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Whit Stillman Gearing Up Next Film 'Love And Friendship,' An Adaptation Of Jane Austen's 'Lady Susan'

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by Kevin Jagernauth
July 18, 2013 1:47 PM
10 Comments
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It took a far-too-long fifteen years for Whit Stillman to follow up 1998's "The Last Days of Disco" with 2012's whimsical "Damsels In Distress" (which hit the festival circuit in 2011). But thankfully, we won't be waiting another decade for the director to make his next picture. He's always been rather low profile, so it's not much of a surprise his next project is quietly starting to get pulled together, but we've got a few details on what it's all about.

Yesterday, the New York Post reported that Stillman had hit Manhattan to start casting on this next movie, which he teased thusly: “It’s based on a funny but obscure late 18th-century work that reads a bit like an Oscar Wilde play.” But according to sources close to the production, that 18th century work is actually Jane Austen's little known and perhaps less celebrated "Lady Susan," and it will be adapted into a film currently titled "Love And Friendship." 

Sharper and sexier than the Austen you might know, and perhaps more in line with the works of Oscar Wilde, the story follows a widowed woman trying to find a husband for herself and her daughter. In a break from other books of the time, Lady Susan is active in pursuit of a new beau, and yet has a relationship to a married man as well. Of course, how Stillman puts this basic premise through his own filter remains to be seen, but it's intriguing material nonetheless and something we could see him having great fun with.

And this isn't the first time Stillman has attempted to bring Austen to the big screen. Back in 2003, Variety reported he was working with British producer Stephen Evans ("Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind," "The Madness Of King George") on a movie that would merge Austen's unfinished novels, “The Watsons” and “Sanditon,” into a single movie called "Winchester Races" by crossing over characters from each. Clearly, that project never happened, but Stillman is still aiming to get smaller Austen entries up on the big screen.

It's not clear if financing is in place—THR reported earlier this year that he was at Cannes taking meetings—but perhaps there's enough movement that he can start lining up a potential cast. “There are a number of good star parts,” he told the post, adding that he's aiming to shoot in Britain and Ireland.

Hopefully, more details will be coming soon.

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10 Comments

  • Natalie | March 30, 2014 12:59 PMReply

    I heard he has affairs with his leads.

  • Ben | March 30, 2014 2:54 AMReply

    Dreaming that his cast can pull off a true period piece. An actor should have real talent for that and not always the young IT actors that can appreciate real writing. His casts typically know how to talk his words, but they don't do much else.

  • Pru | August 9, 2013 8:42 AMReply

    All I can say is - Wow! I think Stillman and Austen are a good fit though I would rather see him tackle one of the "canon". Stillman and Austen both are in their element when there is a good person - or a person trying to do right - at the core and the wicked and vain ones orbiting around them, like the Crawfords in Mansfield Park (badly done in '99 and '09). I have to check out the Lady Vernon book.

  • Bob Mapplethorpe | August 1, 2013 1:28 AMReply

    I really enjoyed "Damsels in Distress." Greta Gerwig really shines and it has some great dialogue. I'm also looking forward to his Jane Austen film. I think it's a great choice to have Whit Stillman do an Austen work because he has excellent writing in his films. It cannot come out soon enough. I'm just hoping it will be out in a lot of theaters so more people will check out his other works of genius. I'm guessing it will because period pieces and Austen flicks usually get wide releases. At any rate, I am glad I don't have to wait a long time for another Stillman flick!

  • Elinor | July 30, 2013 8:36 AMReply

    @Tom I agree. I wanted to like Damsels in Distress a lot more than I did. It seemed so incoherent and out of touch.
    @ Barbara - As another fan of Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, I would like an adaptation in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice vein. Andrew Davies where are you???
    @ Lucia - I wonder if Austen was at all influenced by Dangerous Liaisons when she wrote Lady Susan. Have to find out if it was published in English in the mid 1790s.
    @ Ingrid - The title Love and Friendship is going to be VERY confusing to Austenites. Surely Stillman knows that there is a short early work called Love and Friendship?

  • Ingrid | July 28, 2013 9:56 AMReply

    Are you certain that it is not Austen's "Love and Friendship"? As written in another post, there is a very early work by Austen with that title. That, as well as "Lady Susan" can usually be found in collections of her juvenile writing, which were all done when she was in her teens.

  • Lucia | July 27, 2013 12:04 PMReply

    Lovely if he would adapt Lady Vernon. (loved that book!) The original Lady Susan is delightful but very much like Dangerous Liaisons and that has been filmed at least 4x. I also am of the opinion that Stillman is a director who may want to go for a strong adaptation. I liked Metropolitan and loved Barcelona but thought that Damsels in Distress completely missed the mark.

  • Barbara | July 27, 2013 8:04 AMReply

    There actually is a short work in Austens juvenilia called 'Love and Friendship' which should not be confused with 'Lady Susan'. Also - a few years ago a mother/daughter writing team did a very faithful adaptation of 'Lady Susan', toning down the racy stuff and making it read very much like an Austen work. Called 'Lady Vernon and Her Daughter'. I remember there were Austen elements in Stillmans first film 'Metropolitan'.

  • Tom Knoblauch | July 24, 2013 2:26 PMReply

    I'm a huge fan of his 90s work, but I can't say I got much enjoyment from Damsels in Distress. Hopefully this will prove he's still got it.

  • Jorgen | March 30, 2014 12:20 PM

    His work was amazing, but the actors available now are mostly a Las Vegas show. That's why his cast doomed the Damsels project.

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