Behind the drama of two new television costume dramas is an intense battle for audience ratings. Actresses Tara Fitzgerald and Kate Beckinsale tighten their bodices and speak to Sue Greenway about the tussle between Jane Austen and Anne Bronte.

der your hat: Kate Beckinsale to Emma . . .

_ Keep it un

12 The List l5-28 Nov I996


ostume drama is about to hit the screen in a big way. with the BBC’s The Tenant ()f Wild/ell Hall, starring Tara Fitzgerald, wrestling for the

Emma. with Kate Beckinsale as the


The productions will not only see two rising actresses battling it out, up to their armpits in bodice. Jane Austen and Anne Bront'e', who wrote the original novels. will also lock horns in the battle for TV audiences.

The BBC particularly has a long history of adapting classic novels. but the current fever for period pieces began with the extraordinary success of Middlemarch, which made a star out of Rufus Sewell. The latest.

greatest triumph was Pride And Prejudice,


ratings with a one-off [TV film of

which turned Colin Firth into the most desired man on the face of the planet.

There has also been television’s Persuasion. Emma Thompson’s Oscar-winning cinema screenplay for Sense And Sensibility. a recent big screen version of Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow, and a film of Jane Eyre starring Charlotte Gainsbourg with William Hurt as an unlikely Mr Rochester. The [TV adaptation of Jane Evre is yet to come, starring, confusingly. Samantha Morton, who plays Harriet Smith in lTV’s Emma.

Andrew Davies. who wrote the television screenplays for Emma and Pride And Prejudice, has also written Moll Flanders for lTV and is now beavering away on Vanin Fair for the BBC. Where will it all end?

Of the two classics to be screened on television this month. Jane Austen’s Emma is superior it is a lavish £2 million production, as faithful to the book as is possible in a two-hour production. Where the recent movie version lost chunks of the story, this adaptation includes all Emma’s disastrous matchmaking attempts. The twists in the plot involving Jane Fairfax, Frank Churchill, Harriet Smith. Mr Elton and the hero, Mr Knightly Mark Strong from Our Friends In The North are all there.

Jane Austen said of Emma that she was setting out to create a heroine whom nobody but

‘A lot of actresses like to do period drama, because you’ve got eight layers of underwear on.’

Kate Beckinsale

herself would like. Beckinsale. who plays the character in the ITV production. doesn’t agree. ‘I thought she was wonderful,‘ she says. ‘When I finished, people leapt out of the woodwork and said, “she’s such a nightmare, but I thought she was great”. I thought all the reasons for her behaviour were there. she's not just a silly person. She’s just somebody young trying to make the journey into becoming a grown-up and making a few mistakes along the way. I think it’s touching.’ Beckinsale. the 23-year-old daughter of actress Judy Loe and the late Richard Beckinsale. points out that Jane Austen’s characters may have worn bodices, but they did not get ripped, which suited her down to the ground. ‘My breasts stay under my jumper.’ she says. ‘There are so ,, many completely unnecessary bum .' :5; shots in things and until that changes. I don’t really want to be part of it. 1