donderdag 14 januari 2016

Emma Thompson -- 15 januari 1995

• Emma Thompson (1959) is een Britse actrice. In 1995 hield ze een dagboek bij tijdens de opnames van Sense and Sensibility, een film naar het boek van Jane Austen, van regisseur Ang Lee.

Production meeting in Oxford Street on a raw wintry morning on Monday 15 January 1995. Lindsay Doran (producer), James Schamus (co-producer), Ang Lee (director) and I had met previously this month to discuss the latest draft of the script, which is what we're all here to work through. Tony Clarkson (locations manager) and Laurie Borg (co-producer) already know one another but this is the first time the core personnel of the shoot have met to prepare.
Lindsay goes round the table and introducés everyone - making it clear that I am present in the capacity of writer rather than actress, therefore no one has to be too nice to me. It's 9 a.m. and everyone looks a bit done in. Except Ang, who brings self-contained caim wherever he goes. Just looking at him makes me feel frazzled in comparison, as though all my hair's standing on end.
Our first point of discussion is the hunt (during which, in this version, we witness the accident that kills Mr Dashwood). Where do we get a hunt? It seems to require at least twenty-five male stunt riders — or we hire a real hunt, like the Beaufort which was used on The Remains of the Day. Ang wants villagers and labourers watching and to see the fox being chased. My idea is to start the film with an image of the vixen locked out of her lair which has been plugged up. Her terror as she's pursued across the country. This is a big deal. It means training a fox from birth or dressing up a dog to look like a fox. Or hiring David Attenborough, who probably knows a fewfoxes well enough to ask a favour. Laurie finally says it's impossible.
What Ang wants next is even more expensive: he's desperate for a kitchen scène in Norland Park (home to the Dashwoods - to be filmed at Saltram House in Devon) which would show the entire staff of Norland preparing a huge meal. I want a bleeding Mr Dashwood to be brought in through the kitchen door and laid on the table surrounded by all the raw joints of meat. As Ang and I enthuse about symbolism, Laurie gently reminds us of expense. These are costly scènes and the film hasn't even started.
I look around the table and realise — perhaps for the first time — that it's actually going to happen. After five years' work on the script {albeit intermittent), the sense of released energy is palpable. There are budgets, an office and several real people here. I glaze over for a second, in shock. Pulled out of rêverie by James asking, yet again, what physical activities can be found for Elinor and Marianne. Painting, sewing, embroidering, writing letters, pressing leaves, it's all depressingly girlie. Chin-ups, I suggest, but promise to think further.
We start to work through the entire script, adding, subtracting, bargaining, negotiating, trying to save money where ver we can. We get to the ballroom sequence and I suggest that we create several vignettes that occur in the background - a rich old rake forcing his attentions on a young girl whose greedy father affects not to notice, a fat matriarch surrounded by sycophantic cousins — a Cruikshankian taste of nineteenth-century greed and hypocrisy. More expensive than simply filling the room with extras but much more interesting. Laurie's eyes roll but he agrees that it's worth the effort and money.
I have a notion that it rnight be nice to see Colonel Brandon tickling trout - something to draw Marianne to him. Tickling trout is a mysterious old country method of catching trout; you tickle their tummies and when they're relaxed you whip them out of the water. I ask Laurie if it's possible to get trained fish. Lindsay says this is how we know I've never produced a movie. She tells us that two of her friends had read the script and thought Pd invented the pregnancy of Brandon's family ward for shock value. It's surprising to find such events in Austen, but after all, how many people know that there's a duel in Sense and Sensibility} When Lindsay asked me to adapt the novel I thought that Emma or Persuasion would have been better. In fact there's more action in S & S than Pd remembered and its elements translate to drama very effectively. We get to the end of the script by 3.20 p.m. and Lindsay says, 'Can we afford the movie we just described?' It's a long, complex script and the budget is pushed to the limit. James is most worried about the number of shooting days. Doesn't seem enough. (In the event, our fifty-eight days stretched to sixty-five.)
Wander out into Oxford Street slightly dazed. 'See you in April,' I say to Laurie. Now everyone goes their separate ways to continue prep. Ang and James return to New York and work on budget and schedule from there. Lindsay returns to LA to produce and I go to West Hampstead and switch the computer on. Another draft . . .

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