With a cast of Saorise Ronan, Orlando Bloom, Imelda Staunton, Greg Wise and Emma Thompson all set to go, everything looked good for Thompson’s latest screenplay “Effie.” Unfortunately, the long arm of the law reared its ugly head earlier this year, putting the film in limbo. What was the point of contention?
The film centers on the strange-but-true story about the wedding night between Victorian artist, architect, poet and political thinker John Ruskin and his wife, Effie Gray. Ruskin was long infatuated with Gray and married her when she was 17. However, when it came time to consummate their marriage, something so reviled Ruskin that Gray remained a virgin until after they divorced and she remarried his protege, painter, John Everett Millais. While it has never been established just what disgusted Ruskin to the point he refused to have sex with his wife, theories over the years have speculated it might have been pubic hair or menstrual blood. A great story indeed, but you see back in 1999 playwright George Murphy penned “The Countess,” also about the Effie/Ruskin/Millais affair, and it hit stages to strong reviews and was even revived in 2005. Murphy felt that Thompson’s script is too close for comfort to Murphy’s work and thus, the ensuing legal battle. Thompson’s camp maintains she never had access to Murphy’s play and didn’t copy it. Well, it appears the legal dispute has been figured out as a start date is now pegged but with a couple of casting switchups.
Ronan is out and Dakota Fanning is in for the role of Effie Gray — not too bad considering Fanning just turned 17 herself. Orlando Bloom also looks to have moved on, but Tom Sturridge is now on board as Millais. There is also no mention of the excellent Imelda Staunton, though Richard Laxton (”An Englishman In New York”) is on board to direct and Thompson’s other half, Greg Wise is still on to play Ruskin.
We’re glad to see this back on and moving, because the story is so compelling — and the cast is quite good. Fanning has been off the radar awhile, last appearing in “The Runaways” and though the film was a bit of a mess, her performance was strong. She’s got two more “Twilight” films to go, but this is certainly a good change of pace, and a part that is definitely a good transitional piece into more adult roles. Production starts in October, with a premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 2012 being eyed. [Deadline]