Last fall, a rather interesting project was coming together based around a script from actress/screenwriter Emma Thompson. Titled “Effie,” the film lined up a solid cast with Saorise Ronan, Orlando Bloom, Imelda Staunton, Greg Wise and Thompson herself in the strange-but-true story that centers 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.
Ronan and Wise were set to play Effie and Ruskin respectively but production is now being held up as playwright Gregory Murphy has taken the film’s producers to court citing copywright infringement.
You see, back in 1999 Murphy’s play “The Countess,” also about the Effie/Ruskin/Millais affair, hit stages to strong reviews and was even revived in 2005. Murphy feels that Thompson’s script is too close for comfort to this work and thus, the ensuing legal battle. Thompson’s camp maintains she never had access to Murphy’s play and didn’t copy it.
Regardless, this throws a major wrench into getting the film underway. “In order to close financing to produce a motion picture based on Effie, [the plaintiff] must be able to demonstrate that there is no validity to Mr. Murphy’s claim of infringement,” says the complaint in the lawsuit. No word yet on how long this might take to resolve (attention lawyers, throwing Murphy a story credit might be the quickest way to get him off your back) but Ronan and Bloom can chat about it on the set of “The Hobbit.”