A film backed by Hollywood is set to be made about the love affair between British poet Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and her subsequent suicide.
It is a story many in the film industry have long been keen to get on to celluloid, but one that has been continually scuppered.
However, certain elementary ingredients to this project make it more than possible.
Gwyneth Paltrow has agreed to play Plath, and Harvey and Bob Weinstein's supremely powerful Miramax, which made Shakespeare in Love, are behind it. "I worked with Gwyneth on Moonlight and Valentino years ago," producer Alison Owen told me, "and when I rang to ask her if she wanted to play Sylvia she said: '100,000 per cent -- yes.' "When we worked together on Moonlight there was a scene where a character says: 'I'm going to dress in black and read Sylvia Plath.' The director wanted to change the American poet's name, thinking no one would know who Plath was. Gwyneth made a two-hour impassioned case for keeping the Plath reference in. It worked. She also has the same intelligent East Coast background Plath had and she looks so much like her.
"Daniel Day Lewis would be good for the young Hughes. I want to somehow include Hughes's reminiscences from Birthday Letters.
Anthony Hopkins would be good for that." Researchers have been busily trawling through the late poetlaureate's archive -- letters weighing two-and-a-half tonnes stored at the Woodruff Library at Emory University in Atlanta. "We have not got copyright for use of poems yet," says Owen, "but we have not approached the estates yet."
There have been endless accounts of the "real" story behind the 20th century's greatest literary tragedy. Owen says the film will aim to be impartial, but whether that's possible remains to be seen. Hughes would not have approved. He was adamantly against any previous attempts to make a film of the affair.
Copyright Ottawa Citizen 1999
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