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24 September 2014
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Revealing the romance behind Jane Austen


Olivia Williams, Greta Scacchi and Hugh Bonneville lead an all-star cast in BBC One's feature-length period drama Miss Austen Regrets.

 

Based on the life and letters of Jane Austen, Miss Austen Regrets imagines the story of the novelist's final years.

 

Written by Gwyneth Hughes (Five Days) the drama provides an insight into Austen's own romantic life, examining why, despite setting the standard for romantic fiction, she died having never married or met her own Mr Darcy.

 

Displaying all the wit which one would expect from Austen herself, Gwyneth feels that she cannot claim sole credit for the drama, commenting: "The script is very tightly based on Austen's surviving letters to her sister and to her young niece, Fanny. So I must share the credit for quite a lot of the dialogue with Miss Austen herself!

 

"And I must say, it's been a strange and humbling experience to feel this genius of English literature peering critically over my shoulder as I write. But I have loved every moment in her company."

 

Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense) plays Jane, who, approaching her 40th birthday, appears happily unmarried displaying all the assured wit and charm of her novels' young heroines.

 

Yet when asked by her young niece Fanny, played by rising star Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later), to help her vet potential husbands, Jane's confident composure is threatened as she finds herself looking back on her own potential suitors and the choices she has made.

 

A chance meeting with former acquaintance Rev Brook Bridges (Hugh Bonneville – Five Days, Tipping The Velvet) sees her reflect on a marriage that never was, while when her family faces financial ruin it is revealed that it all could have been very different had she only accepted a marriage proposal from a wealthy landowner.

 

And when her brother Henry (Adrian Edmondson – Bottom, Holby City) is taken ill Jane's passions are ignited by his handsome young physician, Mr Charles Haden – played by the up-and-coming actor Jack Huston (Factory Girl).

 

Greta Scacchi (Daniel Deronda, Tom's Midnight Garden) plays Cassandra Austen, Jane's older sister, companion and confidante.

 

Speaking about her reasons for wanting to write about Austen's life, Gwyneth Hughes says:

 

"Everyone knows Jane Austen never married. For her millions of fans this can only be a relief, because it's hard to see how a 19th century wife and mother could have found time to write her six wonderful novels! All the same, you do wonder whether she minded – how this spinster lady felt about the absence of a real Mr Darcy in her life."

 

"And then I read the most extraordinary fact. Jane Austen did receive a proposal of marriage from a wealthy young neighbour. And she accepted! She actually said yes to him – till after a long night of discussion with her sister Cassandra, she changed her mind. This intriguing decision inspired the story of Miss Austen Regrets."

 

Additional cast members include: Phyllida Law (Mrs Austen), Pip Torrens (Edward Austen-Knight), Sylvie Herbert (Madame Bigeon), Tom Hiddleston (John Plumptre), Sally Tatum (Anna Lefroy) and Jason Watkins (Rev Clarke).

 

Commissioned by Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction, Miss Austen Regrets will be co-produced by WGBH.

 

Directed by Jeremy Lovering, the Executive Producer is David Thompson, Head of BBC Films. The Producer is Anne Pivcevic. The Co-Producer is Jamie Laurenson.

 

Filming is underway and the drama will air on BBC One along with the BBC's adaptation of Sense And Sensibility.

 

RB

 

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Category: TV Drama; BBC One
Date: 21.08.2007
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