R. Williams Talks to Anne Hathaway and
Director Julian Jarrold of Becoming
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Becoming Jane - New York Movie
Premiere Arrivals - 7/24/2007
Landmark Sunshine Cinema
Photographed by PR Photos
Rabid Jane Austen fans (this writer included)
now have another room in their imagined Pemberley
doll houses, Julian Jarrold's new film Becoming
Jane tells the story of a supposed early
romance in the life of the never married Jane
Austen. It is a beautiful romantic story and
one that is worthy of Miss Austen herself.
I saw the film
and then attended the press roundtable where
we were able to talk with the star of the
film, Anne Hathaway, and the director, Julian
Here is my
review of the film (be sure to scroll down
for the interview):
and Anne Hathaway Dance in Becoming Jane
Photo Courtesy of MiramaxPublicity.com
Opens Friday, August 3, 2007
Anne Hathaway; James McAvoy; Julie Walters;
James Cromwell; Maggie Smith; Joe Anderson;
Lucy Cohu; and Anna Maxwell Margin.
by Wendy R. Williams
"A woman especially if she has the misfortune
of knowing anything, should conceal it as
well as she can." Jane
The cast and
crew of Becoming Jane took on a Herculean
task when they imagined and depicted an early
romance for Jane Austen. Their theory was
that Austen must have had some experience
with love that she used as inspiration for
the romanticism of her novels. And in telling
this tale, they had very few historical facts
with which to work. There are a few small
references to Tom Lefroy in the remaining
Austen letters (Austen’s sister Cassandra
burned most of Jane’s letters when Jane
died). Nevertheless, the filmmakers did not
simply tell a story of an imagined girlhood
crush, they told a story that is filled with
themes from Austen’s novels. So the
film's title, Becoming Jane, should
not be interpreted as to simply the film itself.
By telling this story, the creative team channeled
the spirit of Jane Austen and literally became
Here is a quote from the press release for
the film: “Becoming Jane, a
romantic drama starring Anne Hathaway (The
Devil Wears Prada), presents a fresh
and daring view of Jane Austen’s early
years. Set in the late 18th century, the film
portrays Austen’s encounters with the
modern, roguish young Irishman, Tom Lefroy
(James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland)
and imagines how their romantic encounter
could have influenced some of her most famous
novels that followed.”
Anyone who ventures to film one of Jane Austen’s
stories ventures into a drawing-room-minefield.
Austen has millions of fans to whom she is
their Jane Austen, a member of the family
of their heart. And these fans rigorously
defend the honor of their heroine and the
heroines of her novels by doing things such
as expelling a collective “Hmph”
when Kyra Sedgwick (playing the newly married
Lizzie Bennet) kisses Matthew Macfadyen (playing
Mr. Darcy) at the end of director Joe Wright’s
2005 Pride and Prejudice. (There
was no kissing in the book.)
Screenwriters Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams
had most definitely studied the Austen novels
and the viewer is quickly transported into
the world of Pride and Prejudice,
Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion.
It is all there: the marriage market; the
relationship between sisters; the romance;
the emphasis on character and responsibility;
and the suppressed carnality.
The Marriage Market:
Jane Austen was born into a world where women
of her class had only one option and that
was to marry well. There were no colleges
to attend; a smart young girl like Jane Austen
could not even become a school teacher. And
marrying well did not just require looks and
charm, it required money. Austen’s novels
are filled with details of this marriage market.
No character is introduced without another
character whispering just exactly what their
income is in pounds per year. And in this
world, a man or woman who ignored these monetary
realities and married for love alone would
not only consign themselves to financial ruin,
they could easily take their families with
Jane Austen had a sister Cassandra to whom
she was devoted. Cassandra’s fiancé
died before they could be married and Cassandra
remained unmarried and Jane’s confidante
throughout their lives. This relationship
between Austen and her sister was surely the
basis for the relationships between Elinor
and Marianne Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility
and Lizzie and Jane Bennet in Pride and
Prejudice. Having a sister must have
been a comfort to Austen in her life and writing
the character of the sister in her novels
gave the Austen’s heroines someone in
whom to confide and thus let us (the readers)
see their hearts.
One of the reasons I believe that Jane Austen’s
novels are so beloved is that the heroines
conduct their romantic life with honor. They
behave the way that we (the readers) wish
we had behaved in matters of the heart, always
choosing the higher path and forever remaining
a lady. And in this imaginary story, Jane
Austen does not disappoint. Jane is shown
to be magnificent a character, as memorable
as the beloved Lizzie Bennet of Pride
and Responsibility: Jane Austen had
a keen eye for human foibles and she gave
this eye to her heroines. She also gave them
an overwhelming sense of responsibility for
their families. Elinor Dashwood (Sense
and Sensibility) shoulders the burdens
of her family. Anne Elliot (Persuasion)
forgoes a romance with the poor but dashing
Captain Wentworth so she can take care of
her irresponsible father and sister. And in
Becoming Jane, we see the genesis
of Jane Austen’s characters' character;
it is the soul of Jane Austen.
In Jane Austen’s world carnality does
exist but it is off on the sidelines of the
stories - a thunder off in the distance. In
Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon’s
ward becomes pregnant while unwed. In Pride
and Prejudice, Lydia was certainly doing
something she was not supposed to do when
she ran off with Wickham. But in the film
Becoming Jane, we see the carnality
of the time. Jane Austen grew up on a working
farm where she was surely exposed to the reality
of sex. People had huge families and just
where did all those pigs come from any way?
In the film, we see LeFroy in a whorehouse,
jumping into a river stark naked and in the
scene where he first meets Jane, he reads
a highly erotic passage from a nature book
to her and quickly suggest that she read Tom
Jones. Rabid Janites will undoubtedly
be put off by some of this baseness. They
may prefer to continue to view their Jane
as a string of pearls on a white lacy dollie.
But any sensible person must realize that
Jane Austen herself must have been exposed
to the realities of sex, if not to the act
of sex itself.
So how did our filmmakers do? To quote a character
from an Austen novel, “Very well, indeed.”
The film is
charming, poignant and fun, just like the
Austen novels. The viewer is quickly transported
back into 18th century England with the beautiful
shabby chic homes. It is a time when people
had time to visit and talk and village life
was a social life.
And the romance
between Jane and Lefroy is beautifully told.
Jane Austen is depicted as a fearless heroine,
a lady who knows her own heart and mind. And
she has a worthy romantic interest in the
irascible Irishman, Tom Lefroy. Theirs is
a romance of both the mind and heart. And
it is a romance that could so easily have
gone a less honorable way because Lefroy certainly
shows the capacity to be a cad like Wickham
in Pride and Prejudice, but he becomes
much more when he falls both in lust with
Jane and in love with her mind.
All of the actors do superb jobs playing their
roles. Anne Hathaway plays a beautiful spirited
Jane Austen. James McAvoy plays a roguish,
sexually attractive Tom Lefroy. And the films
boast an amazing supporting cast: Julie Walters
as Jane’s mother; James Cromwell as
her father ; Maggie Smith as Lady Gresham
(a Lady Catherine De Bourg-like character).
Director Julian Jarrold is certainly to be
commended for helming this beautiful film.
Anne Hathaway in Becoming
Photo Courtesy of
The Interview with
Question about how she felt
taking on the challenge of portraying a literary
Hathaway: The terror was incalculable;
the pressure was intense [to get it right].
But I viewed it as a chance to show a women
who had only been seen as an icon and make
her flesh and blood. The standard bio is that
she lived in Hampshire, never married and
wrote five books. But Jane Austen was a lot
more fun than people [are willing to] give
her credit for.
Question about whether “the
fans” were opposed to her even being
cast as Jane Austen.
Hathaway: From what I understand, there
was some resistance to my being cast –
the girl from the Princess Diaries
playing Jane Austen? But I first read Jane
Austen’s novels when I was fourteen.
Her work transports so many different layers
that you can’t help but analyze it.
Persuasion became my favorite of
the Jane Austen novels.
Question about how she felt
using an English accent in a cast filled with
famous English actors.
Hathaway: I was going to be surrounded
by English actors so I moved to England for
a month to work on the accent. The first time
I spoke to Julie Waters, she kindly said “Oh,
you’ve already gotten it and we have
a week and a half to go [before the start
Question about the dancing
scenes in Becoming Jane. There are
some beautiful scenes of the so-called “country”
dancing (which actually looks quite formal)
in Becoming Jane.
Hathaway: I am a trained dancer; I
studied for thirteen years. The first take
was hysterical with people falling and bumping
into each other. I think it will be on the
Question about how hard
it was to do the calligraphy in the scenes
where Jane is shown writing.
Hathaway: I really studied calligraphy
so I could do it in the film, but in the end,
it was done with a hand double.
Question about doing research
for her roles.
Hathaway: I am an absolute card-carrying
geek. I love research.
Question about what she
is surprised about the most about her career.
Hathaway: I am terribly surprised that
I keep getting asked back. I am living in
a stratosphere that I find very surprising.
I have worked with some extraordinary directors
and [it is wonderful to be able to say] these
people believed in me. Gary Marshall (Princess
Diaries) was the best first director
to have. He saw raw talent and edited the
film to make me look good. Ang Lee (Brokeback
Mountain) believed in me and thought
I could do more and move away from the Princess
Diaries. Julian [Jarrold, the director
of Becoming Jane] gave me the freedom
Question about whether she
has any regrets about not finishing college.
Hathaway: I’m twenty-four; I
am too young to have regrets. Don’t
count me out of finishing school but I am
very proud of the things I have done instead
of finishing school.
Questions about how she
deals with the paparazzi and what keeps her
Hathaway: Part of it is just me not
being an asshole. I come from a very well-grounded
Questions about which films
she will be in next.
Hathaway: I am actually in a very lucky
situation because I am sitting on three movies
that have yet to be released (Becoming
Jane had not been released at the time
of this interview). I have two other films
coming out: Get Smart with Steve
Carel; (directed by Peter Segal]) and Passengers
with Patrick Wilson (directed by Rodrigo Garcia).
And I have just been cast in Jonathan Demme’s
Dancing with Sheba; Debra Winger
plays my mother
Question about if there
is a [Screen Actors Guild] strike, are you
planning to perform in a theatrical production.
Hathaway: My people are looking for
something for me right now. I would be willing
to do anything – musicals, straight
play, tap dancing? I would love to play Sally
Bowles (Cabaret). My big dream is
to be in My Fair Lady.
The Interview with
Julian Jarrold was chosen
to direct the first Jane Austen (the story
of Jane Austen herself) movie for what at
first glance seems to be a very peculiar reason;
he had done such a magnificent job directing
Kinky Boots, a film about a down-at-its-luck
English shoe factory which becomes revitalized
when it begins producing hot boots for transvestites.
But anyone who sees Boots will immediately
see why. Kinky Boots, kinky name
or not, is a film about a family of friends
(boot makers and trannies alike) who pull
together to save everyone’s livelihoods.
Question about casting an
American as Jane Austen.
Jarrold: Some of the Jane Austen fans
were cautious before they saw the movie. But
I was looking [to cast] people who had not
performed in period pieces before. I wanted
to case someone different in the cast to liven
it up. In England, people have this perception
that Jane Austen was a forty year old spinster
sitting on the couch spouting witticisms.
Question about the sources
the screenwriters [Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams]
used when they were writing the script. What
basis did they have for developing the story
about Jane’s possible romance with Tom
Jarrold: Jane’s sister Cassandra
burned most of her letter after Jane died.
Supposedly Jane was quite rude about people
in her letters and Cassandra was a more conservative
character than Jane. But we do know that in
the last year of Lefroy’s life he was
asked if he was in love with Jane Austen and
he said he was but it was calf love.
Question about whether he
is a Janite and does he have a favorite novel.
Jarrold: It would be Sense and
Question about his transvestite
film, Kinky Boots.
Jarrold: Kinky Boots was actually
an unusual choice and more of departure for
me. [For example] I had done the TV version
of Great Expectations.
I have tried to do period
dramas that have pushed the envelope. Becoming
Jane is the most romantic film I have
James McAvoy in Becoming
Photo Courtesy of MiramaxPublicity.com
Question about the casting
of James McEvoy as Tom Lefroy.
Jarrold: I wanted someone who could
bring likeability to a cocky character and
McEvoy had the natural charm to skate through
the tricky areas where the audience might
not like him.
My biggest challenge in
directing Becoming Jane was recreating
the 18th Century. Anne Hathaway spent a month
at the library reading the remaining letters
and becoming steeped in that world.
It took [all of us] a lot of time to get it
Question about whether there
some deleted scenes that are not in the movie.
Jarrold: Yes, there are some very good
scenes [that did not make the cut], but you
have to be tough with your children.
Question about why the film
was shot in Ireland?
Jarrold: Three reasons: money; architecture;
and landscape. Ireland has great houses that
are less done up. Hampshire is now so perfectly
pruned it is no longer authentic looking for
Question about what
he is doing next.
I am halfway through filming
a version of Brideshead Revisited
with Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon. I am
a complete fool I know [to recreate a classic
like Brideshead Revisited]. But each
generation brings its own perspective. No
one worries about this in the theater [restaging
great plays]. There are multiple productioins
of King Lear.
Many thanks to Anne
Hathaway and Julian Jarrold for talking with
New York Cool.