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Peter T Chattaway

Great Expectations (2012)

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Links to our thread on Charles Dickens, where this film was mentioned back in August 2009, and Mister Pip (in development), which is sort of a spin-off of Great Expectations.

Links to our threads on previous Mike Newell films Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010).

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Mike Newell to Helm 'Great Expectations' Adaptation
LONDON -- Mike Newell is gearing up to direct a fresh take on Great Expectations, based on the book by Charles Dickens.
Newell plans to direct the feature, which will be part of a year-round celebration of Charles Dickens's bicentenary in 2012.
Newell's take will be produced by Oscar-winning producer Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen. It details the story of a humble orphan who winds up as a gentleman following the largesse of an unknown benefactor. . . .
Hollywood Reporter, February 7

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'War' star Irvine meets 'Expectations'

Exclusive: Jeremy Irvine, the British thesp handpicked by Steven Spielberg to star in "War Horse," is in negotiations to play the lead character of Pip in Mike Newell's adaptation of the classic Dickens novel "Great Expectations," while Helena Bonham Carter is also in talks to play Miss Havisham.

Scribe Rowan Joffe is adapting the story of an orphan who becomes a distinguished gentleman through an unknown benefactor. Production is expected to start this fall and pic is slated for a 2012 release as part of a year-round celebration of Dickens' bicentenary.

Previous adaptations of "Great Expectations" include David Lean's in 1946, Alfonso Cuaron's in 1998 and Julian Jarrold's Masterpiece Theatre version in 1999. . . .

Variety, April 14

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Gina   

HBC will be just fine, I think, though I was longing for Maggie Smith. As for Irvine, I haven't seen him in anything, but from the sound of it, neither have any other filmgoers yet!

I'm wondering why Rowan Joffe is getting credit for the adaptation. Last I heard, it was by David Nicholls. And it won some sort of award for best unmade screenplay, so I'm wondering why they would suddenly bring in another writer.

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Gina wrote:

: HBC will be just fine, I think . . .

Heh. Where I come from, HBC stands for "Hudson's Bay Company", otherwise known as the department-store chain The Bay. :)

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And it won some sort of award for best unmade screenplay, so I'm wondering why they would suddenly bring in another writer.

Even award-winning screenplays get rewritten after they're purchased by a studio. There are always tweaks to be made, tweaks that the studio, director, or cast desire.

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Will Ralph join the convict classes?

Ralph Fiennes has been approached to play the mysterious Magwitch in a new, big-screen version of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.

At the moment, the actor is simply in talks about being in the film, which will be directed by Mike Newell. . . .

Rooney Mara, who has a pivotal role in the Facebook movie The Social Network and plays the lead in the English-language version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, had been in early negotiations to play cold-hearted Estella, but there was a scheduling conflict, so she’s not doing it. . . .

Baz Bamigboye, Daily Mail, April 23

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Gina   

I hope they find a really good Estella. She's a pretty fascinating character, but a lot of the portrayals have disappointed me. The prettiest and most enchanting Estella I've seen was Jean Simmons, and she wasn't even in the whole film -- she only played her as a teenager.

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Tyler   

I hope they find a really good Estella. She's a pretty fascinating character, but a lot of the portrayals have disappointed me. The prettiest and most enchanting Estella I've seen was Jean Simmons, and she wasn't even in the whole film -- she only played her as a teenager.

First thought when I read this: Gene Simmons?

gene_simmons_kiss_makeup.jpg

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NBooth   
Pip (I can't post the photo here for some reason)

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NBooth   

That's the one. Obviously my messageboard powers are weak.

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NBooth   

A new ending?[spoilers? Well...not exactly]

The new film, directed by Mike Newell and starring Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham and Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, is likely to generate the most Victorian hot air.

It cranked up yesterday when screenwriter David Nicholls said the scenes in which Pip meets Miss Haversham will be “a bit like going to see Hannibal Lector”. The film will be approached "like a thriller".

The heartbreaker Estelle will be a "femme fatale" and, most contentiously, Nicholls revealed that he has “come up with an ending that isn’t in the book".

A new ending for Great Expectations. What chutzpah. What a way to give traditionalists the pip.

[snip]

"Dickens came up with two endings - one which is incredibly bleak and one which is unrealistically romantic and sentimental. Neither are quite satisfactory and we've come up with an ending that isn't in the book - and is somewhere in between. It draws on events in the book but takes them in a slightly different direction, but is in no way sacrilegious."

FWIW, here's the original ending. Here's the one that got published.

I think I'm one of the three people on the planet who prefer the revised ending. It's got problems--like the idea that Estella's "chastening" makes her fit for Pip (then, again, Pip has also been chastened at this point) but it's the ending I grew up on. Besides, it's hardly the syrupy-sweet conclusion that critics like Shaw claimed it was. Nothing's assured. The novel just gets to end on a note of grace, which I think is hardly a bad thing.

Dunno about the idea of making Miss Haversham a "Hannibal Lector" figure. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

Edited by NBooth

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mrmando   

Egad. Wrong, wrong, wrong. She is much too young to play Miss H.

Well, it turns out that HBC is 45, and Martita Hunt was 47 when she played Miss H in the David Lean version.

I guess, however, one could say that mid-40s ain't what it used to be.

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NBooth   

Egad. Wrong, wrong, wrong. She is much too young to play Miss H.

Well, it turns out that HBC is 45, and Martita Hunt was 47 when she played Miss H in the David Lean version.

I guess, however, one could say that mid-40s ain't what it used to be.

Meanwhile, Early Word points out that the Miss H for the other new version of Great Expectations due out next year is the youngest ever: Gillian Anderson is 43. And, like HBC, she looks a bit too young--or, at least, too healthy, in spite of the makeup--for the role:

Edited by NBooth

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Good heavens. I don't mind so much that it gives away so much of the story. I mind that it shows us so much of the movie! I don't know that I've ever seen a trailer that provided such a complete outline.

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I could have sworn that kenmorefield posted a comment here not too long ago saying he was surprised by how good this film was.

In any case, our very own Gina Dalfanzo's Dickensblog has a guest post by Rachel McMillan that is *not* all that impressed, e.g.:

It breaks my heart, then, to write a lukewarm review of this adaptation, because it tried so hard to eschew modern trappings and stay true to the book. In fact it tried SO hard, so genuinely hard, that it seems almost ironic that it failed to capture the essence of the novel—even as it lined up, perfunctorily, all of the necessary elements.

I could almost imagine screenwriter David Nicholls trimming 600 pages of novel into two hours, gleefully beaming that he managed to include so many references from the source material often not included in adaptations of the book (the presence of Biddy; Herbert calling Pip "Handel” and even humming “The Harmonious Blacksmith”; and conversations between Pip and Joe, and Pip and Magwitch, taken verbatim from the book). And perhaps proud of himself that he managed to make some questionable but understandable decisions regarding Mrs. Joe and Orlick. I wanted to like this film because I imagined the great pains the writer and director took with it as they brought the first feature adaptation since the 1998 Alfonso Cuaron contemporary version to life.

There has not been a bigscreen t
raditional
adaptation of the novel since the 1946 David Lean version. At the screening, Jeremy Irvine (who plays Pip) and Holliday Grainger (Estella) both spoke to the fact that each adaptation represents the time period not only in which it is set, but in which it is filmed. Ralph Fiennes also proved he had a solid grasp of Magwitch and the class differences prevalent in the Dickensian sphere.

And yet the film itself seems solely focused on reimagining perfectly costumed characters in an elaborate Dickensian puppet play. Despite the tension and darkness the actors spoke of pre-screening and despite the very obvious use of darkness and light, the characters themselves never reached more than archetypes. Dickensian figures can't help but become archetypal in their construct, but I needed something more than the immediate realization on screen with nothing deeper beneath the well-costumed, line-reciting surface. . . .

This seems in stark contrast to kenmorefield's take on the film, as posted at his blog:

A surprisingly emotionally engaging film, Mike Newell’s
Great Expectations
is easily the best Dickens adaptation I’ve ever seen. (Yes, I’ve seen the David Lean version…more than once.)

The central challenge facing any writer or director adapting Dickens is what to leave out, Newell told the audience at the Toronto International Film Festival. There may, perhaps, be scholars who quibble at minor abridgments, but the resulting film is true to the spirit and tone of the book.

The biggest error a filmmaker can make in adapting Dickens, I think, is to make it about plot. Doing so turns the resulting product into a soap opera, built around reveals and Victorian twists.
Great Expectations
is about relationships, and not just the Pip/Estella love story. There are layers of difference between a man who says to a woman that he wishes she would love him and a man who stands before a benefactor and says “I wish I could be more deserving of your love.” . . .

P.S. How Newell handles the novels alternate endings is perfect, too, in my opinion.

The novel has alternate endings? Like, different editions of the novel end differently? Or does the book itself have two (or more) endings, in a sort of choose-your-adventure kind of open-endedness?

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NBooth   

The novel has alternate endings?

Yep. I mentioned them earlier in the thread. Basically, there's a "happy" ending (the published ending) and an "unhappy" ending (cut at the insistence of, I believe, Bulwer-Lytton). The "happy" ending has gotten a drubbing over the years for not being as unforgiving as the original version, but I think I prefer it (of course, I don't see it as quite as "happy" as it's given credit for being).

Edited by NBooth

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I could have sworn that kenmorefield posted a comment here not too long ago saying he was surprised by how good this film was.

[...]

The novel has alternate endings? Like, different editions of the novel end differently? Or does the book itself have two (or more) endings, in a sort of choose-your-adventure kind of open-endedness?

Twitter/Facebook probably (thanks for noticing).

I feel bad for Dalfanzo, not in a patronizing, "she's wrong" sort of way, but in the way that I want people to have positive film experiences and she clearly didn't. I've been there (see Lord of the Rings), so I wouldn't bother (if I knew her) trying to talk her out of her response. It just wasn't the same as mine.

Incidentally, I've never been a big Harry Potter guy, but I wonder if doing that Goblet of Fire film helped on this one. (I also think that Donnie Brasco is underrated, though Mona Lisa Smile was...not.)

P.S. Peter the original ending was part of a serial publication. It was so unpopular that Dickens wrote an alternate ending. More often than not, I will see the alternate (second) ending in novel form, though some I've been will include them both. It wasn't totally unheard of for Victorian serial publications to be edited in between their serial publication and when (if) they came about in novel form.

Edited by kenmorefield

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NBooth   

Was the original ending ever published? My impression was that he showed it to Bulwer-Lytton and that author persuaded him to change it before it went to the presses. A little searching around suggests that the original ending wasn't printed until John Forster put it in his biography of Dickens.

FWIW, this website has both endings (Wikipedia seems to have taken them down):

Original:

I was in England again – in London, and walking along Piccadilly with little Pip – when a servant came running after me to ask would I step back to a lady in a carriage who wished to speak to me. It was a little pony carriage, which the lady was driving; and the lady and I looked sadly enough on one another.

“I am greatly changed, I know, but I thought you would like to shake hands with Estella too, Pip. Lift up that pretty child and let me kiss it!” (She supposed the child, I think, to be my child.)

I was very glad afterwards to have had the interview; for, in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance, that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham’s teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be.

Revised:

“I little thought”, said Estella, ‘that I should take leave of you in taking leave of this spot. I am very glad to do so.”

“Glad to part again, Estella? To me, parting is a painful thing. To me, the remembrance of our last parting has been ever mournful and painful.”

“But you said to me, “ returned Estella, very earnestly. “‘God bless you, God forgive you!’ And if you could say that to me then, you will not hesitate to say that to me now – now, when suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. Be as considerate and good to me as you were, and tell me we are friends.”

We are friends,” said I, rising and bending over her, as she rose from the bench

“And will continue friends apart, ” said Estella.

I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.

Edited by NBooth

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