When it comes to Jane Austen adaptations, few are as beloved as 1995’s Sense and Sensibility. Starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, the film garnered seven Academy Award nominations, with Emma Thompson taking home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay from her role as screenwriter, as well as playing the lead character. It stayed true to the wit and romance of Austen’s original text, whilst giving us eternal heartthrobs in the form of Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman.
What less people know is that Thompson kept extensive diaries during the pre-production, filming and wrap party. These were put into print, and if you’re a fan of the film, I’d advise buying a copy immediately. The diaries bring in fun little details, hilarious anecdotes and an endearing willingness to censor nothing. In celebration of this hidden gem, here’s some of my favourite extracts:
We discussed the ‘novelisation’ questions. This is where the studio pay someone to novelise my script and sell it as Sense and Sensibility. I’ve said if this happens I will hang myself. Revolting notion. Beyond revolting. Lindsay [Doran, producer] said that the executive she had discussed it with had said ‘as a human being I agree with you – but…’ I laughed until my porridge was cool enough to swallow.
Paparazzi’ arrive for Hugh. We had to stand under a tree and smile for them.
Photographer: ‘Hugh, could you look less – um -‘
Very nice lady served us drinks in hotel and was follow
ed in by a cat. We all crooned at it. Alan to cat (very low and meaning it): ‘Fuck off.’ The nice lady didn’t turn a hair. The cat looked slightly embarrassed by stayed.
Kissing Hugh was very lovely. Glad I invented it. Can’t rely on Austen for a snog, that’s for sure. We shot the scene on a hump-backed bridge. Two swans float into shot as if on cue. Everyone coos.
‘Get rid of them,’ say Ang [Lee, director]. ‘Too romantic.’
We try to find an extra line for Margaret as she picks up Willoughby’s gear in the rain. Lindsay suggests, ‘I’ll get the stuff,’ which makes me laugh immoderately.
I counter with Willoughby saying, ‘Pray get the stuff.’
‘It’s in the book!’ we keep screaming.
Later in my trailer, the boys are in to watch the rugby – wild with excitement and very apologetic. South Africa v. France. Apparently it’s very important. Telly dodgy so Hugh [Grant] has to hold it above his head at a 45-degree angle. They take turns to watch and yell.
This was the day that a very sodden Greg [Wise] bounded up to Alan and asked, with all his usual ebullience, how he was. Long pause as Alan surveyed him through half-closed eyes from beneath a huge golfing umbrella. Then – ‘I’m dry.’ Sometime Alan reminds me of the owl in Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin. If you took too many liberties with him I’m sure he’s had your tail off in a trice.
Must avoid twee. Oh, please don’t let any of it be twee, I’ll die. I’ll be assassinated by the Jane Austen Society.