Finally all our prayers are being answered: a Georgette Heyer movie. The Grand Sophy is to be adapted for the screen, with the screenplay being written by Olivia Hetreed. The film is being produced by Olivia Hetreed and award-winning producer Andy Paterson, in their production company Sympathetic Ink. This power couple have noticeably wrote/produced The Girl with a Pearl Earring, so they have a good history of adapting novels.
The Sony hack email reveals Georgette Heyer Movie
Sneaking through mostly unnoticed in the controversial Sony hack, there were actually emails concerning The Grand Sophy script. Before you get too upset about potential diversions from the original Regency novel, calm yourself and scroll down. Just know that the film is now being made with BBC Films, so I’m assuming their integrity will keep the movie as faithful as we’d like.
You can read the entire email chain here, but here’s a selection of the best bits.
“The Grand Sophy is by Olivia Hetreed; it’s an adaptation from a bodice-ripper type novel published in the U.K. Hetreed wrote “Girl With A Pearl Earring”; her husband Andy Paterson produced that film, and “Railway Man”; and he is also producing The Grand Sophy with Cottie Chubb, who initiated the project.”
I wouldn’t quite classify Heyer as a ‘bodice-ripper’ kind of writer, so this shocked me upon first reading. Someone commented on a GoodReads thread about The Grand Sophy that she had heard from Jen Koestler and, through a fans group, from Olivia Hetreed, that apparently: “The bodice ripping Jane Bond idea was discarded years ago. Hetreed writes that she is a lifelong fan of GH & will hopefully produce something true to the spirit of this book.” See more about this further down.
“The setting is Regency England, and the Grand Sophy is a well-born young English woman who happens to be a British spy; her father is also a British spy; they are wealthy and fashionable and dashing; and their task is to help defeat Napoleon, the second time around. Sophie rides horses like an Olympian, drives a carriage like she’s Mario Andretti, and has clothes that turn into all sorts of weapons and devices — which I want to put a lot more of into the movie. And she’s a big flirt — she has no desire to be married. Why would she? She’s a spy in the service of her King.“
Okay, I know it’s been some time since I read The Grand Sophy, but I don’t really remember much about Sophy being a spy. Is my memory failing me, or is this a new addition to Heyer’s much loved novel? (If so, I personally don’t mind adding some more espionage, but I’m a sucker for that kind of thing- comment below what you think. It might overdo it.)
“In the script, the father spy has sort of parked Sophy with her godmother’s family while he does a special mission. (I’d rather see her “under-cover” with this family, but that’s a story discussion for later.) Bored out of her skull, Sophy begins meddling in the lives of the family in the house, the main person of interest being a marriageable fellow, Charles, who is engaged to the wrong girl. Hetreed’s script is an hilarious take on the marriage plot, and it also has wonderful action elements, and a buoyant humor that simultaneously sends up and adores its subject matter. The story has a clearly franchisable set of characters and situations, on the order of “Sherlock Holmes” with Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr — though of course those movies are dark and violent, and ours is a big fat romp, like “Zorro”. It will attract the female audience I care about, but I believe it could cross over and become a “date movie” – it has lots of romance amid the action, but it’s not in the least sappy. It’s genuinely funny. In terms of casting, I think we could make The Grand Sophy a little older than she appears in this draft of the script, because more casting choices open up for us in that range. But there’s also something to be said for keeping her at age 20 as she is in the script, if we think of the film is something we could franchise — because we’re more like to get, say, Lily James (Branaugh’s current lead in “Cinderella”) to sign on for sequels of “Sophy”, than to get Keira Knightly or Anne Hathaway to do that.”
But don’t worry, it’s apparently going to be faithful
A period drama blog, The Jane Austen Film Club, mentioned in their latest news on the upcoming Georgette Heyer movie that they contacted Jennifer Kloester (the Heyer biographer and a great source of knowledge), who said:
“They’ve got a great young actress called Jessie Buckley for Sophy, and Rob Ashford as director, and they’re working on yet another draft of the script, but no production date has been set. The producers are talking about trying to attract A-listers for subsidiary roles, but no names have been mentioned.”
If you don’t know who Jessie Buckley is, she’s in the most recent adaptation of War and Peace with Lily James. Before that, she was the runner-up on the talent contest I’d Do Anything, where singers competed to be Nancy in a West-End production of Oliver (noticeably beating the now Les-Mis star Samantha Barks). In my books, she’s a pretty good choice for the first real Georgette Heyer movie (not including the old crappy Reluctant Widow film).
Here’s Jessie’s rendition of ‘As Long As He Needs Me’: