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Ralph Fiennes in talks to join Mike Newell’s GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
April 22nd, 2011

Ralph Fiennes is currently in talks to join Mike Newell’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic, Great Expectations, as part of the author’s bicentenary in 2012. Fiennes would play the role of Magwitch, a convict who also serves as a mysterious benefactor to the story’s male lead, Pip.

Casting for the new adaptation already includes Jeremy Irvine (soon to be seen in WAR HORSE), with reports that Helena Bonham Carter is in talks for the role of Miss Havisham (scarily good casting). There have also been rumblings that Rooney Mara (THE SOCIAL NETWORK, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) was “in early talks” to take on the female lead, Estella, but she has had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Let’s mark that one down as truly wonderful and inventive casting that will never come to be. There’s no word on other actresses being eyed for the role, but I suspect we will see one of those “shortlists” soon enough with all the usual names (spitballing here for Keira Knightley).

This new adaptation has been penned by Rowan Joffe (best known for THE AMERICAN and 28 WEEKS LATER). Though I was not a huge fan of THE AMERCIAN, I am interested to see what Joffe would do with this classic work.

Perhaps Dickens’s best known work, Great Expectations is a weighty novel, filled with many different plots and a huge number of characters. Its simplest explanation is that it follows the young, poor Pip as a secret benefactor provides for him in a way that makes class ascension possible. Along the way, Pip becomes a companion for the rich and ruined Miss Havisham, and he falls for her cold and beautiful adopted daughter Estella. Though the book is also filled with themes of guilt, ambition, and crime, most people remember it as a love story between Pip and Estella, and the lengths to which Pip goes to raise his status in order to feel worthy of her.

Great Expectations has, of course, seen a number of adaptations over the years, including films, miniseries, and musicals. The last large-scale, feature version of it was Alfonso Cuarón’s 1998 effort that starred Ethan Hawke as Pip and Gwyneth Paltrow as Estella. Though a contemporary adaptation, I’ve always found it to be a very accessible film in terms of bringing Dickens’ novel to life in an entertaining way. I am, however, interested in seeing a new version that sticks more firmly to the novel.

The film will release in 2012 for Dickens’ bicentenary celebration.

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