When making Sense and Sensibility in 2008, Andrew Davies knew the bar of excellence was high. Ang Lee’s 1995 film was beloved, with stellar performances and breathtaking cinematography. There was also his 1995 series of Pride and Prejudice, which meant the expectations for him to deliver an adaptation that would be of the same par. He aimed to make viewers forget Ang Lee’s production. He infused the film with overt sexual tension and physicality that enhanced the romantic dimension of the already epic journeys of the Dashwood sisters.
- How did the screenwriter, Andrew Davies, glean fresh material for scenes in this adaptation?
- What instrumental anachronisms are found in the soundtrack?
- What real-life hobby of Mark Williams, who played Sir John Middleton, factors in a scene with Colonel Brandon?
- What was the Jane Austen Society’s position on this adaptation?
- What health issue did Dan Stevens, who played Edward Ferrars, suffer from during most of the filming schedule?
- What is the age difference between David Morrissey and Charity Wakefield, who played Brandon and Marianne?
- What were the names of Margaret’s goldfish?
- Which modern-day television character was the model for Henry Dashwood?
- Which scene does Dan Stevens claim Andrew Davies’ isn’t truthful about?
- In which scene did Marianne, played by Charity Wakefield, do her own stuntwork?
Are you ready to see how you did? Here we go!
10.) Not everyone loved it. The Jane Austen Society called the adaptation “too raunchy,” and accused Andrew Davies of degrading fine English literature. The is presumably due to Willoughby’s seduction of Colonel Brandon’s ward in the opening scene of the series.
9.) Misery boosted by misery. Dan Stevens’ performance was an involuntary demonstration of the effectiveness of method acting. He suffered from tonsilitis during much of the filming schedule. Most of his scenes during his bout were characterized by his character, Edward Ferrars’, emotional suffering over his secret engagement. Being unwell comes across believably in these scenes as personal anguish.
8.) True to Austen’s ages. Actors for the production were deliberately cast to be the same ages as their counterparts in the novel. The choice was intended to infuse an extra layer of authenticity to the characters. In the novel, Colonel Brandon is 16 years older than Marianne, which is the same age gap we see between Charity Wakefield and David Morrissey.
7.) How to get water from a stone. To remain faithful to the novel yet extract a fresh take on it, Davies looked to references of events and backstory that Austen lightly touched on through dialogue and turned them into scenes. This approach was the genesis of such scenes as the seduction of Brandon’s ward, the duel between Brandon and Willoughby, and the tour Willoughby gave Marianne of Allenham.
6.) Goldfish in a bowl. We first meet Margaret’s goldfish in the carriage as the Dashwoods are in transit from Norland to Barton Cottage. The aquatic pets were the idea of the set designer who noticed pet goldfish in a period painting. They were dubbed “Starsky and Hutch” by Lucy Boynton, the actress who played Margaret.
5.) What’s up with Henry Dashwood? Andrew Davies decided to model young Henry Dashwood after the Southpark character of Cartman. Much effort went into coming up with a Georgian equivalent of Cheesy Puffs.
4.) The conversations of men. In Austen novels, there are no scenes written exclusively between men. She felt that she had no insight into how those conversations would go down. In Sense and Sensibility, several scenes between just men were incorporated to inform the viewers of their characters and establish them as worthy men. Scenes such as when Brandon confronts Willoughby regarding his intentions toward Marianne as well as the duel between them are there to show Brandon’s sense of honor and reflect his status as a man of action. The scene depicted below was proposed by Mark Williams, a historical gun enthusiast, who plays Sir John Middleton. In the DVD commentary, it was pointed out that only one of the men in this scene knew how to hold the gun properly.
3.) Were you paying attention to the soundtrack? Unlike Davies’ production of Pride and Prejudice, which featured era-appropriate music, modern elements were incorporated into the musical soundtrack of Sense and Sensibility. An electric guitar was used to emphasize Colonel Brandon’s energy and strength when he is riding, and electronic music was used during the scene where Willoughby gives Marianne a tour of Allenham, adding to the surreal, fairy-tale-like feeling of the scene.
2.) Stuntastic fall. A stuntwoman was on set, ready to take the fall for Marianne in the scene where Marianne falls and injures her ankle. Charity Wakefield, however, had other ideas and insisted that she wanted to do it herself, and so she did. As a side-note, the costumer was delighted to see that the clover was pink, and matched her dress in this scene.
1.) Andrew Davies’ obsession with wet-shirts. If you’re familiar with the story behind the wet-shirt scene in Pride and Prejudice, you know that the original screenplay was written with Darcy jumping into the pond in his birthday suit. After objections were made to the nudity, they dialed it back, and the famous “wet-shirt” scene was born. Fast forward to Sense and Sensibility and the original screenplay was written with Edward bare-chested as he chopped wood. When the day came to film the scene, however, it was raining, eliminating the reason a man would chop wood sans shirt. It was filmed with Dan Stevens wearing a shirt, which was dampened by the rain. In both cases, the wet-shirt scenes Davie’s happily claims were his idea were not his initial intent. Score: Skins – 0, (Wet) Shirts – 2.
If you’re still reading, thanks for that. The only way to top it now is to leave a comment. How did you do on the challenge? Are you aware of any other trivia I didn’t include that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!
Quiz Answers: 1.) He took events mentioned in conversation and turned them into scenes. 2.) Electric guitar and electronic music. 3.) Williams is a historical gun enthusiast. 4.) It was “too raunchy.” 5.) Tonsillitis. 6.) Sixteen years. 7.) Starsky and Hutch. 8.) Cartman from Southpark. 9.) Wood Chopping Scene. 10.) The fall where she twists her ankle.