Lone Scherfig: People weren’t so critical to Anne’s face about her accent
Having previously directed An Education, which was based on Nick Hornby’s screenplay, Lone Scherfig was no stranger to bringing English characters to life on screen. After the challenge of directing One Day, the film adaption of the award-winning novel by David Nicholls, the Danish director discusses the challenge of translating such a successful book into film whilst staying loyal to the fans, and the less than complimentary reactions to Anne Hathaway’s Yorkshire accent as the central character Emma.
What was the biggest challenge turning such a well-received book into film?
The best challenge is to make time move the way it is. To do something that you can’t do in a book in the same way. To see how the music changes and the characters age, and to try and perform that magic on screen. But of course it’s a great challenge to do something people love so much and feel such ownership of. You want to stay loyal to the book and its readers, but also that the people who haven’t read it see a good film. So that you don’t really need to have read it to watch the film.
How have you found the reactions to the film?
They’re very different, depending where you are. The last opening was Germany, and a lot of people went to see it there. I am hoping that the film in Britain feels precise, so what you see and hear feels right. But also if you’re not British you get an idea of what that world was like. There’s of course detail you won’t get abroad that you will get if you’re English.
Anne Hathaway’s explained how she persuaded you to get the part, what was it that convinced you?
She thinks it’s amusing saying this! She is just a really good actress, and it wasn’t persuasion. I was thrilled that someone of her calibre was interested, because it gets the film out to people who would never find the book or who may not even ever read books because she has a big audience, so in a way she acts as an ambassador of David’s material. Also, she’s very warm, she’s a really good craftsman – which is great – because the ageing is hard. The process of checking in on the characters once a year is difficult.
Have you spoken to her about the negative responses to her Northern accent?
No I haven’t. Well, that’s not true. Er, I think people are not so critical to her face, so people who actually live in that area, in Yorkshire, say “Oh you got it spot on.” But of course we had people that made sure that it was working. But I think she speaks with an accent that you have to get used to when you see the film. If she just played RP, or received pronunciation – BBC English – it might have been disloyal to the book but taken up less attention.
How was it working with the writer so closely? Was there anything you disagreed on?
No it was very much David’s world, it was very personal. So I never wanted it to become my film, and to try and listen to him, because he knows so much more about the world than I do. It’s about getting the best out of every moment and scene. He was a scriptwriter before he wrote the novel so he understands a lot of what my craft is about.
Any section of book you would’ve liked to include?
We had a version where you saw more of Dexter travelling, but something has to be left out, you can’t shoot everything. You have to make sure that the budget fits the project. I’m hoping that you get a lot of information from the image that makes up for the fact that some of the book’s not there. There are also scenes in the film that aren’t in the book!
Can you think of any other book adaptations that, in your opinion, have done a bad job?
There are, but I wouldn’t want to bad mouth them. I wrote a thesis when I was in university about adaptations, so even though I wasn’t a very good student, in theory I should know something about it!
One Day is available on Blu-ray and DVD from 6 FebruaryTagged in: an education, anna hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Lone Scherfig, One Day
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