10:30am Monday 16th February 2009
By Anthony Bonnici
THE BBC has confirmed it is in talks with a major Hollywood studio for a remake of The French Lieutenant’s Woman (FLW).
If given the go-ahead it will be the first time since the 1981 movie that John Fowles’ legendary novel – set in Lyme Regis – has been adapted for the screen.
News of a possible new version leaked after an MGM executive revealed at an industry conference that the two were in talks about a co-production.
MGM co-president of worldwide television distribution, Gary Marenzi, said outline plans for the new adaptation would be a four one-hour mini-series.
He is reported to have said: “We have just got another draft of the script. Now we’ll start to look at casting and where to shoot, it could start later this year.”
It has also been claimed he told reporters the show might be set in America.
The BBC has said it is in the very early stages of development and there is nothing more to say.
The original film – starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons – featured one of the big screen’s most enduring images of the cloak-clad heroine standing on The Cobb, with the waves crashing around her. The movie, which was adapted by Harold Pinter, was later nominated for five Academy Awards.
Mr Fowles – who died in 2005 – published the best selling novel in 1969, it is set in Lyme Regis shortly after the Napoleonic Wars.
In the story a woman, Sarah Woodruff, has an affair with a French naval lieutenant who leaves her to return home to a wife that his lover never knew existed. A pariah in the town she spends her days working and looking out to sea from the Cobb until she is chanced upon by a couple who befriend her.
The book centres around her relationship with the man and in a brilliant twist Fowles offers alternate endings.
The book – and later the film – did much to help Lyme’s tourism industry attracting fans from all over the world, particularly America.
Friends of the author said if any new production were to be filmed anywhere else it would be a travesty and an ‘insult’ to his memory.
Ken Gallop, a trustee at the town’s museum where Fowles worked as a volunteer curator, said: “The first third of the book is all about Lyme how could they possibly think of setting it anywhere else?
“I don’t think that John would have given his permission for it to be filmed anywhere else if he was alive today. He depicted the scenery of Lyme Regis that’s what he did so well I can’t see how they could film it elsewhere.
“If there is any consolation, I suppose it means the town would still have to be mentioned.
“That would be good for tourism. When the original film came out we had a lot of Americans coming over. The book was being part of the curriculum over there long before it was picked up over here.
“Even now we get lots of American women with their daughters coming down to the Cobb and posing.”
Tourism aside any adaptation would also see a new generation of popular interest in his works which also include The Collector.
Mr Fowles’s widow Sarah co-literary executor of his works along with his life-long agent Anthony Sheil said they were not in a position to talk about any plans.
She said: “If and when it happens I would be very pleased not only for John but for Lyme Regis too.”
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