This new $15m budget film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest begun filming April 2001 at Ealing Studios in London. Preliminary release date June 2002.
DIRECTOR: Oliver Parker (An Ideal Husband)
PRODUCER: Barnaby Thompson.
CAST: Colin Firth (John Worthing, J.P.), Rupert Everett (Algernon Moncrieff), Judi Dench (Lady Bracknell), Frances O'Connor (Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax), Reese Witherspoon (Cecily Cardew), Anna Massey (Miss Prism), Tom Wilkinson (Dr. Chasuble) et al.
STORYLINE: The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy about mistaken identity set in English high society during the 1890s. With Earnest, Irish-born Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) crafted his final and most lasting play - by all accounts, a masterpiece of modern comedy and perhaps Wilde's best-known play.
Earnest fixates on the manners and morals of the pretentious and the manor-born, skewering all and sundry with some of Wildes finest collection of epigrams and nasty asides.
Filled with wit and wisdom, it tells the tale of Jack Worthing (Firth) and Algernon Moncrieff (Everett). Both young men have taken to bending the truth in order to add a dash of excitement to their lives. Jack has invented an imaginary brother, Earnest, whom he uses as an excuse to escape from his dull home in the country and frolic in town. Algernon uses a similar technique, only in reverse: His imaginary friend, Bunbury, provides a convenient and frequent method of taking adventures in the country. However, their deceptions eventually cross paths, resulting in a series of crises that threaten to spoil their romantic pursuits: Jack of his love Gwendolen Fairfax (O'Connor), and Algernon of his belle Cecily Cardew (Witherspoon). Judi Dench plays the disapproving Lady Bracknell.From Contents, June 2002: Everett and Firth head an extraordinary cast that includes Dame Judi Dench, Reese Witherspoon and Frances O'Connor, in director Oliver Parker's updated version of the classic tale. Set in 1890's England, the film revolves around two young gents, Algernon Moncrieff (Everett) and Jack Worthing (Firth), in search of romance and a little excitement. In doing so, Worthing creates a nonexistent brother (Earnest) to visit London so that he can call upon his sweetheart, Gwendolyn (O'Connor). Things go awry when Algernon catches on to his deception, and without clueing in Worthing, assumes the role of Earnest to seduce young Cecily (Witherspoon), Worthing's ward staying at his country manor. When they both end up in the country at the same time, their deception is exposed, and mayhem breaks out. [Read more here]
From the Hollywood Reporter, April 2002: /.../ As for Colin Firth, who plays Jack, director Parker noted, "Colin I know from way back. He's a dear fellow and, also, I think what I like about him is that the role Jack is often a bit of a stooge to Algy. Algy tends to have the funny lines and having played Jack I sort of understood that it's not necessarily appealing. But in my adaptation I was quite concerned (about) that. In some ways, his is the story with the most change to it. I was quite interested to try and get a little big more compassion into the story than is normally the point. I would say originally its intention is more satirical and wickedly sharp. With time, the objects of satire are perhaps less evident and particularly on screen I felt it important to try and create this world where you give them a context you believe in a bit more. The great thing about film is that you can actually draw out the world they're living in much more and immediately you're getting a rapport between them and their environment."
9 October. MovieView hosted a research screening of Earnest in New York City.
24 June. Article in the London Times: For everyone involved in Britain's film industry, there's never been a summer quite like it. /.../ The producer Barnaby Thompson, who brought in Witherspoon to act in an adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest alongside Rupert Everett, Colin Firth and Judi Dench, explains: "The boom is on because the British film industry is finally growing up, and part of growing up is the ability to make bigger films. We have more stars now than in a long time, and that gives us a chance of larger budgets. /.../And success is breeding success. In the same way that Four Weddings put Hugh Grant on the film map, Bridget Jones's Diary has finally done it for Colin Firth."
8 June. The costume fittings were in Rome. Nothing but the best: pure silks, linens and the finest brocade was considered, and that was just for the men. Producer Barnaby Thompson calculated that his two leading actors, Colin Firth and Rupert Everett, came away with seventeen outfits each, including Rupert's armour. "That's possibly right", admitted Rupert Everett. Colin Firth insisted "I never demanded them, I was provided with them". All this before we even get to what the ladies are wearing in the sumptuous film version of Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest. [Full article here]
3 June. Clash of crumpets in a Wilde reunion. After his fist cuffs with Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones's Diary, Colin Firth did battle this week with another floppy haired Brit famed for his wit and charm - Rupert Everett. This time, however, the clash was a lot more sedate - the pair tussled over a crumpet for a scene in The Importance Of Being Earnest. No blood was shed, only a bit of hot butter. The Oscar Wilde adaptation is shooting at West Wycombe House in Buckinghamshire with Everett playing Algy opposite Firth's Jack Worthing. It marks the first time the pair have acted together since making their movie debut in Another Country, the 1984 film which shot Everett to fame for his performance as a homosexual public schoolboy in the thirties. "They are like The Odd Couple, completely different guys but very comfortable with each other, and that comes across in the film," producer Barnaby Thompson tells me during a break in the action. [Express on Sunday]
March 2001: Oliver Parker has just placed Frances O'Connor [Mansfield Park, Madame Bovary] in a group that includes Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth. Firth, who steals Miramax's Bridget Jones' Diary, is the latest addition to the studio's repertory company. [Fox News].
Click here for a taste of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest
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