'Austenland' Director, Distributor Embrace Fun, Female-Centric Film
Jerusha Hess and Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker talk about their attraction to the Jane Austen-themed romantic comedy, starring Keri Russell.
Sony Pictures Classics certainly hasn't shied away from the fact that its upcoming movie Austenland is meant to appeal to women. The specialty division has hosted female-only screenings, and at Monday's Cinema Society- and Alice and Olivia-hosted screening in New York, director Jerusha Hess said she's embraced the gender-specific nature of the film.
"It's covered in pink feathers and codpieces and hot servants and dance scenes," Hess told The Hollywood Reporter of the Keri Russell-starrer. "So, yeah, it's a girl movie. Not that it's just for girls, but yeah, it's a girl movie."
Meanwhile, castmember JJ Feild, who relished the opportunity to poke fun at an earlier Jane Austen character he'd played, said the women-only screenings are "a waste." He thinks there's plenty that will appeal to men in the film: "All the men that I know that have seen it come out rolling in hysterics. The humor is that Jerusha Hess-, Napoleon Dynamite-, Gentlemen Broncos-type of humor.
In fact, Hess said that the experience of making those "boy movies" with her husband Jared made her crave a more estrogen-filled environment.
"I wanted so desperately to do a movie that would appeal to myself and my girlfriends," she said.
For Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker, the reaction to the movie from women in the crowd at its Sundance screening was part of what made Sony willing to spend more than $4 million to acquire the film.
"When I saw the reaction at Sundance from the female audience, which was so way over the top, we just felt like we had to have the movie," Barker said. "And also Jane Austen, she's so popular, she's almost a rock star to our audience. This movie, not only captures Jane Austen, it's also so much fun. It's a movie in the style of Jane Austen but it's also a very modern movie, so we thought it would do well."
Producer Stephenie Meyer also experienced a much lighter mood on the set of this movie, no longer feeling pressure to have things line up precisely with a book -- as she did with her Twilight series. She notes that if anything's different from the book with this movie, that will be author Shannon Hale's problem.
But, Feild does hope that like the Twilight films, this movie will also be well-received by its audience, saying of Meyer, " She has, obviously, incredible experience transferring novels into very successful films, so hopefully that will rub off on this."
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