"We’re a company that is rapidly building a healthy reputation for being able to successfully convert well-known written works into big- and small-screen entertainment. Taking on Brontë seemed like the natural next step up the literary ladder," adds producer Paul Trijbits. "It’s a book we already knew had an enormous fan base, so the responsibility was also a major consideration. We wanted to move this interpretation forward into the 21st Century whilst maintaining the story’s haunting beauty."
Owen adds, "It’s timely in that Charlotte Brontë, seen as ‘the darker sister’ when compared to Emily and Anne Brontë, is being rediscovered much like Jane Austen was nearly 20 years ago.
"As a producer, I make sure to have general meetings with my favorite writers all the time; right after I’d thought about Jane Eyre, I was meeting with Moira Buffini. I happened to mention it and it turned out to be one of Moira’s favorite books, if not her favorite."
Buffini seized on the chance to adapt the book, and she and Owen quickly outlined their vision for a full-on big-screen approach to the story. They knew it had to differ from adaptations that had gone before. Buffini’s approach was to draw out the gothic elements of the story, and make them engines of the piece.
Further, as the novel would be adapted into a two-hour movie, Owen found that "what was brilliant about the script Moira delivered was the structure she’d chosen. The book is quite difficult in some ways to translate to film. Everyone remembers the sections of Jane’s childhood, of Jane being a governess at Thornfield and falling in love with Mr. Rochester, and then bolting.
Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Reed
"But from then on, there’s another set of characters introduced – the Rivers family. You can do that in a novel, but it’s harder to do two-thirds of the way through a movie. Moira’s stroke of genius was that instead of abbreviating or losing this part entirely, which previous adaptations have done, she put it right at the beginning – and turned the novel’s early sections of the young Jane at Lowood and her initial days at Thornfield into flashbacks. Therefore, midway through the third act, we catch up with Jane and you get the emotional punch of being in real time at the end as she comes to terms with everyone and everything."
Jamie Bell as St. John Rivers
Buffini comments, "I hope this will please the many who love the book; while we may not be faithful to the original structure, our version does include every key stage of Jane’s story. Giving the complete picture was also meant to help the uninitiated – those coming to this story for the first time – to understand and identify with Jane all the more."
Imogene Poots as Blanche Ingram
Photos: Laurie Sparham