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Director Cary Fukanaga

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Post by Admin on Sat Sep 03, 2011 6:12 pm

Interview: Cary Fukunaga on Jane Eyre
September 1, 2011 By Vicki Isitt

2009′s Sin Nombre was an audacious debut from Cary Fukunaga and won the director great acclaim and marked him as a man to watch.

It was a with a measure of surprise and excitement that we greeted the news that his next film was to be an adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre, a feeling compounded when Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska were cast in the central roles of Rochester and Jane.

The film is (finally) released here in the UK on the 9th of September and we sat down with the director to talk about his attachment to the book, the challenges of structuring the film adaptation and finding his perfect cast.

Q: What initially attracted you to Jane Eyre?

A: I knew it more as a film when I was a kid, it’s kind of one of those classic Hollywood films that I just grew up with and really loved and it was one of my favourites. I’d been thinking of readapting it, as one of the classic films I hadn’t seen adapted in a while – that’s sort of proof I hadn’t been aware of how many adaptations there had been recently. There are probably more avid fans in the US who knew, but I hadn’t been aware of any recent different versions of the book on film or TV, so I thought there hadn’t been one in a while. I guess the BBC one was pretty recent so that had been fresh on everyone’s minds but through during the film I’ve learnt more about the others, the Timothy Dalton version and all the others. It’s just the classic stories that, not that I identified with, but the mix of mystery and the horror and the romance and the period captured my imagination.

Q: Can you tell me about the casting process?

A: It was really simple actually, it happened so quickly. When I had my initial meeting with the producer of the film, Alison Owen, she asked who I imagined in the film. I didn’t really know who I wanted for Jane just then but I’d seen Steve McQueen’s Hunger earlier that year and wanted to see if I could get Michael Fassbender, so he was the first person I thought of. I had a meeting with him about a month later in LA as I was doing some work out there and we had a chance to meet up and just had some beers and smoked some cigarettes and talked about the Bronte’s. Michael was pretty well versed on it, and I think Heathcliff is one of his favourite characters and at one time I think he was meant to play Rochester before so he was familiar with Rochester’s story and we just really vibed and had really similar ideas, and how we could interpret it compared to previous versions where it had been treated like a period romance and the gothic was lost.

Quite often when I’ve gone back to review previous adaptations, even in the 2006 version, when the gothic scenes come up they feel out of place. I saw the first episode of the 2006 version where they have Jane in the Red Room, and it’s just like shakey handheld camera then back to normal. And for me I think there has to be continuity when you’re dealing with that. It’s different because when you’re reading you’re allowed to change tones and you can spend hours and hours reading something and digesting it and experiencing it in your own way, but when you’re watching someone else’s film, someone else’s depiction of something then you change tones and you can lose the audiences, and that’s something you don’t want to do.

Q: As you’ve mentioned, Jane Eyre is heavily influences by the gothic and the supernatural, how did you go about bringing these tones into the film?

I read the book again and again, and I wasn’t trying to make it more horror than the book actually was. There are those spine tingling moments in the book, as for me the gothic comes out more in the details in the book rather than scary moments. Bronte talks about Jane walking around the third floor gallery and all this furniture that’s been kept up in the storage room and all these cushions that have been sewn by hands that have long since been turned to dust. Those sorts of observations of death and morbidity I found for me that was the gothic. If you think about her walking those rooms they are her versions of horror and gothic, they are the spine tingling moments. I knew I wanted to have moments in the film that would make the audiences jump, not in a hammer horror type way but in a very naturalistic way – things that make us jump in real life.

As a kid we had a two story home and after I turned the lights off downstairs I’d run up the stairs, always having my back to the darkness behind me. Just those sorts of little things. So you can imagine what Jane felt and we tried to create it with the cinematography and the sound, just trying to have those moments where also the more percussive moments and the pheasant jumps up and flies at her, I wanted the audience to jump as well. You know she’s slightly spooked by herself, and in the books there is so much detail. It’s oral tradition, the idea of scaring as a form of entertainment.

Q: Obviously the book is linear and in chronological order, what prompted your decision to film it non-linear?

A: The first reason would be storytelling, but there are two benefits to it. Firstly you get to start off in a much more mysterious way. There has been a recent trend in the past ten or twenty years of starting a film in a moment, and then building up to how that moment happened, so it’s a very contemporary method of storytelling because you know that something is going to happen so it creates this sense of impending doom. But also what it does is, the chronology of the book is such that the Rivers part of the story falls in the last third and although it’s an extremely important for Jane to have those relationships, to find a family and to find a potential partner, it’s a narrative speed bump, if you think that the real attraction of the story is Jane and Rochester’s relationship. So what ends up happening in feature versions of the films is that the Rivers section gets compressed so that it’s ineffective. I think even in the 1943 version where Aldous Huxley was a screenwriter he condensed John Rivers’ character with a preacher from the school so we get the information about the inheritance but not the possibility of Jane and John Rivers’ potential partner, and that’s an important part of Jane’s character to be able to make those decisions. If you don’t give her a sense of control over her fate then you take away a part of her strength. So by starting off at that part of the story we could take the important parts of the Rivers’ story and spread them across two hours. Where as if they’d been all together they wouldn’t make sense, but because we spread them out we create the sense that time has passed with them and you can therefore understand why she would give her money away to them or why that she would even consider John as a potential husband.

Q: Thornfield is stunning, where did you shoot?

We shot in the same place they shot the Zeffirelli film and the 2006 BBC, and at least one more. I think there’s been four Jane Eyre’s filmed there. It’d Hadden Hall in Bakewell up in Derbyshire. They’ve shot Pride and Prejudice there, The Other Boleyn Girl, Princess Bride…it’s incredible how many films have been shot there. And it’s strange now going back and watching any of those films because I see rooms and think ‘Oh, I remember that room’. It just has these empty chambers that you can convert into anything.

Q: Jane Eyre is quite heavily influenced by earlier novels including Northanger Abby by Jane Austen. What has influenced or inspired you so far in your career?

Photography was what really inspires me. Maybe it’s because for me film deals with the fourth dimension; you deal with time, and every story has its own pace or rhythm so films don’t often to help inspire in that sense. But photography does because continually communicates to my cinematographer what look I’m going for and they can work from that. There’s a lot of Helen Van Meene early to mid 19th Century photographs of women in that time that I took inspiration from. There is another French photographer who took a lot of photographs of her daughters, just lounging in their petticoats, and it was a lot more tactile. We talked a lot with Mia and with Michael O’Connor, the costume designer, about these kind of moments, about getting rid of the idea that everyone is so stuff and upper lipped at all times but what they were like when no one else was watching them, because that’s what we really want to see with Jane.

Q: Jane learns from an early age that a life of solitude is what is expected of her. What do you think it was about Rochester that drew Jane to him, and he to her?

I think Rochester challenged her. His rudeness made her feel more comfortable because she didn’t have to be polite back; she could be her true self. So, it was his lack of repression for her to be open and witty rather than reserved and timid which she was about Miss Fairfax. And that was a gateway to deeper feelings. I think she saw in him someone as tortured as he was, even if she didn’t know why or how.

Q: You’ve also got a wonderful British supporting cast, was that always important to you?

There are no supporting roles, every cast member is important. But we were lucky to get who we got: it was always complicated dealing with schedules and availability but to have Judi Dench and Sally Hawkins, Jamie Bell and everyone else was a real pleasure. There’s enormous talent here so taking advantage of that was definitely a highlight of shooting around here.

Q: You mentioned earlier about condensing and spreading out certain scenes, was it difficult to decide what made the cut and what didn’t?

Yes, even some of the deleted scenes which we took out of the film were really fiercely debated as we were trying to figure out the best version of the film. Those kinds of things – condensing language, condensing everything else. Each of us had our favourite moment or scene and debated back and forth, we tried to include as much as possible as long as it didn’t ruin the scene. There are also these iconic moments where you debate do you put that in or do you take it out? In the end you make the decision what’s best for the film. There are things we took out which might upset fans, but it’s a movie, not the book, it’s its own animal.

Q: How do you think Jane Eyre appeals to international audiences?

I don’t know yet, we’re finding out! Apparently it did quite well in South Korea, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the tradition of soap opera there, there melodrama to women, as it’s a story that definitely appeals to women and younger girls, and I think as they grow up they look back at it and see it as a powerful story from their formative years. And it’s divisive. I know people that read it when they were younger and said they didn’t understand what Jane saw in Rochester, and it’s interesting when they go back and reread it. My friend Laura still doesn’t understand what Jane saw in him. I think it’s great, because it makes it more real. If it was too appealing then she’s a generic person. Charlotte [Bronte] is so clear in the description of Jane’s thoughts and observations that those who identify with it, really identify with it.

Q: I think the “do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little I don’t have as much heart and soul?’ is definitely one of the most powerful scenes, both in the book and the film.

I think that that’s what gets people upset sometimes, that in the film versions they feels it’s unfair that Jane is shown to be attractive because they think that women who identify with that idea are not attractive, they like the idea that there’s a heroine who isn’t attractive. But I also think it’s one of those things about Jane and that her perception of self was so much lower than who she really was. Because Diana Rivers even says that Jane’s pretty – I have proof in the book that she says it! It’s more her own perception than being less of who she is. I also think it’s the same with Rochester. I mean, Rochester must have been attractive.

Q: There is the scene in the book where Rochester asks Jane if she thinks he is attractive, and she talks about his large forehead showing his intelligence and large Roman nose.

A: Yeah, it’s like having a royal forehead. I also have female friends that think the men they are attracted to are weird looking, they like to think they like to one that no one else likes, the oddball. But then you like someone that everyone else likes, that other people find attractive as well. It’s the idea of uniqueness of attraction. So I don’t think you can necessarily take Jane’s subjective word for being the truth in the sense of whether she is beautiful of not.

Jane Eyre is out on the 9th of September and you can read our review of the film tomorrow.

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Post by Admin on Tue Sep 06, 2011 12:42 am

Director provides a breath of fresh Eyre
editorial image

BACK ON SCREEN: Top, Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska in the latest film version of Jane Eyre, directed by Cary Fukanaga,

By Tony Earnshaw
Published on Monday 5 September 2011 16:00

Jane Eyre has inspired successive generations of filmmakers and another adaptation is on the way. Film Critic Tony Earnshaw reports.

Tall, slim, handsome and favouring a sleek preppy look, his combination of slicked hair, academic’s specs and angular features makes him a contender as one of the flawed heroes that haunt the Brontës’ books.

A 34-year-old Californian, Fukunaga has travelled north for the UK premiere of the umpteenth film version of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 epic of romance, madness and deceit that charts the story of an elfin lass whose goodness wins the love of the impassioned Mr Rochester, owner of Thornfield manor.

And he’s nervous. Sipping from a glass of white wine, he talks quickly and scans the far horizon where dark clouds threaten rain on the landscape that inspired Charlotte and which continues to draw readers to the book and movie buffs to the succession of film adaptations it spawns.

Since 1910 there have been a dozen film versions of Jane Eyre. The star combinations have included Colin Clive and Virginia Bruce, Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, George C. Scott and the late Susannah York, and William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg.There have also been versions made in India (with the great star Dilip Kumar) and in Greece with Manos Katrakis as “Rodgester”.

It is constantly being adapted for television; such is its timeless appeal. TV Rochesters have included Stanley Baker, Timothy Dalton (also a Heathcliff in 1970s Wuthering Heights), Toby Stephens and Ciarán Hinds. The various Janes have included Sorcha Cusack, Zelah Clarke, Ruth Wilson and Samantha Morton.

The multi-lingual son of a Japanese father and a Swedish mother, Fukunaga has already been described as “a genius” by fans. He is certainly an erudite student of Jane Eyre lore and recognises the depth of the sea in which he is swimming.

“I haven’t modernised it at all. I have nothing but respect for period language. I didn’t want this film to feel like ‘Oh, that’s one of those 2011 films’ 20 years from now,” he offers by way of introduction to his take on the story. “I try to bring authenticity to it [by bringing] the age of the characters of the book into the decision on the casting. Jane’s hardly 18 years old when she turns up at Thornfield. Rochester is 38. [Michael] Fassbender who plays Rochester is only 34 but his face feels like he’s seen more years.

“Adaptations are hard in general but the youthful energy part actually brings a perspective that’s just a bit more modern into a very classic tale. It doesn’t mean I’m trying to sex it up. It just means I key into different parts of the story that mean something to me now.”

(Later, introducing the film to a select audience that includes Brontë Parsonage director Andrew McCarthy and Brontë scholar Dr. Juliet Barker he quips “I tried to make this film with a totally fresh eye [so] we did change Jane’s name to Bella and we made Rochester a vampire...”)

He adds: “It’s always gonna come down to the people who love Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. Its two different camps. But as Jane Eyre goes, especially for young women, it’s a fundamental piece of literature. It means different things to them at these different stages in their life. It has presence.”

Haworth has changed dramatically since the Bronte sisters sequestered themselves in the rectory next to the cluttered graveyard. Successive film adaptations have not been filmed in the area, choosing instead to film in North Yorkshire at Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate, at Ripon or on Boss Moor near Grassington.

Jane Eyre was shot in Derbyshire, primarily at Haddon Hall, doubling for Thornfield, and in Hathersage. Fukunaga had his reasons.

“I had a really long conversation with my location manager, Giles Eddlestone, about the landscape. From the beginning, I said ‘It’s Yorkshire’ and he said ‘No, it’s Derbyshire’,” he reveals with no sense of embarrassment.

“That was the first thing we talked about. What inspired the story were places in Derbyshire, and the landscape is very similar. Even the place where she ends up in the last third of the book, with the Rivers family, is said to be within a 20-mile radius of ‘S-----’, which people think is Sheffield. So that’s right there on the border between Yorkshire and Derbyshire and easily could be right on the border or deeper into Yorkshire.

“My understanding of it was that Thornfield could easily be in Derbyshire and her journey later on the moors could be southern Yorkshire. So we shot the whole sequence on the moors near Hathersage, right on the edge of the Peak District, [and] we shot Derbyshire for Derbyshire at Haddon Hall [near Bakewell]. At first I had my reservations and Giles said ‘You wanna shoot different for different’s sake or you wanna get the best location?’

“Thornfield is a large home so Haddon Hall works in that way. It was uninhabited for most of the 18th and 19th-century and it wasn’t until the 1920s that the family moved back in. There’s no furniture there, there’s a lot of empty spaces. It’s a blank canvas to paint on.”

By Fukunaga’s own admission Jane Eyre “was stagnant” when he came on board. It was on the BBC’s slate of future projects but he had to pursue it.

Having bagged the project he set out to cast it. He had seen Michael Fassbender as IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in Hunger and wanted him as Rochester from the outset. The casting of Jane was trickier.

“I asked a few friends had just cast films and all three of them said ‘Check out Mia Wasikowska in Treatment’” he reveals. “It’s a show that’s basically a two-hander and you get to see Mia in these incredible tête -à- têtes with Gabriel Byrne.

“ A lot of Jane Eyre is based on the tête-à- têtes between her and Rochester. Obviously it’s a very different dynamic but just the fact that she’s captivating throughout it led me to believe that she had the fire, the intelligence and the acting chops to do it.

“I didn’t have either her or Michael do any try-outs. They didn’t have to audition for the role. I didn’t do any chemistry tests to see how they worked together. I just had faith that both of them could do those characters.

“They are pretty fearless actors. I think Mia will definitely become the Meryl Streep of her generation.”

It’s a brave man who takes on a classic with the emotional baggage of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Fukunaga never once thought of running from it. He laughingly describes his response as a mixture of “typical American naïveté and entitlement”.

“I hope that there’s a consistency to my film that’s lacking maybe in some of the other ones. I mean that in the sense of going between the gothic and the period drama. They are two genres that are very hard to mix. It works okay in literature but it’s not as easy to execute in film.

“Taking on any story I’m gonna have butterflies. I was nervous because every step along the way you can fail. I don’t think the movie is a failure. I think it will stand the test of time but it’s up to audiences to decide whether it’s great or not.”

Jane Eyre (PG) is released on Friday. Moira Buffini, screenwriter for Jane Eyre, will be discussing adapting the novel for the screen at the West Lane Baptist Centre in Haworth on September 17. For more details visit

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Post by Admin on Sun Sep 11, 2011 9:42 pm

Cary Fukunaga loves ‘timeless’ movies

added: 12 Sep 2011 // by: newsdesk

The director is helming the 2011 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre. The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell and Judi Dench, and Cary had a thrilling time working on the much-loved tale.

The American star says the appeal for him lies mostly in the fact that the adaptation is ambiguous.

“I like films that feel like they’re timeless. In 20 or 30 years from now will people be able to identify that I shot it in 2011, or could it have been shot in the 70s'” he mused in an interview with British newspaper The Guardian.

“There’s something inherently universal about not only the storytelling but the execution.”

Jane Eyre has two male suitors in the novel, Edward Rochester and St. John Rivers. Cary believes it was important to tell the intricate details of both flourishing relationships throughout the whole film.

“One of the most difficult parts of telling Jane Eyre chronologically is that the last part of the story is a very slow but important part of Jane’s development as an individual. It’s where she meets this family who sort of saves her and finding a man, St. John Rivers, who could be a potential husband for her,” he explained.

“What happens in a lot of adaptations of the story is they sort of scoot through that part of the story because the central narrative is her and Rochester’s relationship. So I worked out a way to pepper that story across the whole structure.”

Mia stars in the title role and was instantly attracted to play the part. The actress was also shocked by the age of her character which was another reason for taking the role.

“I was really struck by the qualities of her personality. She’s really strong and really independent and has a very strong sense of who she is, and doesn’t compromise herself for anybody,” she explained. “It was a combination of all of that and then also realised she was 18-years-old, and I’ve always seen her in my mind as an adult, and it struck me that she was really young.

“I think if you take away the costumes and the period setting, it’s a very modern story.”

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