At 16 years old, Saoirse Ronan has landed what may be her most adult and potentially controversial role to date.
Production Weekly has tweeted that Ronan will take on the titular character of “Effie” in the upcoming film written by Emma Thompson. The intriguing material will center on 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.
“He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and finally this last year he told me his true reason… that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April,” wrote to her parents. And during the divorce proceedings Ruskin stated, “It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it.”
Thompson’s husband and producer Greg Wise, who will play the part of Ruskin in the film, told the Guardian earlier in the year that, “We have tried to stick to what Effie wrote about the incident but you never really know if Ruskin had set her up for it in some way. She had to go to the ecclesiastical court to get a divorce, so if nothing else you have to admire the strength of character of this girl.”
It promises to be some powerful material. Orlando Bloom, Imelda Staunton and Emma Thompson are also among the cast and while a director hasn’t been formally revealed, IMDB lists Richard Laxton (“An Englishman In New York“) as the man behind the camera. No word yet on a start date but production was reported earlier in the year to take place in Venice and Scotland. It’s also unknown how her involvement may affect her rumored part in Peter Jackson‘s “The Hobbit.”