“Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer continued her march toward becoming a player in Hollywood with the Sundance Film festival premiere of “Austenland” this weekend. The young adult fiction author produced the indie comedy, which has emerged as one of the festival’s early highlights.
According to Indie Wire the film was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics after it screened as part of the festival’s dramatic competition.
Directed by Jerusha Hess (who co-wrote “Napoleon Dynamite”), “Austenland” is based on Shannon Hale’s 2007 novel of the same name. It follows a “Pride and Prejudice” fanatic (Keri Russell) who sets out to find her own Mr. Darcy at a Jane Austen fantasy camp in England.
The film also features Jennifer Coolidge, J.J. Field, Bret Mckenzie, and Jane Seymour.
“Pride and Prejudice” remains one of the most beloved works of English literature, while the brooding and enigmatic Mr. Darcy has served as the definitive romantic hero for almost 200 years.
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Released in 1813, the romance has inspired countless film adaptations, such as the 2004 Bollywood flick “Bride and Prejudice” and the Oscar-nominated 2005 version starring Keira Knightly. "Darcy Town,” a modern version of the classic, is currently being developed by Jennifer Love Hewitt for the Lifetime network.
The novel also influenced the bawdy comedy “Bridget Jones’s Diary" and its sequel.
Like the 2007 film “The Jane Austen Book Club,” “Austenland” illustrates the profound effect Austen’s work has had on readers—particularly female readers.
So far the film has earned generally favorable reviews.
Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore calls it a “clever rom-com” that will likely appeal to a large audience.
“Overexposed material is fresh and fun in ‘Austenland,’ an unlikely take on Jane Austen lore that sends Keri Russell to a sort of Regency ‘Westworld,’ acting out romantic fantasies with fellow vacationing Brit-lit addicts,” DeFore said. “Funny, reasonably romantic and wholly commercial, Jerusha Hess's debut should hold fans over until someone musters the nerve to do another straight-on remake of ’Pride and Prejudice.’"
‘Austenland’ is a crowd-pleaser with a smart script and a cast that appears to be having a jolly ol' time,” said Gregory Ellwood of Hit Fix.
The film marks the first release from Fickle Fish Films, a production company started by Meyer and producer Meghan Hibbet to develop films inspired by literature.
According to Meyer’s interview with Deadline, some projects that the company has in the pipeline include adaptations of Lois Duncan’s “Down A Dark Hall” and “Anna Dressed in Blood,” by Kendare Blake.
Though little is known about the upcoming productions, it may be assumed that Fickle Fish will only release films that fall below a PG-13 rating.
Meyer, who is s devout Mormon, told TIME in 2008 that she has never watched an R-rated movie, since it is discouraged by the Mormon Church.
Meyer’s first became involved in film in 2007, when Summit Entertainment optioned the film rights to “The Twilight Saga.” The stay-at-home mom turned bestselling author was heavily involved in the film’s development and was frequently present onset. Meyer went on to produce “Breaking Dawn: Part 1” and “Breaking Dawn: Part 2,” the final two installments of the $3 billion-grossing franchise.
The 39-year-old also serves as a producer for the upcoming screen adaptation of her 2008 novel “The Host.” Directed by Andrew Niccol, the science fiction thriller is set to hit theaters on March 29.