Saoirse Ronan was lamenting the timing of the sexual revolution.
‘If only it had happened a few years later,’ she said with a sigh.
The actress was discussing the newlyweds that she and Billy Howle play in Dominic Cooke’s brilliantly observed film of Ian McEwan’s novel On Chesil Beach, using a screenplay by the author.
‘They’re not able to consummate their marriage,’ Ronan said.
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Pictured: Saoirse Ronan, above, stars in the film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel On Chesil Beach
‘It’s set right on the cusp of the sexual revolution; but Florence and Edward, who we play, haven’t been able to talk freely about sex. And they haven’t understood why they’ve had this reaction.’
Cooke told me that McEwan had long wanted Ronan to be in the film after she was in the screen version of another of his novels, Atonement: she played the 13-year-old sister of Keira Knightley’s character.
‘I saw Saoirse in Brooklyn and thought she was extraordinary,’ Cooke added. ‘You can see right into her; and she’s emotionally open.
‘Turns out she had always wanted to do Chesil Beach, but wanted to wait until she was old enough.’
On Chesil Beach has its first LFF screening this Sunday. Check bfi.org.uk/lff for details
The director has captured a real sensitivity between the now 23-year-old Ronan and Howle, and has done detailed, insightful work with Emily Watson, Samuel West, Adrian Scarborough and Anne-Marie Duff (excellent, by the way, in Heisenberg at Wyndham’s Theatre), who play the two sets of parents.
After making Chesil Beach, Ronan went on to star in Greta Gerwig’s sublime film Lady Bird, which may well sneak into the London Film Festival, if people look hard enough for it.
On Chesil Beach has its first LFF screening this Sunday. Check bfi.org.uk/lff for details.
Why frock star Jamie will be the talk of the town
It’s clear to see why Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – which just happens to be the title of a new British musical (yes, that rare beast!) opening in the West End next month.
The show, written by Dan Gillespie Sells, lead singer and guitarist of The Feeling, and television writer Tom MacRae, tells the story of Jamie New, a Sheffield schoolboy (played by newcomer John McCrea) who, now and again, likes to put on a frock, and dreams of wearing a gown to the prom.
It’s clear to see why Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – which just happens to be the title of a new British musical (yes, that rare beast!) opening in the West End next month
The show, written by Dan Gillespie Sells, lead singer and guitarist of The Feeling, and television writer Tom MacRae, tells the story of Jamie New, a Sheffield schoolboy
Star of the show: Newcomer John McCrea plays Jamie, a schoolboy who dreams of wearing a dress to his prom
Pictured: Actor Tom MacRae with director Jonathan Butterell and musician Dan Gillespie Sells at rehearsals for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie earlier this week
It played 19 sold-out performances at the Crucible, Sheffield, earlier this year before theatre owner and producer Nica Burns swooped in and booked it for the Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue, where previews start on November 6.
Watching the company rehearse the electrifying opening number, Don’t Even Know (choreographed by Kate Prince, founder of the Zoo Nation dance troupe), it’s easy to see why Sheffield was so taken by the musical.
But nothing prepared me for an intimate, act two scene with McCrea and Lucie Shorthouse, as Jamie’s best friend, Pritti.
Director Jonathan Butterell sat on the edge of a bed in one of the rehearsal rooms at the Old Diorama Arts Centre near Regent’s Park, as Pritti explained to Jamie why it was her choice to wear a hijab.
It played 19 sold-out performances at the Crucible, Sheffield, earlier this year before theatre owner and producer Nica Burns swooped in and booked it for the Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue, where previews start on November 6
Watching the company rehearse the electrifying opening number, Don’t Even Know (choreographed by Kate Prince, founder of the Zoo Nation dance troupe), it’s easy to see why Sheffield was so taken by the musical
But nothing prepared me for an intimate, act two scene with McCrea and Lucie Shorthouse, as Jamie’s best friend, Pritti
Then, Sells started playing his guitar – and Ms Shorthouse began singing. The title of the song was It Means Beautiful, and for three-and-a-half minutes I was spellbound.
Sells and MacRae had never written a musical before. MacRae said they wrote and re-wrote lots of numbers, but It Means Beautiful came relatively easily. ‘I don’t think either of us thought it would be a big song. On other songs we worked so hard. But It Means Beautiful wasn’t difficult at all.’
That number, to my mind, encapsulates a lot of what the show’s about: identity, diversity, family and friendship. Sells said: ‘What we do in pop music is take a world of ideas, distil them into a tiny gem, and make it sound easy. It doesn’t work if it’s difficult to listen to.’
Several members of the Sheffield company, including Josie Walker, as Jamie’s mum; her best friend, Mina Anwar; and Tamsin Carroll, as Jamie’s teacher; have remained with the show, although producer Burns said some new cast members are making their West End debuts.
Theatre owner and producer Nica Burns has booked the company for the Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue, where previews start on November 6
Watch out for…
Sam Claflin and Asa Butterfield, who star in Saul Dibb’s excellent film of R.C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End, which is set in the trenches during World War I. The film will be shown as part of the BFI London Film Festival tonight at the Odeon Leicester Square, with a second showing tomorrow evening.
Claflin plays a decent officer who has turned to the bottle to hide his fear. I’ve seen the film twice now, and I think that, along with his work in another wartime movie, Their Finest, it’s the best acting he has done. Butterfield’s casting is spot on, too, as he portrays a schoolboy hurled right into the horrors of war. Journey’s End also features superb work from Paul Bettany, Toby Jones, Stephen Graham and Tom Sturridge. See bfi.org.uk/lff for a full schedule.
Annette Bening, who is luminous as one-time Hollywood femme fatale Gloria Grahame in Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, in which she and an incredible Jamie Bell (as a young actor called Peter Turner) star in a t
rue story about the most unusual of lovers (pictured left). Director Paul McGuigan explores how an actress survives when the spotlight stops picking her out.
Thankfully, this film – and these performances – will help restore Grahame’s professional reputation. As the real-life Peter Turner remarked to me when we were at the Telluride Film Festival: ‘She never stopped acting. It was just that Hollywood stopped calling, so she had to go where the work was.’ Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool is being shown next Wednesday, as part of the BFI LFF, at the Odeon Leicester Square.
Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan, who make up the company of actors who give vivid life to the characters of Hillary Jordan’s novel Mudbound in film-maker Dee Rees’s movie, which explores racial unrest – and friendship – in the American deep south post WW2.
Morgan and Hedlund play returning veterans who find that readjusting to civilian life can be almost as hellish as being on the battlefield. It’s showing this morning (Friday) at the Odeon Leicester Square, and tomorrow in Hackney. Check bfi.org.uk/lff for details.