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Emma (1996) Poster

(1996)

Trivia

Mrs. Bates and Miss Bates, mother and daughter in the film, are played by real-life mother and daughter Phyllida Law and Sophie Thompson (who are also real-life mother and sister to Academy-Award-winning actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson).
Emma and Mr. Knightley's dance is called "Mr. Beveridge's Maggot" (to the tune of the same name). (A "maggot" is "a whimsical fancy.") This same tune and dance were previously used in Pride and Prejudice (1995) for Elizabeth Bennet's dance with Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball.
Toni Collette had to gain weight to portray "the Rubenesque Harriet" and she explained "I think it's important for people to look real in films. There's a tendency to go Barbie doll and I don't agree with that at all."
Ewan McGregor later regretted appearing in the film, saying "My decision-making was wrong. It's the only time I've done that. And I learnt from it, you know. So I'm glad of that - because it was early on and I learnt my lesson. It's a good film, but I'm just... not very good in it. I'm not helped because I'm also wearing the world's worst wig. It's quite a laugh, checking that wig out."
While she recovered from wisdom-tooth surgery, Gwyneth Paltrow had a month to herself do her own research for the part of Emma Woodhouse. She also studied horsemanship, dancing, singing, archery and the "highly stylized" manners and dialect during a three-week rehearsal period.
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Real-life mother and daughter, Phyllida Law and Sophie Thompson, portrayed Mrs and Miss Bates. Thompson revealed that it was a coincidence that she and her mother were cast alongside each other, as the casting director had their names on separate lists.
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Douglas McGrath "fell in love" with the novel while he was an undergraduate at Princeton University. He believed the book would make a great film, but it was not until a decade later that he was given a chance to work on the idea.
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Of his decision to bring Gwyneth Paltrow in for the lead, Douglas McGrath revealed "The thing that actually sold me on her playing a young English girl was that she did a perfect Texas accent. I know that wouldn't recommend her to most people. I grew up in Texas, and I have never heard an actor or actress not from Texas sound remotely like a real Texan. I knew she had theater training, so she could carry herself. We had many actresses, big and small, who wanted to play this part. The minute she started the read-through, the very first line, I thought, 'Everything is going to be fine; she's going to be brilliant.'" Following the read through, Harvey Weinstein decided to give the film the green-light. However, he wanted Paltrow to appear in The Pallbearer (1996) first, before going ahead and allowing the film to be made.
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Douglas McGrath initially believed Sophie Thompson to be too young to play Miss Bates, but he changed his mind after seeing her wearing glasses with her hair down.
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Emma's wedding dress was made from silk crepe and embroidered with a small sprig pattern, while the sleeves and the train were made from embroidered net. Of the dress, Myers stated "The inspiration for Emma's wedding dress began with a small amount of exquisite vintage lace that became the overlay. I wanted a look that would work not only for the period but also one that would compliment Gwyneth Paltrow's youth, swan neck, and incredible beauty. I was also hoping to evoke happiness and the English countryside; the sun did shine on the day we shot the scene!"
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Alan Cumming wrote on his official website that the friendship that developed between himself and Douglas McGrath was one of the most memorable things about his time working on the film. He went on to state that the worst thing about the shoot was his hair, which had been lightened and curled for the character.
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Ewan McGregor had not read the original novel prior to filming.
Ruth Jones's screen debut.
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Jeremy Northam revealed that when he first tried to read Emma, he did not get very far and was not a fan. When he read the script for the film, he was initially considered for another role, but he wanted to play George Knightley. He stated "When I met the director, we got on very well and we talked about everything except the film. At the end of it, he said he thought Knightley was the part for me, so I didn't have to bring up the issue at all." Northam added that Knightley's faith in Emma becoming a better person was one of the reasons he loved the character.
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Ruth Myers revealed that she did not want the costumes to have a "heavy English look" and instead she wanted "to get the freedom of bodies that you see in all the drawings, the form of the body underneath, the swell of the breasts." Myers told Barbara De Witt from the Los Angeles Daily News that using pastel-coloured clothing to get the watercolour effect was one of her major challenges during the production. The designer was later criticised for being inaccurate, but she stated that she did not want the costumes to look old or sepia.
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Douglas McGrath had initially wanted to write a modern version of the novel, set on the Upper East Side of New York City. Harvey Weinstein, liked the idea of a contemporary take on the novel. McGrath was unaware that Clueless (1995) was already in production, until plans for Emma were well underway.
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Ewan McGregor accepted the role of Frank Churchill because he thought it would be something different from his previous role in Trainspotting (1996).
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Ruth Myers wanted to mirror the lightness of the script within the costumes and give "a spark of colour and life" to the early 19th century setting. During her research, Myers noted a similarity between the fashions after the Napoleonic Wars and the 1920s, saying that they had "the same sort of flapperish quality". The designer explained "The moment I set to research it, more and more it kept striking me what the similarities were between the two periods. It was a period of freedom of costume for women, and it was a period of constant diversions for the upper classes-picnics, dinners, balls, dances. What I wanted to do was make it look like the watercolours of the period, which are very bright and very clear, with very specific colours."
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Rachel Portman became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score.
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Ruth Myers only had five weeks in which to create 150 costumes for the production, and she was constantly working on the set.
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The striped muslin day dress Toni Collette (Harriet Smith) wears reading Mr. Elton's charade is the same costume worn by Helen Fraser (Mrs. Morland) at Fullerton in Screen Two: Northanger Abbey (1987), Kate Ashfield (Ella, the Worrell's maid) in Princess Caraboo (1994), Sophia Myles (Susan Price) at Portsmouth in Mansfield Park (1999), and by Charity Wakefield (Marianne Dashwood) when Edward calls at Mrs. Jennings' London house in Sense & Sensibility (2008).
Douglas McGrath decided to bring in Gwyneth Paltrow to audition for Emma Woodhouse, after a suggestion from his agent and after seeing her performance in Flesh and Bone (1993).
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The dot-patterned beige muslin day dress with puffy sleeves Greta Scacchi (Mrs. Weston) wears at Randalls is the same costume Joanna David (Mrs. Gardiner) wears at the Inn at Lambton in Pride and Prejudice (1995), Barbara Flynn wears at the Towers in the opening scene of in Wives and Daughters (1999), and Georgia King (Pet Meagles) wears on the ship in Little Dorrit (2008).
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The teal blue goddess gown Juliet Stevenson (Mrs. Elton) wears to dinner at Hartfield is the same costume Pauline McLynn (Mademoiselle Clairwill) wears to see the play in Quills (2000).
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The yellow embroidered gown Greta Scacchi (Mrs. Weston) wears to dinner at Hartfield is the same costume worn by Priscilla Morgan (Mrs. Bennet) in Pride and Prejudice (1980), and by Lucy Robinson (Mrs. Elton) at Hartfield in Emma (1996).
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Toni Collette also struggled to get into Jane Austen's books when she was younger, but after reading Emma, which she deemed "warm and witty and clever", she began to appreciate them more.
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The teal velvet bonnet Greta Scacchi (Mrs. Weston) wears in the final scene is the same one worn by Felicity Dean (Mrs. Clay) to visit Lady Dalrymple in Screen Two: Persuasion (1995), and Emma Pierson (Fanny Dorrit) wears to visit Mrs. Merdles in Little Dorrit (2008).
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The red and white muslin gown worn by a wedding guest is the same costume worn by Catherine Walker (Eleanor Tilney) to greet Catherine and Henry when they return from Woodston in Northanger Abbey (2007).
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The tan striped gown with teal scallop trim at the hem Greta Scacchi (Mrs. Weston) wears in the final scene is the same costume worn by a guest at the Easter Ball in Wives and Daughters (1999), and by Emma Pierson (Fanny Dorrit) to visit Mrs. Merdles in Little Dorrit (2008).
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The gold overdress Juliet Stevenson (Mrs. Elton) wears at the Box Hill picnic is the same costume worn by a guest at the London party where Lord Byron meets Annabella Milbanke in Byron (2003), and by one of the dancers leaving the theatre while Amy waits for Fanny in Little Dorrit (2008).
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Nicole Kidman and Diane Lane turned down the lead role.
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The blue striped dress with long sleeves Gwyneth Paltrow (Emma Woodhouse) wears at Hartfield is the same gown worn by a guest at the Towers in the opening scene of Wives and Daughters (1999), and by Mali Harries (Ann Rood) for her wedding in Byron (2003). The same costume is also worn by one of the maids at Chawton Cottage in Miss Austen Regrets (2008), and by Laura Pyper (Jane Fairfax) while reading a letter in Emma (2009).
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The blue gown with sheer, white sleeves Polly Walker (Jane Fairfax) wears in the final scene is the same gown Tanya Samuel wears to dinner in The Regency House Party (2004), Abigail Thaw (Jane Osborne) wears to dinner in Vanity Fair (1998), and Amanda Hale (Mary Musgrove) wears at Camden Place in Persuasion (2007).
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The fuzzy cloak Gwyneth Paltrow (Emma Woodhouse) wears to the Christmas gathering at the Weston's is the same costume Julie Cox (Annabella Milbanke) wears after her wedding in Byron (2003).
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The green velvet pelisse Juliet Stevenson (Mrs. Elton) wears to church is the same costume Natasha Little (Augusta Leigh) wears to visit Annabella in Byron (2003).
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The red plaid Spencer worn by Toni Collette (Harriet Smith) at Ford's in the rain is the same costume worn by an extra in the Highbury Market Day scene in Emma (2009).
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Jennie Garth was considered for the lead role.
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Joely Richardson was seriously considered for the lead role.
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