Novel to Screenplay
On Location
Relationships on the Set
Actors on their Roles
Film Stills
Publicity Poses
Candid Shots

EMMA (1997)


Jane Austen's novel is brought to the screen by A&E following Douglas McGrath's popular Miramax version. Kate Beckinsale stars as the fanciful young Emma Woodhouse, a lady who delights in arranging suitable matches for her friends. When she meets Miss Harriet Smith (played by Samantha Morton), Emma begins to rethink her world of social status and seemingly harmless meddling. The film remains more faithful to Austen's original novel and offers better character development than its Miramax predecessor. Both versions are wholly recommended for entertainment that the entire family can enjoy.

This film was made for television and is not rated.

From Novel to Screenplay

Screenwriter Andrew Davies worked with Producer Sue Birwistle on A&E's "Pride and Prejudice." The two met when Birwistle was Davies' student at Coventry College of Education. In adapting the Jane Austen novel to film, Davies says, "There is a certain amount of liberty that you can take. You can't change the actual story, but there's always some hidden scenes in the book that Austen didn't get around to writing herself, and it's nice to fill in some of the little gaps." Davies adds that Austen "writes the best plots and characters, and her dialogue is terrific. So while there's this little craze [for Jane Austen movies], I'm just going to take advantage of it for all I'm worth." 1

On Location

Hartfield, Emma's home, was filmed at Trafalgar Park, near Salisbury, in Wiltshire, England. Highbury Village, where Miss Emma Woodhouse shopped was filmed at Lacock, near Corsham, in Wiltshire, England. The setting looked more authentic than the Higbury location of Douglas McGrath's "Emma." The Weston's home was filmed Dorney Court, near Windsor, in Berkshire, England. Finally, Donwell Abbey, Mr. Knightly's vast estate, was shot at three different English castles: Broughton Castle, Broughton, near Banbury; Sudeley Castle, near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire; and Stanway House, near Broadway, Gloucestershire. Abbey Mill Farm, where Mr. Knightly has invites his friends to pick strawberries, was filmed at Thame Park, near Thame, Oxfordshire.

Director Diarmuid Lawrence sought to make the film as historically accurate as possible. This was sometimes complicated by the weather and location. While the novel spans four seasons, the film schedule was limited to one summer. To create snow for the winter scenes, the production crew used "a mixture of salt and foam. The foam is a bit of a problem when you run carriages over it, because it just comes up like soap bubbles." 2 They also filmed near military planes which constantly flew overhead during production.

Actor Mark Strong (Mr. Knightley) enjoyed the opportunity of working on a period film and even enjoyed wearing the costumes. "They make you stand up straight," he says. "You understand now why everybody looks so formal in paintings of the time, because these clothes do it for you. The way they're cut keeps your shoulders back, keeps you upright...everything was done for show, to make you look fantastic." 3

Relationships On and Off the Set

Samantha Bond, who played Mrs. Weston, remarks that the cast was very compatible and worked well together. She recalls that it was great fun to work on the film, especially because the movie was about "a group of people who know each other very get that onto the screen, it helps if you all do get along. It's very hard to make up." 4

The Actors on Their Roles

On her role as Emma Woodhouse, actress Kate Beckinsdale remarks: "She's very snobby, but she's got this kind of lovely spirit, and she's very strong and forthright and quite funny to I like her terribly." As for Emma's matchmaking, Beckinsdale explains that this was most likely a result of Emma being "in her house with her old father, and [being] probably quite bored, [so she] plays out all these fantasies on other people." 5

Beckinsdale viewed the A&E adaptation of Emma as a "traditional Jane Austen British thing," while the Miramax film starring Gwyneth Paltrow "was much more whimsical and gorgeous; it may not have been accurate as to the period, but it was a delicious looking American movie." However, Beckinsdale admits that she did not think Emma works well outside of the book, because of its "telescopic look at someone's character." Rather, she prefers the modern spin on the book in the film "Clueless" starring Alicia Silverstone, which she says "was the most successful adaptation of Emma."6

Mark Strong, who played Mr. Knightly, considers the difference in the character of Mr. Knightly and Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice." He remarks that while Austen "writes similar characters, they have a different quality about them... Darcy and Knightley have a similarity in a sense that they're both very brusque. Darcy was proud, where I think Knightley is honest." Strong viewed Knightley as "an older brother figure" and in some way "responsible for educating Emma; he wants her to be the best person she can be." 7

On period films in general, Strong says, "Whether the language and the costumes provide you with the overall look and feel of the period, the fact of it is the emotions underneath it are as modern as they are in any other drama. I think that's why Shakespeare is still performed today...the emotional content is real." 8

Film Stills

Publicity Poses

Behind the Scenes and Candid Photos

Desktop Wallpapers

Footnotes: 1. on TV: Emma. 2. Id. 3. Id. 4. Id. 5. Id. 6. Id. 7. Id. 8. Id.