With a menacing escaped convict, a handsome young man who has his heart broken and a nutty old bird in a decaying wedding dress, what’s not to like about Great Expectations? It’s probably one of Charles Dickens’s best loved novels which might explain why there have been more than 250 adaptations (stage and screen) over the years with another on the way this Christmas.
On set near Watford, where filming of the BBC three-parter is well under way, it feels more like November than July with threatening skies and a brisk breeze.The interiors of Satis House, home of the iconic Miss Havisham, have been painstakingly recreated in a derelict school, which seems appropriate since decay is central to the story. It’s like stepping into a scene from Sleeping Beauty with exquisite antique furniture covered in dust and cobwebs – courtesy of a spray can apparently.
On paper, The X Files star Gillian Anderson seems too young to play the legendary recluse who was jilted on the day of her wedding and never removed her bridal gown. But seeing her dodge the rain barefoot in ethereal vintage dress, her lustrous blonde streaked locks hidden under witchy white tendrils, she’s totally convincing, not to mention unrecognisable. She’s often said in the past how she gets more interesting roles in Britain than America, including Lady Dedlock in Bleak House, Mrs Castaway in the recent Crimson Petal And The White, and the Duchess of Windsor in Any Human Heart (pictured above). Miss Havisham is surely the icing on the cake and she’s certainly on good form, joking during filming about her ‘shabby chic’ appearance.
David Suchet must be the busiest man on TV. Only last week TV Choice caught up with him on the set of Richard II playing the Duke of York in full 14th century garb, and five days later we find him in Victorian frock coat and impressive goatee as lawyer Mr Jaggers in Great Expectations. He admits he had a confusing weekend between the two productions but it’s all part of being an actor and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Memories of repertory theatre when he started out, learning a different play each week.
The central role of Pip is played by rising star Douglas Booth – previously seen as Boy George in the BBC biopic Worried About The Boy and playing Matt Smith’s love interest in Christopher And His Kind. Watching him during rehearsals and a take for a crucial scene with the love of his life Estella (Vanessa Kirby, recently seen in The Hour), you’d never guess he only turned 19 days earlier.
Ray Winstone was born to play escaped convict Magwitch but he’s sadly missing from the main cast because his scenes are being filmed elsewhere. With a bit of luck our paths will cross on some wintry marsh in Essex! Watch this space for more news…..