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Emma 3

An archival review of Emma 3.

Emma 3: Ultimate TV Review

Another Jane Austen Classic Comes To A&E: Emma

By N.F. Mendoza
Ultimate TV (

One of the most successful A&E productions - and certainly one of the most lovely and engaging - was the network's presentation last year of Pride & Prejudice, winner of Emmys and CableACEs.

Now A&E brings another Jane Austen classic to the small screen with the beautiful and sumptuous production of Emma - and don't confuse this version with the 1996 Hollywood production starring soon-to-be-Mrs. Brad Pitt Gwyneth Paltrow. This new movie is A&E's Valentine present to its audience.

And yes, Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone, was also based on this romantic comedy about a well-to- do beautiful heroine who can't keep out of other people's romantic business.

This time around Emma Woodhouse is played by Kate Beckinsale (Much Ado About Nothing, Cold Comfort Farm) and she couldn't have been more happy when she received the script and an offer to play Austen's match-making, wealthy heroine. "I couldn't believe it. I was so delighted."

Beckinsale endured dialogue coaching, posture lessons, costume fittings, hair extensions and dancing lessons. Costumes on the production came courtesy of Oscar-winning Jenny Beavan (A Room With A View, Sense & Sensibility).

"It was all very exciting and I knew straight away that the costumes were going to be brilliant because the designer created a look that was very character-led," says Beckinsale. "We decided that I should wear no bonnets, only hats, which I thought was very true to Emma's spirit."

"I decided on hair extensions rather than a wig because I think they look more natural even though it meant I had to wash them all the time and be put in hot rollers twice a day. And I'm quite used to corsets and don't think my digestion operates nearly as well without them!"

"But the most difficult part of filming "Emma" for me was having to sing. I've never thought of myself as a singer and I'm really not confident about it, even though I seem to be asked to sing in everything I do."

The actress also felt she could relate to her character. "You always identify with the character you play, but I got worried at the end when everyone was saying Emmy was so awful and I couldn't see it! I think she's a fantastic character and completely justified in everything she does given her background, living with her ill father and with no stimulation. No wonder she's interested in other people's sex lives!"

As for Emma's brother-in-law, Mr. Knightley (ah, Mr. Knightley!), he's played by Mark Strong, who compares his character with Mr. Darcy (the lead in Pride & Prejudice, who was played by Strong's friend Colin Firth).

"It would be lovely if women found something in Knightley to fall in love with although there's nothing flashy about him and he's got none of Darcy's arrogance," Strong observes. "In a series people can live with you and lose with you, but a two-hour film is a story in itself. What I find interesting about him is that there is a lot more to him that the headmaster figure I thought he was when I read the book for "A" level at school."

While Strong's Knightley may not be as dashing (and has more of a tendency to sound more angry) than the Mr. Knightley of the Hollywood film, this adaptation remains true to the original. Austen fans may appreciate that the A&E version more fully explains the relationships between Emma and Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill.

Stately homes featured in the production include Trafalgar Park, former home of Lord Nelson, near Salsibury; Sudeley Castle in Glouchestershire; and Broughton Castle near Banbury. The National Trust village of Lacock near Chippenham in Wiltshire served as the fictional village of Highbury.

The movie also stars Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith; Bernard Hepton as Mr. Woodhouse; Prunella Scales as Miss Bates; Raymond Coulthard as Frank Churchill; Olivia Williams as Jane Fairfax; Dominic Rowan as Mr. Elton; and Lucy Robinson as Mrs. Elton.

Even Austen herself has said that she created a heroine "no one but myself would like," but time and time again, audiences are drawn to this literary classic - and it obviously makes for good dramatic (albeit comedic) fodder.