Summary
Novel to Screenplay
Auditions and Casting
On Location
Relationships on the Set
Actors on their Roles
Applause and Awards
Film Stills
Publicity Poses
Candid Shots
Premiere/Awards Photos
Wallpapers
Movie Posters

MANSFIELD PARK (1999)

Summary

Patricia Rozema's "Mansfield Park" is a bold adaptation of one of Jane Austen's lesser known novels. The film depicts the story of Fanny Price (Frances O'Connor), a young girl who is sent to live with her wealthy relations at Mansfield Park. Clever and studious, Fanny develops an ironic imagination and fine moral compass, as well as a delight in writing. Although she finds a soulmate in her cousin, Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller), romantic twists and turns abound before Fanny can find true love.

This film is rated PG-13 for brief violence and sexual content.


From Novel to Screenplay

In transforming one of Jane Austen's lesser known works, director/screenwriter Patricia Rozema was well-aware of the giant shoes she needed to fill, especially given the long tradition of quality Jane Austen adaptations. She also recognized that she was doing something new: "What we hadn't seen before was this boisterous, anarchic spirit. We adapters just take out the parts we like and emphasize them. So Ang Lee, being from an Eastern background, was attracted to all the formality in his adaptation of 'Sense and Sensibility.' I was more attracted to the idea that this world is saturated with an almost menacing eroticism. It's a much more dangerous world in this novel than in Austen's others, and the violations are much more extreme." 1

Two years before, Miramax Films had asked Rozema to direct an adaptation of the novel from a script that had been written by someone else. She didn't like the script, but became fascinated by the novel: "Many Austenites consider it flawed but fascinating, but I really think it's her best. I wasn't guided one way or the other. My marching orders were to write a script I wanted to direct." 2

Rozema adds that her relationship with the somewhat controversial co-President of Miramax Films was quite harmonious: "I was amazed at how much freedom I had. We never had any battles at all. Harvey worries about things like sentimentality. You'd think it would be 'Make it faster, make it funnier, make it louder...' But all I got from him was 'Make it smarter, don't make it sentimental.'" 3

In adapting "Mansfield Park," Rozema's boldest decisions (which she prefers to call "additions" rather than "changes") were to emphasize its anticolonialist aspect, by inflating scattered references into a major aspect of the plot, and making the novel's otherwise rather bland heroine, Fanny Price, into a budding writer who greatly resembles Austen. Defending her decision to heighten the novel's politics, Rozema says that the novel was written sometime between 1805 and 1811, precisely when the slavery vs.abolition argument was raging in Great Britain: "Austen's audience would have been more aware of all this than my audience. It was happening everywhere, and all these young people were set to inherit what they might have thought was dirty money." 4

To flesh out Fanny Price, Rozema took much of her dialogue from Austen's own letters and journals, and she shows the character "composing" what were Austen's own juvenile writings. The effect is to greatly enliven the character, even if, as purists might object, it distorts her: "Austen's early writing is fantastic, so grotesque and surreal, and all about cannibalism and alcoholism and so on." 5 Rozema believes that she imbued the mousy main character with some forceful traits of Austen herself, making her a bold, freethinking, slyly humorous writer: "What's needed is not just roles for strong women, but ones where women are allowed to be failures and fragile and twisted and complex... And not some guy doing twisted chicks in a movie out of hate for women, but out of fascination and respect." 6

The director insists that the changes weren't made arbitrarily or to make the project more commercial: "It's amplifying the fiction with the facts and fiction taken from elsewhere, that's all. When Fanny accepts her suitor Henry Crawford and then rejects him, that was an event in Austen's own life. I also made Henry a bit more of a plausible choice, because I thought that in the novel Austen tipped her hand too quickly that he was a cad. I needed to have more of an excruciating dilemma for Fanny." 7


Auditions and Casting

When confronted with the script for "Mansfield Park," actress Frances O'Connor was initially wary: "Before I read it, I was thinking that I hope they do something different with it." 8 O'Connor was worried that the film might be perceived as just another Jane Austen adaptation. Still, O'Connor admired Jane Austen's work: "When I was younger, I didn't really like Austen that much, I preferred the Brontes - I think because they're more romantic. But there's also this kind of roughness to them I liked, whereas I thought Austen was very contained, very domestic. When I re-read them, when I was older, I found the intelligence of them, the wit and irony, the humor." 9

In addition, O'Connor leapt at the chance to work with director Patricia Rozema, whom she admired for over a decade after she watched Rozema's early film, "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing": "It's one of my favorite films. I was in L.A. when they were auditioning for ['Mansfield Park'] and my agent said, 'Patricia Rozema's just seen your work and wants to meet you', and I was, like, 'Patricia Rozema!'" 10

Actor Jonny Lee Miller admits that he was "not a big costume drama fan" when he considered the role of Edmund Bertram: "I didn't know anything about Jane Austen and the films that were being made about her work were not normally the kind of films I would go and see. But it was nice to read a script that promptly changed my way of thinking about them... 'Mansfield Park' appealed to me because I thought the script took an unusual approach. There's a lot of humor in it, which you wouldn't expect." 11

This was not the first time that Miller starred in a Jane Austen adaptation. The actor was only eight years old when he stepped out in front of the camera for the BBC television version of 'Mansfield Park,' when he played one of the Price children. “I had a bigger trailer when I was eight," he quips. 12

Miller didn't read the novel before accepting the role: "I probably should have... I usually do read the book if I'm working on an adaptation, but this time I thought it might be better not to. I knew that the film was wildly different from the novel and it was the guy in the script that I wanted to get to." 13


On Location

Raised in Australia, actress Frances O’Connor remarks of the shoot in England: "Coming to England and working and being part of the culture was actually more difficult than I thought it was going to be. You do feel a sense of isolation [as a foreigner]." 14 Still, O'Connor adds: "It was the biggest film that I'd done at that time; there was a lot more money attached to it, so it was a lot more comfortable to make... It was a really interesting experience because I was shooting away from home, too, so there was a lot of cultural adjustment. I really loved all the different locations we went to." 15

O'Connor remarks of having to spend most of the ten-week shoot in period attire: "In a corset, your breath is constricted, you can't slouch, and people are very aware of your form as well, so it's suddenly a different kind of way of being viewed in the world, but also viewing the world. You can't go running around all the time, because you just get too puffed!" Still, O'Connor admits: "I love all that stuff, things with gloves and hats!" 16

During the shoot, actor Jonny Lee Miller ran eight miles a day to prepare for the London Marathon, where he ran for Whizz-Kidz, a charity for children in wheelchairs: "I try to run when I'm shooting, for at least an hour every morning before filming starts. When you're filming on location, you usually get one day off a week, on which I will generally do a big run, about 20 or 22 miles. Running clears my head completely. You get as much aggression out of you as you do when boxing. Once I have my rhythm going, something just clicks and I get a real buzz of energy from it." 17

Of the period costumes, Miller admits: "I spent a lot of time in breeches and boots... I got so sick of hanging about in frilly shirts. Getting into costume every day just makes you long to get back in your jeans!" 18

All in all, Miller found the shoot to be a breeze: "Something like 'Mansfield Park' doesn't really feel like work." 19


Relationships On and Off the Set

Director Patricia Rozema remarks of actress Frances O’Connor: "Frances was so authentic and so free, and she approached Fanny just as a person rather than as a Jane Austen character. She came free of baggage." 20

O'Connor remarks of the director: "She's a very intelligent woman, eloquent and very much herself... She was very keen for us to bring ourselves into the character. It wasn't about how you looked, it was what was going on inside." 21

Regarding Harold Pinter (Sir Thomas Bertram), O’Connor remarks: "Harold Pinter was really great. He started off as a young man as an actor, and a really well-known one and well-respected one, but then his writing ended up taking over, so he's better known as a writer. He's a really interesting man to talk to." 22

James Purefoy (Tom Bertram) regards co-star Jonny Lee Miller as "the most talented actor in this country under 30... He has the deepest, darkest reserve you can possibly imagine." 23


The Actors on Their Roles

On Fanny Price, Frances O'Connor remarks: "I think the character in the novel is kind of a blank page that everyone imprints whatever they want onto -- which I think is a kind of comment of the women of the time. I think [my character] starts off as the Fanny Price in the book but she blossoms in some ways." 24

Of his role, actor Jonny Lee Miller remarks that he "liked the idea of playing someone as square as Edmund. I've never had a character like him before...I was also fascinated by my character's many contradictions. Edmund sees himself as a sort of pillar of goodness, a man with a grave responsibility for the world. But he takes doing the right thing too seriously and forgets his heart." 25

Alessandro Nivola remarks of Henry Crawford: "I was grateful for the complexity the film script brought to him. I think in the book he's more of a traditional cad, [but] in the film he...also gets to be romantic." 26


Applause, Awards and the Aftermath

For weeks prior to the premiere of "Mansfield Park" at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, director Patricia Rozema agonized over the film's reception: "I [was] so worried about sticking my foot in my mouth in some major way." Later, at a post-premiere party for the film, she was ecstatic: "[The audience] got it! They laughed when they were supposed to, and kept quiet when they were supposed to!" 27


Film Stills


Publicity Poses


Behind the Scenes and Candid Photos

 


Premiere and Awards Photos


Desktop Wallpapers


Movie Posters


Footnotes: 1. Unknown source; citation pending. 2. Unknown source; citation pending. 3. Unknown source; citation pending. 4. Unknown source; citation pending. 5. Unknown source; citation pending. 6. David Germain, "Fall Film Preview: A Crop of Strong, Quirky Roles for Women," The Standard-Times (September 14, 1999). 7. Unknown source; citation pending. 8. Trish Maunder, "Austentatiously Different," The Age (April 28, 2000). 9. Id. 10. Id. 11. "Meet Mr. Cool," available online at http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/1168/mrcoolint.html (hereinafter "Mr. Cool"); Lisa Verrico, "Here's Jonny," Times London (April 1, 2000) (hereinafter "Metro Film"). 12. Mr. Cool, supra. 13. Verrico, supra. 14. Michael Fitzgerald, "Casting Away Freshly Bedazzled and Headed for Hollywood Stardom," Time Magazine (May 1, 2000). 15. Maunder, supra. 16. Unknown source; citation pending. 17. Marianne Gray, "It Comes so Naturally," The Herald (April 6, 2000). 18. Id. 19. Unknown source; citation pending. 20. Unknown source; citation pending. 21. Maunder, supra. 22. Id. 23. Unknown source; citation pending. 24. Rob Blackwelder, "Being Jane Austen" SplicedWire (October 8, 1999). 25. Verrico, supra. 26. Blackwelder, supra. 27. Unknown source; citation pending.