: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Dame Judi Dench Director
: Cary FukunagaGenre
: Drama, RomanceRated
: MRunning Time
: 120 minutesSynopsis
: In a bold new feature version of Jane Eyre, director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) and screenwriter Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe) infuse a contemporary immediacy into Charlotte Brontë's timeless, classic story. Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) star in the iconic lead roles of the romantic drama, the heroine of which continues to inspire new generations of devoted readers and viewers.
In the 19th Century-set story, Jane Eyre (played by Ms. Wasikowska) suddenly flees Thornfield Hall, the vast and isolated estate where she works as a governess for Adèle Varens, a child under the custody of Thornfield's brooding master, Edward Rochester (Mr. Fassbender). The imposing residence - and Rochester's own imposing nature - have sorely tested her resilience. With nowhere else to go, she is extended a helping hand by clergyman St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell of Focus Features' The Eagle) and his family. As she recuperates in the Rivers' Moor House and looks back upon the tumultuous events that led to her escape, Jane wonders if the past is ever truly past
Aged 10, the orphaned Jane (played by Amelia Clarkson) is mistreated and then cast out of her childhood home Gateshead by her cruel aunt, Mrs. Reed (Golden Globe Award winner Sally Hawkins). Consigned to the charity school Lowood, Jane encounters further harsh treatment but receives an education and meets Helen Burns (Freya Parks), a poor child who impresses Jane as a soulful and contented person. The two become firm friends. When Helen falls fatally ill, the loss devastates Jane, yet strengthens her resolve to stand up for herself and make the just choices in life.
As a teenager, Jane arrives at Thornfield. She is treated with kindness and respect by housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax (Academy Award winner Judi Dench). Jane's interest is piqued by Rochester, who engages her in games of wit and storytelling, and divulges to her some of his innermost thoughts. But his dark moods are troubling to Jane, as are strange goings-on in the house - especially the off-limits attic. She dares to intuit a deep connection with Rochester, and she is not wrong; but once she uncovers the terrible secret that he had hoped to hide from her forever, she flees, finding a home with the Rivers family. When St. John Rivers makes Jane a surprising proposal, she realises that she must return to Thornfield - to secure her own future and finally, to conquer what haunts both her and Rochester. Release Date
: August 11th, 2011Part 1 Jane Eyre - www.femail.com.au/jane-eyre.htm
As impressed as Michael Fassbender was by Mia Wasikowska, there was one actor in the cast who truly knocked him back on his heels. "Well, you know - the Dame," he marvels. "To find out that Judi Dench was in the cast...! Then you feel blessed just to be sitting in the green room talking. There's gold dust on her, and you hope that it might fall onto you when she passes by. I cherished our scenes together."
Michael Fassbender and Judi Dench joked around to keep spirits up while working in some of the colder and darker corridors of Haddon Hall. Mia Wasikowska was thrilled "to get to see how Judi Dench works."
Getting Judi Dench to play Thornfield's housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, was a coup for the production. It was a personal letter from Cary Joji Fukunaga that persuaded her to take the role. "When she said 'yes,' it made the process even more exciting," he notes. "Especially since we were bringing on someone who amounts to a cultural institution in the U.K. She is the epitome of gravitas and the mere idea - or, rather, fear - of working with her on-set made the challenge and joy of the project that much greater. What can you really say to someone who's made more films with more talented collaborators than I could ever hope to in a lifetime?"
The Oscar winner cites having read the novel "when Charlotte Brontë had just written it" and laughs before reminiscing, "I read it at school, I think. I've always thought it was a wonderful story. It stayed with me."
Judi Dench was therefore intrigued by the tone that the filmmakers were aiming for. She remarks, "This story has been done many times, but I felt that Cary Fukunaga had quite different, dark ideas about it - ones which I hope will excite people to read the book.
"The novel is quite ambiguous as to who knows what in Thornfield - does Mrs. Fairfax know the specifics of the secret of the house? There's this very romantic mystery to the story."
For the sequences revolving around romantic rivals to both Jane and Rochester, Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender were each reunited with actors they had previously played opposite - and in even colder climates. Rising star Imogen Poots, who had shared the sole low-key scenes with Michael Fassbender in Centurion, was cast as Blanche Ingram, Rochester's prospective fiancée; and Jamie Bell, whose character had courted Mia Wasikowska's in the fact-based WWII tale Defiance, would now be doing so again in the role of St. John Rivers.
In-between set-ups for his scenes with Mia Wasikowska, Bell could be found dazzling crew members with his ability to tap-dance on soggy wooden boarding that was barely keeping thick, wet mud at bay.
Mia Wasikowska offers, "Knowing somebody who you could have a laugh with in-between scenes balanced out the intensity of some of the material that we were playing out together on Jane Eyre. I don't think that I ever have as much fun working with anybody as I do with Jamie."
Bell takes care to point out that "from rehearsal rooms to walk-throughs on the set, Mia Wasikowska is willing to do the work to make it better and make it her own. I knew she would do justice to the role of Jane Eyre.
"As part of this film's exploring this story and these characters, you see the awkwardness and the energy of youth; Mia Wasikowska is a young person playing a young person, not a 28-year-old playing a girl. There is also some casting against the grain - especially me as a man of the cloth."
Michael Fassbender took note of how Bell incarnated "Sinjin" Rivers; "I liked the way Jamie brought an edge to St. John. He and I talked about it. He's the character as a man who has to keep his life so strictly regimented and controlled because he is afraid of what he's capable of doing."
Bell elaborates, "My take on St. John is that he is emotionally repressed. I believe that he considers it a weakness to express emotions. He makes choices out of pragmatism, rather than emotion; he is the antithesis of Rochester.
"Charlotte Brontë describes him in the novel as 'as inexorable as Death,' and that pretty much nails it. While the story to me is about a woman searching for her own self-respect and individuality in a world with barriers, Moira Buffini's screenplay brings all of the novel's themes and undercurrents together as Jane comes to the precipice of decisions about her life."
Like Mia Wasikowska, Poots was happy to be acting opposite a "familiar face, and Michael Fassbender is so kind. I had a teacher who helped me through a big sequence, which was singing an 1830s operetta. But for me, the horse-riding was more fun."
Poots also welcomed the chance to bring different shadings to her character, knowing that viewers familiar with the story are poised to see Blanche as "the stereotypical rival. In the novel, she registers as quite conniving.
"But I wanted to play her as more surprised and unsure about how things are turning out. She breaks formalities in terms of being too tactile with Rochester."
Tamzin Merchant and Holliday Grainger were cast as the sisters to Bell's St. John. Merchant notes, "I love being part of telling stories and my character, Mary Rivers, sees the story in everything. She's so imaginative. She is fascinated by Jane - and thrilled at the idea of this stranger coming in from the moors and into her close-knit family."
Grainger says, "Tamzin Merchant and Jamie and I bonded one afternoon with a guitar-and-song session. Our harmonies never really meshed, though."
Merchant clarifies, "The sisters' relationship is harmonious, but Holliday and I might have been a little off-key with our duet."
Grainger feels that "the Rivers siblings are close because their parents are gone and their home is remote, almost in the middle of nowhere. I made my character, Diana, maternal because she is the older sister. So she's sort of taken over the mothering role, and behaves that way immediately towards Jane while also being sisterly with her."
Neither can be said of Jane's aunt, Mrs. Reed. Golden Globe Award winner Sally Hawkins, who accepted the role, muses, "I think the most chilling people are the ones who wear the mask of a demeanor of niceness. Cary Fukunaga and I spoke about that early on, about how to make it unnerving with this character. I don't get to play the evil parts much, so this was a good opportunity for me as an actor.
"But Mrs. Reed is full of contradictions, and I feel sorry for her. Her anger and hatred come from feeling threatened by this little girl. There's a fire and intelligence in Jane that scares her aunt. However much Mrs. Reed tries to knock it out of her, Jane has more in her. Cary Fukunaga was very good at subtly ratcheting that up by degrees."
Hawkins took the initiative on research. She says, "I went to the National Portrait Gallery and looked at paintings from the time, studying the way women held themselves or sat, and what they did with their hands. I wanted to absorb the etiquette of the day."
Hawkins praises Amelia Clarkson as "brilliant, and able to summon real force in her emotions." Clarkson, along with Freya Parks and Romy Settbon Moore, is one of a cadre of child actors in the cast.
Cary Fukunaga remarks, "They may have had classical training or attend acting schools, but I found these U.K. child actors to be quite natural."
The director had worked with children before, and with non-professionals. Settbon Moore, who had never acted prior, was both. Cary Fukunaga took it all in stride, noting that "whether it was Romy or one of the older girls, it was about letting the kids play out scenes and then also giving them a little bit of direction."
Settbon Moore explains that she came to be in Jane Eyre as Adele, the orphan girl who takes to Jane being her governess, because "the casting agency sent an e-mail to my school looking for an 8-year-old girl speaking English and French. I did the audition with my friends, and I got called. Then I auditioned for young Jane. They found that I was a bit too young for that, so they chose me for Adele.
"Before every scene, Cary Fukunaga was really clear with me. I went over the movements, and I memorized the words, and I would do it. If Cary Fukunaga didn't like it, he would say, 'Actually, do it that way
' Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender were like new classmates. I would like to search for more roles in films."
Although too young to have read the book, Settbon Moore familiarised herself with the story in another way before the film shoot; "I saw the [Franco] Zeffirelli film [version]," she offers.
Parks and Clarkson are at the age where the story of Jane Eyre speaks directly to them. Cast as Jane's friend and inspiration Helen Burns, Parks sees her character as central "to the story's message of how things can change in life, and you must overcome them."
Clarkson, cast as Jane Eyre at age 10, says, "As a child, Jane goes through a lot. She has no deviousness in her at all, but she gets through everything. I tried to let all the emotions that Jane feels build up.
"When I got the script, I went through it with my grandma. I did Jane, and she did the other parts. I would read the script before going to bed, and go over how I would react in a situation and how to say the lines - what they meant, where to put the emphasis, and with the right Yorkshire accent."
Parks also worked on getting the right accent, and read through parts of the book with her grandmother. Her take on Helen was that "she is strong. Even when she is dying and I had to act weak, I knew that Helen would not cry. I cried afterwards.
"I also thought of all the gunk she would have in her lungs, and from pretending to cough as Helen I developed a cough myself."
Parks also reports that "when Amelia and I would rehearse she would put all the emotion into it, which was doing it right. [On the set,] Cary would tell us what he wanted to see, and have us say our lines in different ways."
Having spent time rehearsing and on-set together, Clarkson and Parks forged a close connection paralleling the one that sustains Jane. "Freya and I became close friends," reveals Clarkson. "Meeting her was the highlight of the shoot. So the toughest scene to do was the one where Helen dies."
"Those bonds that are created off-camera play out on-camera," notes Fukunaga.
Along those lines, at Pinewood Studios before shooting began, Clarkson sat with Cary Fukunaga and Mia Wasikowska so that the actresses could discuss their shared character with the director. "We went through my scenes," remembers Clarkson. "Mia Wasikowska played Aunt Reed, which was fun! She and I then walked around Pinewood and talked about what Jane goes through, and how lines would relate to different times in the story. It was like Mia Wasikowska had memorised the script."
Eyeing the bigger picture in another regard, Mia Wasikowska was inspired by the company and the locations to follow in the footsteps of such actors as Jeff Bridges and Peter Sellers by exercising photographic skills; she would have cameras on hand to avidly grab shots between scenes and set-ups.
She explains, "My parents are photographers and I grew up around cameras. I never thought it would be anything that I'd do, but in the last few years I've become interested in it - and I really love it. As an actor, you're constantly waiting until they're ready to shoot, so this is a release for me.
"I'd notice that we were on a period-set film, and there would be all this modern-day equipment trucked into a historic mansion."
That motif became one of the themes of her photographs; another was the concept of asking the subject to jump up in the air. Time and again, Mia Wasikowska captured cast and crew members seemingly suspended in mid-air, flying away from the surroundings and costumes.
So, who leapt best? No surprise; the onetime Billy Elliot did. Michael Fassbender reveals, "Jamie Bell gets five stars. His body control is pretty impressive." Directed and Dressed
On the set, Cary Joji Fukunaga was intent on allowing the cast freedom to explore their roles. Harry Lloyd, who plays Richard Mason, a man who has "a complicated history" with Rochester, reports that "Cary is the quiet eye of the storm. He'll come up to an actor and talk you through a particular bit; 'Try something like this.'"
Holliday Grainger notes, "I once worked with a director who told me to 'throw my thought to the left.' I said, 'Do you mean just look left?' There's none of that with Cary Joji Fukunaga; he'll tell it to you straight.
"On a lot of the scenes, he'll get in with the crew to work on the practical elements as well."
"I trusted him immediately," confides Sally Hawkins. "He is on it! I hope I work with him again."
"Cary Joji Fukunaga is a perfectionist," assesses Michael Fassbender. "You can see him trying to get the best out of every shot, every moment, every beat. He's got youth and enthusiasm behind him, and is strong in his views."
Adriano Goldman comments, "He always wants to be able to improvise - after we've done prep, wardrobe and make-up, and rehearsals, it's time to imagine, 'What is going to happen here?' I try to give him the freedom he needs."
Cary Joji Fukunaga, as he had on Sin Nombre, was concentrating on every part of what's on-screen - and taking nothing for granted. Jamie Bell took note of the director's way into one scene that "we all know from other adaptations of the story, where Jane is rescued and brought into Moor House. The way Cary filmed it was brilliant; it's all from her perspective, through her eyes. So we're with her in a real world, not 'a period piece.'"
Tamzin Merchant comments, "The way scenes are filmed, you feel that the camera is capturing moments rather than intruding. For the actors, it feels more fluid and natural than set-up."
Judi Dench found Cary Joji Fukunaga to be "gentle on the set. He also has a sense of humor, and I don't want to work with anybody who hasn't got that. If somebody has that, the returns are greater."
Alison Owen calls Cary Joji Fukunaga "incredibly pragmatic. He is calm, laid-back, but totally in command. He adapted quickly to a different way of working than on his earlier projects. I've been so impressed at how he will give a tiny little note on a take and it'll be beautifully judged, beautifully timed. Early on, I checked in with [film editor] Melanie Ann Oliver and said, 'What do you think of the footage?' She said, 'He's a proper filmmaker.' That's a lovely phone call for a producer to have."
Cary Joji Fukunaga was in turn impressed by his lead actress in particular. He comments, "Think about wearing 20-30 pounds of clothing, soaking wet in sub-freezing temperatures, and having to fall into puddles while also acting. Then think about doing that for two days straight. Those were our first two days of production and Mia Wasikowska never complained once, even though she almost passed out from near-hypothermia."
Extra weight or not, Mia Wasikowska regards the costumes as "the last pieces of the puzzle. They transform you. It's like stepping into the skin and feeling the character. I had worn a corset before, but this one was so restrictive. I couldn't even eat properly!
"The constriction of the corset helped me play Jane, and helped me recognise the repression women had to deal with in that era. When walking long distances or running, it was hard to breathe. Surprisingly, for as much fabric as there is, the costumes were not very warm."
Michael O'Connor notes, "We did shorten some dresses to a more practical length so that Mia Wasikowska would be mobile. All of Jane's undergarments, which encompassed many components, were a high-maintenance job. On-screen, you'll just see the dress; underneath, Mia Wasikowska is wearing a pair of pantaloons and long knickers, which are handmade. Then there's three petticoats which have got pleats in them - and they're handmade as well; the lining and the hems are all turned by hand - as they would have been back then."
For what we do see on Jane, O'Connor and his team chose shades of gray and shades of brown. "She's so often in the background, standing alone" he says. "So everything she has is subtle and quite plain, nothing too ostentatious. When Blanche Ingram, the opposite of Jane, arrives, the contrast is reflected in the costumes. In fact, with all of the other female characters' costumes, it's about how everyone else relates to Jane. Later, Jane's own costuming reflects how her situation is finally changing - bits of silk trim, nicer buttons, and better-quality fabric."
Michael O'Connor was even able to unify both on-screen Janes; although Mia Wasikowska and Amelia Clarkson have no scenes together, "there was a chance to put them in a shared fabric, a similar tone of color, for scenes when Jane goes to the same room as a child and again as an adult. Her character is formed quite young."
Michael Fassbender made several suggestions that Cary Fukunaga liked, among them that Rochester "would always be physically busy doing things - like gardening - just before scenes outdoors with Jane, so we'd prepare waistcoats and shirts together without jackets on, and know that we had to pay attention to the shirtsleeves," notes Michael O'Connor.
Hawkins reveals, "Michael enters into a collaboration with you. He'll see what works on you, wrap something around you - and the next thing you know there's this incredible dress and you can go into character."
Merchant muses, "The corset I wore apparently got my waist down to 22 inches. Waists aren't meant to be 22 inches!"
Judi Dench, who has spent more time in vintage and period costumes than the remainder of the cast combined, chalks it all up to experience. She states with authority, "Being given wonderful corsets to wear is so helpful - you're halfway there.
"Slouching? You don't have the option." Back to Brontë
Motivating the making of Jane Eyre was a collective love of Charlotte Brontë's novel, and a desire to share the story anew. By exploring the mystery, drama, and emotions of the original tale Jane Eyre draws a new generation towards Brontë's novel.
Alison Owen comments, "Jane Eyre is, in many ways, a social document. It provides a window on a period in British history that saw great changes in art, architecture, and fashion."
Moira Buffini adds, "Jane Eyre was considered a very radical novel in its time. Jane, a girl with no money and no status, perceives her equality with Rochester and will settle for nothing less. Despite every knock, she is keenly aware of her own value. Her cry of 'equal - as we are!' was a clarion call for the next century. No wonder we love this book; it enabled us to know our worth and to imagine freedom."
Cary Joji Fukunaga reminds, "Here is a young girl facing what in many ways they continue to face in today's society; finding emancipation and equality."
Adriano Goldman adds, "Since Brontë wrote a character who was ahead of her time, this period drama is actually very contemporary."
Imogen Poots notes, "The characters are multifaceted, with flaws - human, really."
Michael Fassbender elaborates, "What stand out in this story are the complexities of human nature; what people are capable of doing to one another and, all the things that aren't said. Relationships are hard, requiring both parties to give themselves up. That hasn't changed for people. We must continue telling stories like this one; they're classics for a reason."
As with any enduring work of storytelling, some will be coming to it for the first time; others will be revisiting it with subjectivity.
Owen states, "Jane Eyre has been my favorite book since I was a young girl. Most people read it when they're 12 or a little older. It tends to be a book for school, or one that girls' mothers give them to read. Readers at that age, especially girls, strongly identify with Jane - though she's a few years older, she's led a sheltered life. She's never really known the society of men or society at all. So this waking up to feelings she's never previously experienced helps to engage young readers in a way that has made the novel remain among the world's most popular books."
Indeed, the book is one that women find themselves "paying it forward;" Holliday Grainger recalls, "I was a teenager when I read the book. I'd read chapters while commuting. On a completely packed train, I finished it and started sobbing. It is one of my favorite books.
"When I was meeting with the movie's casting director [Nina Gold], I was telling her how much I loved the book. She told me that her daughter hadn't read it, and then went and got her daughter. She said to her daughter, 'Holly, tell her, tell her about this book.' I think I praised the book so well that her daughter then read it. Perhaps that's why I got the part..."
Sally Hawkins reflects, "When we read the book in my school, we were 15 years old and all feeling like Jane Eyre - and here was a story that focused on a teenage girl who is not necessarily the obvious heroine."
Tamzin Merchant adds, "Jane confronts emotions that weren't then being addressed by literary heroines. When I read the book as a teenager, I sat in my bedroom for four days and didn't want to be torn away from it. Brontë conveys a raw, concentrated humanity. Making this movie has been like stepping into the pages of the story."
As it happened, the film medium was how Fukunaga himself came to know the tale; his frame of reference was the 1944 Robert Stevenson movie starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.
He reveals, "My Mom was a big fan of that movie, so in turn I became one too, wearing out our VHS copy of it by the end of primary school; I really loved it
I'm obsessed with authenticity, so when the prospect of making my own version of it became reality, of course I had to read the book.
"It's a page-turner. And there are a lot of pages. A lot. Charlotte Brontë was no minimalist. The descriptions are hauntingly vivid throughout, all observations made from Jane's perspective with Charlotte's keen insight on the human spirit and, of course, wit. Even though I'd read Moira's script and was recalling the 1944 movie, there was essential ammunition in the prose - information that was invaluable for me as a director to create an overall feel in the film that would be faithful to the world Charlotte created for Jane Eyre."
Speaking as one who also came to the novel only recently and who sought to make the character her own, Mia Wasikowska assesses Jane Eyre as "timeless in her relevance - and her resilience. Instead of letting her situation grind her down, or becoming damaged, she becomes a stronger person. Jane always challenges herself and follows her gut feeling as well. She knows what's important for her to do. As hard as it might be, she gets on and does it."
When asked what audiences should take away with them from Jane's story, Mia Wasikowska states, "It is about having self-respect and finding self-fulfillment."