Mary-L's notes on Andrew Davies' talk
Here are my notes on Andrew Davies' remarks and discussions with others at the RoP dinner at the Upper Assembly Rooms in Bath, July 31, 2002. My apologies for the delay in getting these organized; a complex multi-family vacation at the ocean beaches started 36 hours after my return from Pemberley 2002 and thoroughly preoccupied my attention.
Please note: These (as we have heard from various people lately in the news) are "my best recollections." I am paraphrasing throughout, except that any words in quotes are my recollection of exact words. Comments of my own on what was said are enclosed in those "pesky brackets" [ ]. I also am euphemizing AD's rather sexually explicit comments in a few places; those eager to hear what he actually said can email me for futher elucidation. Overall, I hope that others with more accurate recollections will chime in with addenda, corrections, and their own opinions and comments.
Part I, AD's discussions at the dinner table. With great luck I had seated myself at an almost empty table with Laraine and Janet. We were soon joined by others including Kathleen E, Julie, and Golda before Myretta came up with AD and Cheryl and sat there too. I was impressed with AD's geniality in general, and the most generous way he autographed everything people brought to him to sign, and posed willingly for numerous pictures.
During dinner, the topics I recalled his discussing are:
(1) Recent developments--discussed primarily with Golda, Julie, Myretta, and Kathleen--at the Centre for the Study of Women Authors in (I think) the 18th and 19th centuries at Chawton House, funded by Sandy Lerner (please correct me on the Centre's name).
(2) Some background on CF's role as Darcy: AD said that CF's previous career had been as a character actor, not a leading man, and that Sue Birtwhistle (P&P2 producer) had persuaded him to consider the role. He had not read any Austen; he then read P&P but not far enough to know if Darcy gets Elizabeth, when he agreed to do the role. Then he found out from the script how the story turns out. AD referred to CF as "rather sweet" in going on to read all six novels and coaching Jennifer Ehle in her part as EB. (He also referred rather pointedly to their relationship during filming.)
(3) Kathleen mentioned information on AD from the IMDB (International Movie data-base). When AD seemed unfamiliar with this, Kathleen gave him a copy of two pages of info about him; he reviewed it all with great interest, and was pleased to accept Kathleen's offer for him to keep the copy.
(4) Kathleen, Myretta, Julie, and Golda regaled him with explanations of the Rocky Horror P&P2 (and other adaptations); he seemed much entertained, and got a commitment from them to email him a copy of the P&P2 RH script.
(5) He commented on the absence of men in our party, and received an explanation, from Myretta and others, of RoP as an unapologetic matriarchy with a very small proportion of men (2% if I recall Myretta's comment accurately). So the annual RoP meetings have been women only. He seemed much entertained by this too. He was clearly familiar--and much impressed--with RoP as a site.
(6) How the P&P2 pond scene developed: AD made much the same comments that he did a bit later to the whole group; they are given below in Part II.
Part II: Myretta introduced AD to the whole group as a friend of, and former lurker at, RoP.
AD then said he had explored RoP thoroughly, found it a wonderful website. It is also wonderful to have so many experts as fans of P&P2; when they make comments on Austen and adaptations, he knows they know what they are talking about. In response to questions:
Q1: What process does he follow in adapting a novel for the screen?
He had already read all JA novels, so was familiar with her work. In general, he reads the specific book he is adapting, first seeking ways to show it onscreen in a new way, finding "movie moments." Then in a second reading, he "listens" to it, often driving and listening on tape if possible. He stops and skips the tape, seeing pictures in his mind. In a 3rd reading, he explores the "nuts and bolts," how much time for which scenes, cliff hangers for episode endings, etc. Then he starts writing with collaboration with the producer, using key phrases and writing scenes the author "should have written." (He also commented that Sue Birtwhistle is a very good speaker, with good gossip; RoP should get her as a speaker!.)
Q2: What about the sex lives of the characters? AD says he gets this question often! His comments were quite explicit on societal expectations for men and women in general (men were expected to have some experience before marriage, and women were definitely not), and about his own opinions on Darcy and Knightley in particular.
Q3: Why did he have Darcy dive in the lake?
AD said he felt Darcy had a constant struggle between social expectations and his own natural inclinations. His natural passions tell him that EB is the woman for him; his intellect and society's expectations tell him she is beneath him. So as he returns from London to Pemberley after a long and tiring ride, Darcy just wants to get back into his natural self and be refreshed in cool water. The way he had written the script, Darcy would have stripped before diving in (since that was the usual way men swam at that time). This could have been filmed tastefully, without offending viewers (here AD became quite explicit about the views and about his wanting to find a way for Darcy "to get his kit off"). He thought that one reason this didn't happen, besides BBC reluctance, was that CF was concerned that he had gained weight in his hips and thighs and so was also reluctant. But no one expected the furor and excitement that developed about the wet linen shirt! So his diving in clothed had an unforseen payoff.
Q4: How did AD see Henry Tilney? [Sorry, I know that's not the way the question was asked!]
AD found the character of Henry Tilney very charming, but too patronizing in his teasing of Catherine. So he left out some teasing-- and also just wanted Catherine to have a chance to see him naked! [There were more nuances in this discussion which I didn't have time to capture.]
Q5: About Wives and Daughters: [I'm sorry, I missed getting this as I was trying to complete previous notes.]
Q6: What are his next projects?
First, _Daniel Deronda_, George Eliot's last novel, a "costume drama with terrific costumes." (He is unhappy when period dramas are referred to as "costume dramas" but this is one that really deserves the name!)
Second, a new TV version of _Dr. Zhivago_ for WGBH.
Third, something I think he called _Tipping Velvet_ (I may have mis-heard the title) with a lesbian theme, "delightful, funny, charming," which should get a U.S. co-producer. (He had reduced his fee to write this, with a large additional payoff if it is distributed in the U.S.)
Fourth, a departure for him, _Boadicea_ (sp??) the English warrior queen who almost succeeded in clearing the Romans out of Britain, lots of violence, little sex.
Q7: How was the screenplay for P&P2 different from the book?
(AD first answered what he thought was being asked, how the final film differed from what he wrote. He has what he calls "euphoric recall," remembering only the best parts of what happened, and not the difficulties. But one scene in P&P2 he does not like: the second proposal, much too stiff. It was "badly written, and badly acted" with no zip or excitement between Lizzy and Darcy.)
Then, on how his screenplay differs from the book: the parts he added which he usually emphasizes when he speaks about P&P2. These are (1) the opening scene with Darcy and Bingley riding to look at Netherfield; he wanted to show them as real and active
people. (2) The first proposal, which he had to write from what JA only indicated. (3) His increased role for Georgianna (he is really quite proud of this), and (4) the swimming scene (as he wanted it, with CF/Darcy nude in a tasteful way). He didn't anticipate the huge aftermath of the wet shirt after they had Darcy swim clothed, "But it certainly turned out well, didn't it?"
He received very enthusiastic applause from all of us, and really seemed to have enjoyed the dinner and the discussion. [My personal opinion is that he loves to get a reaction from women, in particular, with his saucy comments! And he certainly got a reaction from us all!]