With the wonderful adaptions of Little Women and Emma that have come out recently, my mind has once again turned towards my favorite Jane Austin novel Mansfield Park. I believe(and I think few would disagree with me when I say) that it is the only(or at least one of the few) Austin novels that has never gotten a fair shake as far as Hollywood goes.
The reasons for this are many, but they basically boil down to the issue the novel had when it was first printed; Fanny Price is not Elizabeth Bennet. In fact she’s the exact opposite. Where Elizabeth is out spoken and strong willed, Fanny is quiet and seems to bend to everyone else’s will with little or no fight. I’m sure her character is a puzzle to many. But where most people see her being a door mat to introverted, people-pleasures like myself I see someone we can relate to. Did I mention she’s also very perceptive? She saw the faults in the Crawfords, where everyone else only saw their beauty and charm. Fanny takes the belittling of her extended family and never stands up for herself against personal affronts, but she won’t compromise when it comes to principle. (Case in point marrying Mr. Henry Crawford) Despite her ill treatment she still seeks the good in everyone, even her rival for Edmund, Miss. Crawford and her aunt Mrs. Norris. She refuses to participate in the play even with intense peer pressure(for those of you who have read Mansfield Park you know of which play I speak) She faithful takes care of all those around her with no regard for repayment.
Another reason Mansfield Park has trouble is because Edmund Bertram is not Mr. Darcy. Poor Edmund held up to such high standards. Edmund is presented as this upstanding, uncompromising figure of virtue that is until Miss. Crawford arrives. Then he seems to lose all reason and falls head over heels for a lesser woman. But he’s a young man(and last time I checked men can be stupid) And remember we are largely seeing him through Fanny’s eyes and she’s desperately in love with her cousin, so his faults aren’t as apparent at first. Besides in the end Edmund finally sees the light and stands up when it counts. I think people have a hard time with the male lead not being perfect, but this makes him human yes?
Another thing is people try to make Miss. Mary Crawford a villain, which she’s not. She’s just beautiful, self obsessed, worldly minded and of small character with no figure of virtue to model her life after. She even admits this to Fanny and how she wishes she was more like Fanny. She’s not wicked or intentionally after the shattering of Fanny’s heart. I honestly think she loves Edmund as much as she can share her heart with someone other than herself and her brother. So she’s not a villain.
Basically Fanny is ignored by her whole circle until by the end of the book they find her the most faithful, loving and sweetest of them all. She’s intelligent and thoughtful, resourceful and unselfish. In the same way Fanny is ignored and overlooked by her family and friends, she has been overlooked by Hollywood. They can’t seem to leave her fully rounded character alone. They have to make her spunky or sarcastic. They have to add a sex appeal or… something! She can’t be quiet and faithfully diligent in good, cause no body gets what they want by waiting for it. She has to be assertive! But in doing this they ruin her. They ruin the people around her and they ruin the whole story.
Anyway I have always thought, since first reading and falling in love with this story when I was fourteen, that this book had the tremendous potential to be a great film! Thus below is my dream cast and crew of…
Let’s kick it off with the chief protagonist, Fanny Price played Ella Fanning. Casting the lead was hard for me but when I finally thought of Ella I was like, “YES!” I think she could definitely pull off the sweetness of Fanny and her face is so expressive she could convey a lot with saying little. Audiences would instantly be drawn toward her and be unable not to care for her out come. Or at least not be able to ignore her.
Next up is our male lead Edmund Bertram played by William Moseley. When casting Edmund I needed someone the audience could/would like easily. And after watching Carrie Pilby a while back I thought William would be a perfect fit. He could give Edmund a sense of maturity and yet keep that playfulness of youth most actors have failed to bring to the role. (In my personal opinion)
Mary Crawford was a little harder to cast. As I mentioned above a lot of people try to make her the villain of the story, so I needed someone you couldn’t all together dislike. Someone charming and of course beautiful. When I hit upon Caitriona Balfe I knew instantly she’d be perfect. She would add sophistication to the role, while keeping Miss. Crawford not all together bad and not all together good.
So this is a shout out to one of my fav actors(Merlin fan here! #notashamed) Colin Morgan. Again I wanted you to not totally hate Henry Crawford at the first and almost pity him at the last. I needed someone(like Mary Crawford) who could be charming and attractive, but with actual character so you could see what Fanny saw; that glimmer of potential. Even if that potential is sadly never realized.
Sir Thomas Bertram had to be intimidating and frankly I could think of no one else than Charles Dance. I thought since he is so serious and… Well scary. That his overbearing personality would throw some humor into the pompous character of Sir Thomas.
Lady Bertram had to be lovably idiotic and Imelda Staunton has pulled off that kind of character off before. I draw your attention to Sense and Sensibility– love her in that movie! I think she could pull off the hypochondriac Lady Bertram with her little pug dog and needlework very well.
After casting William Moseley as Edmund I had a hard time finding someone to play Thomas Bertram. Someone who wouldn’t all together get lost in the thus assembled cast. In the book Tom is a gambler and a drinker and has a very redemptive story arc. He’s actually one of my favorite characters in the book. I finally settled on Eddie Redmayne. Knowing he had the kind of range it would take to pull of Tom’s evolving character.
I think I had the most fun casting the Miss. Bertram’s. I knew I needed two young ladies, who could play the ugly-step-sister role without being ugly nor unsophisticated. They needed to be handsome, well breed but as mean and cunning as sneaks. AnnaSophia Robb as Maria Bertram is absolutely the best! I think she’d have fun playing the vain and pretentious Maira.
Casting Maria’s fiancé(and future husband) Rushworth was very important to get right in my opinion. As a rich, imbecilic bore Rushworth is a side character, who I felt could add some of that outlandish humor. Harry Melling almost instantly came to mind and I love him as Rushworth.
Julia Bertram as played by Bel Powley. She could hold her own against AnnaSophia and add some of the air-headed silliness to any conversation. Can’t you just picture the afore mentioned cast traipsing about Rushworth’s estate? I certainly can.
Ah Mrs. Norris who could ever play your cruel, gossiping, miser of a character? (The true villain of the story by the way) Glen Close… I mean I think it’s perfect. As the sister to Lady Bertram and Fanny’s mother, Mrs. Price, I think Glen would be absolutely phenomenal!
William Price was my final character to cast. I needed someone heroic that could be everyone’s older brother, so I choose Dean-Charles Chapman. He could pull of that lovable rogue, who pops in everyone once and awhile to keep poor Fanny sane.
That brings us to Mrs. Price the youngest sister to Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris. I needed a strong willed woman. Having just finished Sherlock I thought Amanda Abbington would be just that woman. Marrying a penniless soldier just to spite her family, Mrs. Price is the poor mother of many children. Her character is super interesting to me and would be fun to flesh out.
Mr. Price needs to be somewhat laughable and yet not all together repulsing. I think Mark Heap would be perfect. He could add the whimsical goofiness to the role and yet also be somewhat depressing as being a penniless man, who will never amount to anything.
Finally if I could choose anyone to direct this film, who I would trust to do an amazing job and to do justice by Jane Austin’s story and characters, it would be Greta Gerwig. She wouldn’t see Fanny as some weak heroine, who’s character needed to be added to. She would see her quite strength and faithfulness and would finally give Fanny and Mansfield Park the justice in film it deserves.
Yeah so this is how I’ve been spending my isolated hours. I hope you enjoyed this post. Do you agree with my casting? Who would you have casted differently? Would you see this movie? I’d love to discuss!
Lots of love,