Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Andrew Davies at the JASNA AGM – Part II

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the highlight of the JASNA AGM was listening to screenwriter Andrew Davies. The man has a natural wit, and all his stories were thoroughly enjoyable. However, he saved his funniest comments for Emma.

Davies mentioned that Austen’s novel has a young Mr. Knightley enjoying his visits to Highbury. “Why?” Davies asked. “For the sterling companionship of Mr. Woodhouse? Of course not, he was a young man, and because Emma would have been toddling about in her nappies, it couldn’t have been because of Emma. Therefore, it is obvious that George Knightley had a crush on Mrs. Woodhouse, which makes sense because, obviously, Emma did not get her personality from her father.”

He also mentioned that as a visitor to Highbury, George would have held Emma in his arms—as a baby—and he wondered at what point George’s feelings for Emma began to change from fraternal to romantic. “Was it when Emma was seventeen? Sixteen? Fifteen? Now we are in Willoughby territory.”

Then Davies shared the difficulties of shooting any scene with a baby. To soften the stern visage of Mark Strong, the actor who played George Knightley, opposite to Kate Beckinsale’s Emma, they decided to have Emma pass her sister’s baby to Mr. Knightley so that he might look paternal. However, the baby took one look at Mark and his harsh features and started to wail. After several attempts, they brought in baby #2 (a second baby being a must for shooting with children). Baby #2 didn’t like him any better. They went into the village and got a third baby. You guessed it. Baby #3 didn’t like Mark either. After several more attempts, the production manager pointed out that the scene was costing them a fortune. It was decided to use a “bean baby,” and they bought up all the beans in the village and made a cloth baby stuffed with beans.

So when you look at the Strong/Beckinsale Emma, you will see Kate pass off a live baby to Mark, but Mark will be holding the bean baby. But if you look at the real baby just before the transfer is made, you will see alook of alarm on the baby’s face. It’s worth the price of a rental just to see the baby.


  1. I really like Mark Strong. The poor guy must have been getting a complex after being wailed at by 3 babies! I own this DVD (of course) so I will have to watch that part again.

    I wish I liked this version of Emma better, but it is very dark in it's cinematography, and I am not really a Kate Beckinsale fan. I don't think it is at all the fault of Andrew Davies' screenplay. Hard to beat the Romola and Jonny version IMHO.

    Hilarious comments about Mr. Knightley! Trust Andrew Davies to give us the male viewpoint. Love him!

  2. When Davies showed the scene with the baby, everyone howled. I'm going to have to get this copy of Emma from the library. I really didn't like this Emma at all. I thought both leads were lacking in charisma and never connected. My preference is for Jeremy and Paltrow.

  3. Haven't seen this version - I'll have to check it out.

  4. This is hilarious! I will have to watch it again just to check out the baby!

  5. What a hilarious backstory to the movie! I will have to run to check that scene out again too.

  6. Thanks for the tip, Mary. I need to check out this scene again. Like Jenny, I love the recent BBC miniseries.