’t worry, that she would get better.
8.) Is this some sort of test? In the DVD commentary, Producer Lindsay Doran tells how she was sitting next to Prince Charles at the premiere. Upon seeing Efford House, used as the location for Barton Cottage, he turned to her and asked, “Where did you get that beautiful little cottage?” She informed him that it belonged to him.
7.) An ill wind. This debacle was mentioned on both DVD commentaries. Colonel Brandon’s poor horse had undergone a change in diet that resulted in excessive flatulence. One commentary blamed a change in brand of oats, the other blamed the Devonshire grass. The day was intermittently cloudy, so they already had the complication of needing to do each part of the scene at least twice – one in sun and the other with cloud-cover. Add to this the unpredictable, loud expulsions of gas emitted by Brandon’s mount and, well, conversations about the weather will certainly include mention of that wind.
6.) I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. The livestock used in the film were carefully selected using period appropriate attributes. This included the sheep, which were initially seen in the film with fully grown coats. The Dashwoods had moved to Barton Cottage during winter, so for the timeline, the sheep should have full coats. In reality, the scenes were being filmed in May, when the weather had warmed. Unfortunately, the sheep would get too hot at times and pass out, one right in the middle of a take. When this happened, they wouldn’t be able to stand themselves back up due to the weight of their fleece, requiring human intervention to get them back on their feet. The sheep were sheared and from that point on, shown from a distance.
5.) It’s a Major Award! The list of nominations and awards for this film is extensive. Some of the more notable ones are an Acadamy Award and Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, a BAFTA for Best Film, a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and Critic’s Choice Movie Awards for both Best Film, and Best Screenplay. Emma Thompson’s acceptance speech from the Golden Globes (start at 1:03) is particularly diverting.
4.) What would I give for hair like that? In order to achieve the curly-haired look of the sisters, the actresses’ hair was put in pin curls using their natural hair. Emma Thompson said that it was a two-hour job every morning to have her hair done in the style she sports throughout the film.
3.) Don’t tell Rumplestiltskin. According to detailed costume notes Marianne’s stunning wedding gown was trimmed with quite an ordinary material. Straw. Mixed amid the pearls and other bits of bling, the elegant, golden edges of the collar and skirt were made of straw.
2.) Credit where credit is due. Emma Thompson’s computer developed a problem while she was working on the script, and to her dismay, the file containing the screenplay had disappeared. Apple computer expert Stephen Fry was able to locate and retrieve the file. It took him seven hours, but he recovered years of hard work, earning him a spot in the film’s credit roll. A few rows below Steven, we see special thanks given to the fathers of Emma Thompson and Lindsay Doran. They said in the commentary that both of them lost their fathers early and that since this was a movie about women who had lost their father, they wanted to give them tribute, since their fathers had given them everything.
1.) Why must we always follow the rules? As with all films, not every scene that is written and filmed makes it to the final production. The studio insisted that there needed to be a kissing scene in the film, resulting in this lovely interaction between Elinor and Edward. It ultimately landed on the cutting room floor, having been deemed unnecessary and inappropriate for Austen’s day.
Well, how did you do on the challenge? Did you learn something new? Is there some bit of trivia I didn’t cover that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!
Quiz Answers: 1. There are too many correct answers to list. If you had an answer, it’s probably right. You can check your answer here. 2. Prince Charles. 3. Sense and Sensibility. 4. The kiss. 5. Flatulence. 6. Straw. 7. Director Ang Lee. 8. They were overheating because it was late spring. 9. No. 10. The screenplay file disappeared from Emma Thompson’s computer.