I have spent a month immersed in EMMA. content online. There is such an abundance of information about the film and its cast available that picking just 10 was more challenging than Mrs. Bate’s limiting herself to just 3 dull things. There are promotional videos, interviews, articles, behind-the-scenes details, and reviews galore. I predict that many of you will perform exceedingly well in this challenge. Hopefully, I dug deep enough that even the experts will learn something. When you’re done, please take a minute to let us know if you’ve seen the film, how much you already knew, and if you learned anything new.
- Johnny Flynn, who portrayed Mr. Knightley, is the lead singer in a band in addition to his acting career. Is he a folk singer or a rock singer?
- EMMA. was Autumn de Wilde’s feature film directorial debut but she has 21 other director credits on IMDB. What did she previously direct?
- What classical musical composition from the director’s childhood served as the early inspiration for the soundtrack?
- Why does the film title, EMMA., include a period?
- One of the actors in EMMA. was a recipient of the Gordenstoun Performing Arts Scholarship at age 16. Who was it?
- There are two distinct connections in EMMA. to the cast of the 1995 Austen adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Name one of them.
- Donwell Abbey, the home of Mr. Knightley used a National Trust great house as the filming location in EMMA. Name the house or any other film or television series that used this location. (There are 24 others. Take a guess if you don’t know.)
- The song in the end credits is performed by Johnny Flynn and is about Mr. Knightley’s feelings for Emma. What is the title of the song?
- True or False. Firle Place, the filming location for the Woodhouse estate of Hartfield allowed the film crew to re-wallpaper and paint some of the rooms.
- In this retelling of Austen’s Emma, the moment of the heroine’s epiphany that she loved Mr. Knightley was intentionally shifted from when she realizes that Harriet is in love with him to a point much earlier in the film. When is it?
That was fairly painless, right? Let’s see how you did.
10.) The oboes are escaping. In an interview with Slate, Autumn de Wilde described her process of developing the overall sound of the soundtrack.
What happened was I was obsessively listening to Peter and the Wolf, even though it’s [from] a later time period than Emma. I kept thinking about the orchestra as like each character being an instrument. When I found Isobel Waller-Bridge, because of her sense of humor in music and her work on Fleabag and in general, her personality, I told her I wanted the music to be like a misbehaving orchestra, like the conductor is overwhelmed and the oboes are escaping.
9.) An accomplished woman. In Austen’s novel, much is made of Jane Fairfax’s accomplishments. Amber Anderson, who portrayed Jane Fairfax in EMMA. is a worthy rival to the titular character. When Amber was 16, she auditioned for Gordonstoun School, aiming for a scholarship in either drama or music. Both departments wanted her, so a new scholarship category was created, the ‘Performing Arts Scholarship’ to accommodate her talent. In the scene where she upstages Emma, Amber is actually playing the piano.
8.) The Queen Bee of Highbury. In addition to his duet with Amber Anderson, the troubadour actor Johnny Flynn made another contribution to the soundtrack in the form of the end-credits song, “Queen Bee” which he wrote and performed. It is intended to portray Mr. Knightley’s viewpoint of Emma. This article in indiewire gives the extensive backstory of the song. My favorite quote from the article is:
‘Queen Bee’ is really someone singing about loving the power of this woman. Not the irrational, ugly, cowardly side of power, but the side of power that’s beautiful, inspiring, dangerous, brave. Knightley is saying to Emma ‘I don’t want you to become smaller than me.’
7.) Mr. Bennet’s daughter and Mr. Bennet’s son. Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper at Donwell Abbey was played by Lucy Briers, who was formerly seen in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice as Mary Bennet. Mr. Bennet in that production was played by the actor Benjamin Whitrow. Bartholomew, one of the longsuffering Highbury footmen was played by Angus Imrie, the real-life son of Benjamin Whitrow.
6.) Hartfield had a makeover. One of the first filming locations that had to be established was Hartfield, the home of Mr. Woodhouse and his daughter, Emma, since it would need to be color-coordinated with the costumes. According to the Production Designer, Kave Quinn, the challenge was twofold. First, the location had to be one that hadn’t been used extensively in film before, and they needed to have some latitude with redecorating which is not allowed in National Trust stately homes. The answer came when they found Firle Place which had all the Georgian elements they needed and was open to redecorating to accommodate the color scheme.
5.) Why Johnny plays the violin. Amber Anderson isn’t the only cast member who went to school on a music scholarship. Johnny Flynn attended school on music scholarships too, first to The Pilgrims’ School followed by Bedales School, both in Hampshire, England. At The Pilgrim’s School, he was required to learn to play two instruments: the violin and trumpet. He is self-taught on the guitar. His day job is acting, but his side-gig is as the lead singer/songwriter of a folk-rock band, Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit. Multiple interviews expressed his reluctance to cross streams between acting and music, but thankfully, he went for it in EMMA, performing on the violin and vocally on the soundtrack.
4.) The sum of the parts. Much has been made of the fact that EMMA. is Autumn de Wilde’s directorial debut, but with a long history of ballet work, still photography, working with musicians, and directing over 20 rock music videos, she was prepared with the requisite skillset and jumped at the opportunity to submit a pitch for EMMA. When you review the entirety of her history and experience prior to EMMA., it’s the convergence of a lifetime of experience into this project, not some newbie trying her hand at directing. She was persuaded by Johnny Flynn to be a backup singer in Queen Bee, so listen carefully for Autumn’s vocal cameo bit.
3.) A house fit for a queen. If Wilton House, the filming location for Mr. Knightley’s estate, Donwell Abbey seems familiar, you’ve probably seen it somewhere before. Perhaps it was as Buckingham Palace in The Crown or as the Duke of Hasting’s house in Bridgerton. It was used for the Pemberley drawing room in the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice. The ballroom scenes in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility were also filmed at Wilton House.
2.) Destroyed in one moment. The director, Autumn de Wilde, having toured with musicians, had seen it happen. There was something about a man singing a love song that makes women fall in love with them. So she moved the moment when Emma realizes she has feelings for Mr. Knightley to the duet with Jane Fairfax, right after Mrs. Weston informs her that she is doing some matchmaking too. I confess. I fell a little bit in love myself.
1.) “This is a period film.” The question regarding the unconventional inclusion of punctuation in the title was posed to Autumn de Wilde in an interview with RadioTimes. Her laughing response was,
“There’s a period at the end of EMMA. because it’s a period film,” she said. “It’s true!”
Well, we almost finished without mention of bloody noses or naked posteriors, but I just had to go and spoil it. Oh well. How did you do? Are there any other interesting details on this film you’d like to add to our collection of trivia? Please do so in the comments, below.
Answers: 1.) Both answers are correct. His genre is Folk Rock. 2.) Video Shorts (Music Videos.) 3.) Peter and the Wolf. 4.) Because it’s a period film. 5.) Amber Anderson (Jane Fairfax) 6.) Lucy Briers and/or Angus Imrie. 7.) Wilton House. (Click the link for the list) 8.) Queen Bee. 9.) True. 10.) When he sings a duet with Jane Fairfax.