Tuesday, February 7th, marked the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, and as a result, the author is one of the hottest properties around at the moment. Among the many Dickens related projects in the works, the coming year will bring two star-laden versions of “Great Expectations,” one an excellent BBC TV miniseries with Ray Winstone and Gillian Anderson (watch the trailer below, courtesy of Time), the other a Mike Newell film with Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter and “War Horse” star Jeremy Irvine.
But Fiennes hasn’t quite scratched his Dickens itch with “Great Expectations,” as he’s following up his directorial debut, “Coriolanus,” with “The Invisible Woman,” an adaptation of Claire Tomalin‘s non-fiction tome telling the story of the relationship between the great writer and Nelly Ternan, an actress nearly half his age, with whom he had an affair that shocked the nation. Fiennes has been on board the project, which comes from a script by Abi Morgan (“Shame,” “The Iron Lady“), since last year, and in December cast his leading lady, “Like Crazy” star Felicity Jones.
But the question remained, who was to play Dickens? Fiennes was said to have ruled out the idea of doing it himself, and names as varied as Ben Whishaw and Daniel Day-Lewis were bandied about. But with the start of production sneaking up, Fiennes has bitten the bullet, and Screen Daily has announced that he will, after all, star in the film as well as directing, just as he did with “Coriolanus.” To be honest, it makes sense as he’s a strong casting for the part, and we’re surprised it’s taken him this long to commit. Perhaps a reluctance to direct himself again?
He’s not the only addition to the cast, either. Fiennes has also added his “The English Patient” co-star Kristin Scott-Thomas, who’ll play Nelly’s mother, Mrs. Ternan. That’s a fairly rock-solid trio of actors there, and Fiennes has assembled an impressive behind-the-scenes line-up too, including Oscar-winning costume designer Michael O’Connor (“Jane Eyre“), production designer Maria Djurokovic (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy“) and DoP Rob Hardy (“Shadow Dancer,” “Boy A“). Filming will get underway in London on April 23rd.