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Films and Television

James Purefoy and Reese Witherspoon (UIP)
The film stars Taunton's James Purefoy

Vanity Fair premieres in Bath

A new film version of Vanity Fair, starring Taunton-born James Purefoy and Reese Witherspoon, received its first British screening in Bath on Wednesday, 5 January 2005

You can listen to our exclusive interviews with James Purefoy by clicking on these links:

The movie, based on a novel by William Thackeray, is a satire about a young Englishwoman in London during the Napoleonic wars.

Parts of Bath were transformed into 19th-century London in June 2003 for the making of the film; take a look back by following the link on the right.

You can view photos from the finished film by following the link from this page to our image gallery.

You can also listen to some of what happened at the premiere in Bath by clicking on the links to the right.

Taunton-born James Purefoy, who is tipped to become the next James Bond, landed the lead role opposite Reese Witherspoon.

He plays Rawdon Crawley, the roguish younger son of Sir Pitt Crawley, who ultimately marries Becky Sharp (Reese's character).

She aims to abandon her poverty-stricken background and climb the social ladder. Her best friend, Amelia, longs for a soldier named George and can't see that Dobbin, a gentleman, suffers unrequited love for her.

Reese admits she has a soft spot for the ambitious and ruthless Becky.

The 28-year-old actor explains that her character is a survivor: "The thing I love about her is she's not the good girl and she's not the bad girl. No-one in life is either.

"Becky's perspective is all about herself, her ambition," she adds.

"The question then becomes: 'What if it's all about your own vanity and narcissism?'

"What happens if you live a life that's all about yourself and has no balance?"

Vanity Fair (UIP)
Is that a part of Bath in the background?

Vanity Fair is directed by Mira Nair, acclaimed for her work on Monsoon Wedding, and is scripted by British writer Julian Fellowes, known for his work on Gosford Park.

Reese admits casting an American as the heroine in a very British tale raised some eyebrows. But she believes it's an advantage to be an outsider.

"It's nice to be able to come to it with a fresh perspective, particularly having someone like Mira who also feels like an outsider.

"It gives you an opportunity to feel more free within the character. I think that's how Thackeray would have wanted it."

And the mother-of-two, who shot to fame with her roles in Pleasantville, Election and Cruel Intentions in the late 1990s before joining the ranks of Hollywood's A-list, reveals she could relate to Becky.

"I understand what it feels like to feel like you're an outsider and you want in so bad. Then once you're there you have to deal with the consequences and tragedies you've created along the way.

"I think the idea of being from a certain socio-economic place and trying to reach up is a very universal thing. Everybody understands that, particularly in America."

And she didn't let anything get in the way of this role - even her second pregnancy with son Deacon who was born in October 2003, not long after the scenes in Bath had been filmed. She and actor husband Ryan Phillippe also have a five-year-old daughter Ava.

"I told Mira I was already about four weeks pregnant so we better get going," Reese recalls of the beginning of filming. "She thought it would really help the piece and she used it as part of the development of the story."

In fact, the director took advantage of Reese's real-life pregnancy for the film's scenes where Becky is expecting a child.

"I knew Mira would do it in a beautiful way and I was really happy when I saw the film and the way it came out. It's real and so beautiful."

"It provided a sense of vulnerability to a tough character," she says.

"It gives a sense there's something real happening in this woman's life. She may never see her husband again and she might have a child. It added a lot of dimension."

A whole host of British actors also appear in the film, including Jim Broadbent, Bob Hoskins, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Rhys Ivans.

Vanity Fair opens at cinemas in Somerset (and the rest of Britain) from Friday 14 January 2005.

last updated: 18/01/06
Have Your Say
What do you think of the film? Will you be going to see it?
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Catherine Lee
It's a great movie with such beautiful colours. It has a very exotic and dramatic look and music, probably because it's directed by Mira Nair. It doesn't come off as another colourless English classic. Very real. Thumbs-up especially for James Purefoy who absolutely oozed charm and sexiness.

Clare Libby
I'm long to see it but the nearest screening is in Bath. Nothing in Yeovil or Taunton. Why not?

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