Thursday, January 24, 2008

Muskett Scores Miss Austen Regrets

We are in heaven. We've been DVR'ing the Masterpiece Classic Jane Austen films -- even though we have them on DVD, they're purchases and were to be played on a multi-region DVD player, which as subsequently, irrevocably, broken down. We must admit we've watched the newest Persuasion (our favorite Austen story) four times already.

So, we're quite excited about the film to air on 3 February on PBS, Miss Austen Regrets, which examines the final years of our all-time favorite author. BTW, star Olivia Williams is no stranger to Austen tales. She starred as Jane Fairfax in the 1996 version of Emma (the one with Kate Beckinsale, not the Gwynth Paltrow version).

Multiple award-winning composer Jennie Muskett departs from her action and dramatic scores for “Spooks MI-5” and “The State Within” to set a romantic yet dramatic tone to “Miss Austen Regrets,” based on Jane Austen’s own letters and diaries. “Miss Austen Regrets” will be presented by PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre on February 3rd. The feature is a co-production of BBC and WGBH. The critically acclaimed mini-series “The State Within,” also featuring Muskett’s score, is currently nominated for two Golden Globe Awards. The score albums for both “The State Within” and “Miss Austen Regrets” will be released by Nicabella Records in February.

Based on the life and letters of Jane Austen, “Miss Austen Regrets” tells the story of the novelist's final years. The drama provides an insight into Austen's own romantic life, examining why, despite setting the standard for romantic fiction, she died having never married or met her own Mr Darcy. Jennie Musket incorporated a full London orchestra to perform her score.

Widely recognized for her musical contributions, Muskett’s score for the hit BBC series “Spooks (MI-5)” earned her two BAFTA nominations. Her trademark theme for “Spooks (MI-5)” clearly identifies this popular program. In addition, Muskett has scored projects for Miramax, Paramount, Disney, Discovery, IMAX, and the BBC. Over the past two years the British composer has made her mark in Hollywood with scores for “Material Girls,” starring Hilary Duff and Anjelica Huston and “The Prince and Me,” directed by Martha Coolidge. “Her music was literally a revelation,” said Coolidge.

Jennie Muskett studied at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London followed by a career as a cellist, playing for notable UK orchestras. Her composing career began when she was invited to write the music for a natural history documentary which spurred further commissions. Muskett’s passion for the environment and the natural world inspires a unique and diverse ethnicity in her scores. Inevitably, Muskett’s documentary work has received worldwide praise, winning her two Emmy’s for “Best Outstanding Original Score” and five Emmy nominations. Muskett’s film credits include “Material Girls,” “The Prince and Me,” “Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe,” “Mr. In-Between,” “Boxed,” and “The Secrets of Life on Earth.”

On Miss Austen Regrets

Olivia Williams, Greta Scacchi and Hugh Bonneville lead an all-star cast in BBC One’s feature-length period drama Miss Austen Regrets.

Based on the life and letters of Jane Austen, Miss Austen Regrets imagines the story of the novelist’s final years.

Written by Gwyneth Hughes (Five Days) the drama provides an insight into Austen’s own romantic life, examining why, despite setting the standard for romantic fiction, she died having never married or met her own Mr Darcy.

Displaying all the wit which one would expect from Austen herself, Gwyneth feels that she cannot claim sole credit for the drama, commenting: “The script is very tightly based on Austen’s surviving letters to her sister and to her young niece, Fanny. So I must share the credit for quite a lot of the dialogue with Miss Austen herself!

“And I must say, it’s been a strange and humbling experience to feel this genius of English literature peering critically over my shoulder as I write. But I have loved every moment in her company.”

Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense) plays Jane, who, approaching her 40th birthday, appears happily unmarried displaying all the assured wit and charm of her novels’ young heroines.

Yet when asked by her young niece Fanny, played by rising star Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later), to help her vet potential husbands, Jane’s confident composure is threatened as she finds herself looking back on her own potential suitors and the choices she has made.

A chance meeting with former acquaintance Rev Brook Bridges (Hugh Bonneville – Five Days, Tipping The Velvet) sees her reflect on a marriage that never was, while when her family faces financial ruin it is revealed that it all could have been very different had she only accepted a marriage proposal from a wealthy landowner.

And when her brother Henry (Adrian Edmondson – Bottom, Holby City) is taken ill Jane’s passions are ignited by his handsome young physician, Mr Charles Haden – played by the up-and-coming actor Jack Huston (Factory Girl).

Greta Scacchi (Daniel Deronda, Tom’s Midnight Garden) plays Cassandra Austen, Jane’s older sister, companion and confidante.

Speaking about her reasons for wanting to write about Austen’s life, Gwyneth Hughes says:

“Everyone knows Jane Austen never married. For her millions of fans this can only be a relief, because it’s hard to see how a 19th century wife and mother could have found time to write her six wonderful novels! All the same, you do wonder whether she minded – how this spinster lady felt about the absence of a real Mr Darcy in her life.”

“And then I read the most extraordinary fact. Jane Austen did receive a proposal of marriage from a wealthy young neighbour. And she accepted! She actually said yes to him – till after a long night of discussion with her sister Cassandra, she changed her mind. This intriguing decision inspired the story of Miss Austen Regrets.”

Additional cast members include: Phyllida Law (Mrs Austen), Pip Torrens (Edward Austen-Knight), Sylvie Herbert (Madame Bigeon), Tom Hiddleston (John Plumptre), Sally Tatum (Anna Lefroy) and Jason Watkins (Rev Clarke).

Commissioned by Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction, Miss Austen Regrets will be co-produced by WGBH.