• Deborah Yaffe

Clueless no more

Last month, we Janeites felt a tad confused -- dare I say clueless? -- when Netflix and MRC Entertainment announced plans to produce a new adaptation of Persuasion that would take a “modern, witty approach to a beloved story.” We couldn’t figure out if this meant the film would be a modernized update of Jane Austen’s story, or a straightforward (yet fun and unstuffy!) adaptation of the 1817 original. Not that we couldn’t handle either alternative – as if! -- but we just wanted to know what to expect.


And now a clue. Last weekend, on his way into the MTV Movie & TV Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, actor Henry Golding paused for a red-carpet conversation with Variety. Golding was recently cast as the slimy Mr. Elliot, opposite Dakota Johnson’s Anne, and he explained what drew him to the role, a bit of a departure for an actor best known for playing super-hot heroes.


Mr. Elliot, Golding said, struck him as “a period fuckboy . . . . He thinks that he can get away with pretty much anything, and whatever comes out of his mouth he imagines being the most important thing said that day. It’s going to be absolutely delicious playing him.”


Note the key word here. (No, not that one! Get your mind out of the gutter!) It’s “period.”


So there we have it: This is going to be an adaptation of the novel as Jane Austen wrote it, which means Netflix et al. will be going head-to-head with the already announced Sarah Snook-Joel Fry adaptation of the same book. An embarrassment of Janeite riches? Time will tell. While we wait, we can argue about whether Golding's interpretation sounds like the smooth, practiced Mr. Elliot we know and love-to-hate, or someone closer to a John Thorpe.


Meanwhile, Deadline reported additional casting news this week, most crucially that British actor Cosmo Jarvis will star as Captain Wentworth. Jarvis' best-known role to date was in Lady Macbeth, an excellent 2016 movie in which he played a hunky stablehand conducting a torrid love affair with the homicidal lady of the house. This time around, it seems we can feel pretty confident he’ll be playing a member of the nineteenth-century Royal Navy.

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