|Mary with director Donald Rice, on set.|
(photo by Mark Tilley)
MHM: I’m not good at this kind of thing at all, but I’ll give it a go … It’s a very sharp and funny and odd tale about a romance gone awry and a family on the verge of chaos.
ST: How did you discover the book?
MHM: It was given to me as a present by a very good friend. We were both huge Persephone fans and she worked around the corner from the shop in Bloomsbury. I was about to get married, but I don’t think my friend had read the book herself. Dolly is not exactly the model bride-to-be.
ST: What led to you adapting it, and getting the film made?
MHM: I was looking for a small(ish) scale project to adapt and this seemed to be it. I really didn’t know what I was doing. I had worked in production on short films with Teun Hilte and Donald Rice, and they were involved with Cheerful Weather for the Wedding from the beginning. Teun optioned the rights, and we always planned that Donald would direct the movie. He edited the first few drafts of the script and eventually we wrote the script together. Once Felicity Jones was on board, everything moved very quickly.
ST: Were there any bits of the novel which you loved, but didn't feel would work for the screen?
MHM: Yes! My favourite thing in the book is when Dolly remembers the moment she knew Joseph had fallen in love with her. He didn’t actually say the words. He told her that she would “adore” a jumbly, whatever that is, but he was really saying that he adored her. I absolutely loved this and wrote it into the script. We wound up changing the scene completely and the whole thing was cut – which was really disheartening. But, we replaced it with the barn dance scene, which is my favourite part of the film so it all worked out!
ST: Here's my idiosyncratic personal question, because it was about my favourite bit of the novel.... why weren't the socks emerald green?!
MHM: I really don’t know why we changed that. I think we liked the idea that they looked like “cat sick.” That was just a weird thing that got lost in translation somehow. I always laughed about the socks in the book. In the first few versions of the script, everyone who read it would say there was way too much stuff about the socks.
ST: Any amusing anecdotes from the set?
MHM: The crew stayed in chalets at a place called Sandy Balls (look it up, it’s real!) and that provided lots of tittering and silliness. We also had a hilarious evening at a hotel in Salisbury which involved restaurant ineptitude that would make Fawlty Towers look like The Ritz. But, the most amusing anecdotes from the set are far too inappropriate to share on this blog!
ST: If you had to pick a favourite line from the screenplay, what would it be?
MHM: Yikes. I really like when Kitty says that she doesn’t want the boy who looks like he has rabies. I also like it when Mrs. Whitstable says that Dolly is beautiful, and then announces that she (Mrs. W) has lost her eyesight. This was not in the book, although almost all the rest of Mrs. Whitstable’s lines were. I actually took it from an aged great aunt of mine who said nearly the same thing to me when I visited her in Greece when I was 18.
ST: Which other books would you like to adapt, in an ideal world?
MHM: I could go on and on with this one, but here are the first three that come to mind:
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Timothy and Two Witches by Margaret Storey
ST: And the question I ask everyone... what are you reading at the moment?
MHM: I’m attempting to read Middlemarch for the third time. First two attempts ended in failure. I think I hate it. I feel like a complete philistine for saying that, but I am really struggling to get through it. Pathetic! I also just re-read The Go-Between, which I think is absolutely brilliant.
Thanks, Mary! (And, by the way, I've never got beyond the first 100 pages of Middlemarch...)