News Archive: January 2006|
Sneak Preview: The Last King of Scotland
Posted at 5:19 AM (PST) on Monday, January 30, 2006
By Nicola Christie
January 30, 2006
Scottish director Kevin Macdonald, the man behind the award-winning documentaries Touching the Void and One Day in September, is putting the finishing touches to his first feature-length drama, The Last King of Scotland.
It may be based on a work of fiction - Giles Foden's debut novel of the same name - but the film still contains elements of historical fact.
"Idi Amin is the central character," Macdonald explains. "So it's a tricky one to label. We had a test screening recently in America and everyone thought it was a true story. If you sell something as true, it affects people very differently."
The movie, which stars Gillian Anderson and James McAvoy, explores the brutal regime of the Ugandan dictator in the 1970s through the eyes of his personal doctor.
Posted at 11:49 AM (PST) on Thursday, January 26, 2006
Fast Chat Gillian Anderson
Freelance writer Lewis Beale
January 29, 2006
If you've been wondering what happened to Gillian Anderson, the actress who played Agent Scully in "The X-Files," she hasn't been abducted by aliens. The 37-year-old actress, who lived in England as a child, moved to London three years ago, where she's been pursuing a career on the West End stage and in low-budget, independent films. Smaller and prettier in person, Anderson is more outgoing and down-to-earth than Scully, but just as thoughtful. She was in New York to publicize "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story," a new film in which she has a very small, but very funny, part. She can also be seen in "Bleak House" on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre." Freelance writer Lewis Beale caught up with her at a midtown hotel.
You've been going back and forth between Britain and America since you were a child. What part of you is most British, and what part most American?
I get asked a lot in England whether I consider myself to be British, and I don't. But I identify with the British sense of humor, British way of talking, dealing with politics; many little aspects of British culture, it's more familiar to me than American. When I miss America, I miss the landscape. It's not the missing of an identity, that there is something of me that is not being fulfilled, or that is longing somehow. Every once in awhile I'll miss the drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, something like that.
Was one of the reasons for the move because you felt typecast as an actress in America?
That wasn't one of my initial choices, but what I have realized after spending more time there [in England] is that I feel understood there as an actor. I feel that they get me, and get the kind of actor I feel I am. The stuff I get offered is 180 degrees from Scully. Independent films, left, right and center, the characters are completely different from Scully. If a film were being made in America, even if I were on the list, I would have to audition for it; they would want me to prove that I could actually do that character. It would never be an offer.
Is it also because the British don't tend to pigeonhole actors in a particular category?
That's part of it. Actors go from doing Shakespeare at the National to a BBC special, to a feature film, and they just go back and forth, and they're still highly respected and that's just what it is. But also, there are so many actors in the States, and in my age range, between late 20s and early 40s, which I could be cast in, there are 20 actresses higher up on the list than I am. That's just a fact. And American filmmaking is about box office, and bottom line, more so now than ever. And that's how they cast - who's gonna make us money?
You've just starred in a BBC version of Charles Dickens' "Bleak House," which will be shown on PBS in America. Yet you've said you were reluctant to take another TV part. Was it because you felt burned by your American tube experience?
I was reluctant because at that point, when I started shooting it, I'd basically only done two plays since the series ended and three days on "Tristram Shandy," and a Northern Irish film that I knew American audiences would never see. So I was conscious of not being pigeonholed even more than I already had been into being a television actor. But I was talking to friends of mine who were in the business over there, and who go from television to theater to film, and they said, "no, no, no, it's completely different, and it's OK."
Speaking of "The X-Files," there's talk that there will be another "X-Files" film. True?
Eventually there will be, we hope there is going to be.
Yet the series ended in 2002, and the "X-Files" movie was released in 1998. At this point in time...
Who gives a --? The longer we wait, the less people are going to give a --. It was supposed to be shot this year, and there are contract issues. We're basically ready to go.
Do you think the fan base is still salivating for a new film?
Every once in awhile I hear that they are. But next year? We're not even going to be able to shoot it until next September at the very earliest. By the time it comes out it's going to be 2007.
It sounds like you're perfectly happy to be 3,000 miles away from the "X-Files" hordes, and that the move to England was a way to re-imagine yourself and your career.
Most definitely. I definitely was ready to get out. We were in a certain prison; it was a certain prison in the hours and the intensity of these characters. And it was sometimes a blessed prison, and we enjoyed it. But we had no social life; it was just this myopic experience. I feel like there is an aspect of me that understands and feels more comfortable in, and is more understood, just as a human being [in England]. And every one of my friends who comes to visit me in London says "Oh, my God, you're so at home." It completely makes sense to them why I'm there.
New: Gillian Anderson Timeline
Posted at 8:45 PM (PST) on Wednesday, January 25, 2006
to visit our new Gillian Anderson Timeline, which will let you view photos and transcripts from Gillian's appearances in magazines, television shows, and public events.
You can sort the timeline by name, appearance type, or date by selecting the corresponding column titles. Suggestions, additions, and corrections are welcome -- email us
New photos by Perou
Posted at 4:05 PM (PST) on Monday, January 23, 2006
Published in the November 2005 issue of GQ
Two More Reviews
Posted at 7:00 AM (PST) on Sunday, January 22, 2006
'Bleak House' is the best TV to see
By Jonathan Storm
Jan. 22, 2006
As teeming and twisted as the back alleys of London, as succulent as a Christmas pudding, Masterpiece Theatre's eight-hour rendition of Dickens' Bleak House will be one of the five best TV shows of the year.
Deadwood and The Sopranos will come along on HBO, and maybe something else, somewhere else. It's possible that Bleak House, the perfect marriage of television and literature, will surpass them all.
All the usual L-words apply: lavish, luminous, luxurious, luscious, and, yes, long. It is eight hours over six weeks, two tonight, two at the end, and an hour for the four weeks in between.
What do you like in your television? Good triumphing over evil, or evil triumphing over good? Crime? Passion? Love? Mystery? Heroism? Cowardice? Avarice? Generosity? Death? Birth?
Throw in infinity while you're at it, because the plots and their turns seem infinite. And don't forget spontaneous human combustion.
Or, even better, singular characters, perfectly portrayed with a shining script and a production so beautiful it must have been financed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Sheesh, it sounds like I own a piece of this thing. So I will get on with it, because I don't, and you get the point.
'Bleak House' destined for PBS hall of fame
January 22, 2006
Gillian Anderson is back, and Masterpiece Theatre has her. The X-Files star mesmerizes as the mysterious Lady Dedlock in Bleak House, and she's the main lure for this splendid eight-hour miniseries that starts Sunday.
And what the Charles Dickens! Her presence indicates this is a different kind of Masterpiece Theatre. The brisk editing and cutting-edge photography seem closer to ER than to stately British classics. This Bleak House is as much MTV as vintage MT -- a bold bid to bring in younger viewers while pleasing longtime fans.
Bleak House is a triumph on all scores, a program that fulfills great expectations. It's another peak in the glorious history of Masterpiece Theatre, a high point of this television season and a marvelous adaptation of Dickens, who deserves some of Jane Austen's luck on film.
X-Files alumna Anderson is the most familiar face, and she looks as if she could have stepped from an elegant painting. She gives a complex performance, marked by anguish and riveting stillness, that keeps viewers guessing about Lady Dedlock's motives. Like a besieged heroine in a detective story, Lady Dedlock presents a carefully crafted facade that is crumbling.
Anderson has stretched herself way beyond Dana Scully, and it's an exhilarating thing to see. The same goes for the entire production. If you have been missing humanity at the multiplex, check into Bleak House, one of TV's finest miniseries.
More Excerpts from Interviews
Posted at 6:59 AM (PST) on Sunday, January 22, 2006
There's a method in what many people may perceive as the madness of Gillian Anderson, the 1986 graduate of City High School who went on to fame and fortune as Agent Dana Scully in the highly popular "X-Files" television series.
"I like good material, and I like doing things that are challenges." Anderson said she would like to do a big American film if something good comes her way, but she intends to continue living in England.
"I think I'm going to stay over there," she said. "I feel comfortable. That's where I live." -- The Grand Rapids Press
Anderson says she did take a year off to travel with boyfriend-now-husband Julian Ozanne, a photojournalist and filmmaker. The two married in Kenya in late 2004 and have visited 30 countries in three years -- among them, Lebanon, Syria, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Romania. Some of those places are considered risky travel destinations.
"They consider Beirut to be the Paris of the Middle East, and it certainly is," Anderson says. "It's a beautiful, beautiful city that also still shows signs of the devastation that has gone on for years and years. Every other building has blown-out windows. But it wasn't scary."
Anderson also engaged in charity work overseas, including with an organization called Artists for a New South Africa. "Their primary focus used to be the anti-apartheid movement, but [now] it's on AIDS and HIV," she says.
Most of her upcoming work, she says, is contemporary. For her, it's all about good writing. "It's few and far between the scripts that . . . have something to say or are a celebration of historical writers," she says. -- Star-Telegram
Ms. Anderson said she didn't grasp at first just how bold the Davies/Chadwick vision was. "When the cameras would all of a sudden jerk away from the scene we were doing, I got the sense that they were doing something different," she said, "but I didn't realize until I saw it on television some of the extremes they were working with."
She also didn't realize that a few of Mr. Chadwick's touches, like the occasional dollop of eerie music, might put her fans in mind of an "X-Files" episode. "There were definitely some similarities that I had not realized were going to be there," she said. "It kind of took me aback at first, but it grew on me so quickly."
Yet it was the contrast with "The X-Files," rather than the fleeting similarities, that most appealed to her. "It was just completely different from anything I had done before, and I was interested in the challenge of it," she said.
The program's popularity in England, she said, was a pleasant surprise - "Everybody was either taping it or home watching it" - but it did cost her some of the anonymity she had finally begun to enjoy since "The X-Files" left the air in 2002. "Whereas before I was able to go around town incognito," she said from London, "now I'm not." -- The New York Times
Globe and Mail Excerpts
Posted at 2:31 PM (PST) on Saturday, January 21, 2006
Pasadena, CA -- Gillian Anderson is simply lying there, on a couch, waiting to be interviewed. She greets me with a wan but welcoming smile. "Just sit down," she says. "We don't have much time, but ask away."
Anderson says. "I'd read Dickens, but not this novel. I'd read several of his great novels, though I think it's different if you read them when you're young. You appreciate the storytelling, the stand-out characters, but you don't appreciate his ability as a writer, the depth of his humanity. He writes about everything, the rich, the poor, the prisons, the law courts, the country houses, the orphans and the families. I was captivated."
"I think there is a general understanding of what it was like back then for women. All women today can identify with that. It's not so different from what their mothers faced. It's about pain. That's Lady Dedlock's situation. Everybody can grasp that. Anyone who goes through a divorce, or loses a child, knows about the pain, and that's her pain. Dickens dissects human nature and human nature is timeless."
Based in London since 2003, she's done several demanding and acclaimed theatre roles there and appeared in a number of small movies made in Britain and Ireland. Some have never even been released in the United States or Canada. Still, she's been off the showbiz radar. Anderson says she's enjoying it all and is absolutely at peace with her life and career.
"I don't get paid very much for the work I do, by some standards. I'm in a luxurious position that I did a series for nine years. I don't have to worry about a roof over my head. And I can make these kinds of choices. It's less to do with [expletive] you to the industry and more to do with me following my path."
As our interview winds down, Anderson is still supine under her shawl. A PBS representative quietly reminds us there's only a few minutes left. Anderson is clearly exhausted and seems about to collapse further on the couch, just as Lady Dedlock swoons several times in Bleak House. Me, I think of a way of perking her up. All actors like to be praised, to have their good work noticed. I tell her I've seen a small Irish movie she made, called The Mighty Celt. In it, she plays an IRA widow raising a young boy in the immediate aftermath of the end of "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland. It's a sweet but very sophisticated movie about recovering from the trauma of violence and war. I tell her, truthfully, that she did an exceptional job with the difficult Northern Ireland accent.
She perks up immediately. She's no longer flat-out on the couch. She's sitting up, eager to talk about that little movie she knows is good. She thinks it unlikely that anybody in the U.S. or Canada will see it because of the regional accents. She asks me to do anything I can to pass the word that it's good and maybe get it released in Canada and the U.S. I promise to do it, but tell her I'm not that powerful. (It recently aired on the Sundance Channel.)
"Oh, just talk about it," she says. "Like you talked to me about it. And Bleak House too. Thank you!" And there's nothing wan about her smile as she says goodbye. She's happy now.
National Post (Canada) Excerpts:
Posted at 8:43 AM (PST) on Saturday, January 21, 2006
By Alex Strachan, CanWest News Service
January 21, 2006
Gillian Anderson is in southern California to talk about Bleak House and the weather is appropriately -- and uncharacteristically -- bleak. A shroud of mist hangs over the green lawns, a pall of gloom has settled over the Huntington estate and a lonely drizzle taps against the tall glass windows, while inside Anderson huddles, waif-like, under a blanket in a private room.
She has just faced a ballroom full of reporters alongside her Bleak House colleague Charles Dance, writer Andrew Davies and long-time Masterpiece Theatre producer Rebecca Eaton, and she is now in a more pensive, reflective mood.
"Dickens's work, and specifically this book and the way Andrew has crafted it, really highlights the tragic situation of human injustice in so many ways," Anderson says. "Even though we're seeing it in period form, there's still a through-line to our lives today, no matter what country or society you live in. It's not just about injustice in the form of social etiquette. It's also about greed and selfishness and bad behaviour -- and love and passion and grief and pain. They're all part of the human condition."
Anderson just recently sold her Vancouver home, one of the last vestiges of her years in the city making The X-Files, but she remains close to the city and the friendships she formed there. Her memories of the city are fond -- for the most part. "My daughter is a nationalist, she considers herself very much Canadian, and very proud of it. My fondest memories are always of the peacefulness of the city, and how it very much felt like, not just an escape from Los Angeles and this world, but a refuge.
"I could move about the city very easily and just enjoy being there, and enjoy my friendships and the beauty of the city. It's such a beautiful city, and so easy to get around -- except for the bridges. That part of it I don't miss. That's a memory that's not so sweet -- the bridges. But, even then, it doesn't compare at all to the traffic here in L.A."
Washington Post Article
Posted at 7:27 AM (PST) on Saturday, January 21, 2006
The Washington Post has a very entertaining article. Excerpts:
" 'Bleak House' is a great baggy thing. . . . The plot kind of bulges out. You know, it's like -- no, I was going to say like horrible boils or something. But in a nice way. Can I say that?"
The speaker is screenwriter Andrew Davies, much noted for adaptations ranging from the 1995 miniseries "Pride and Prejudice" to "Bridget Jones's Diary."
Davies, quite pleased with himself, is almost as outrageous as he is gifted and productive, and his PBS keepers find there's little point in trying to restrain the 69-year-old. So yes, Andrew, you can say that.
The top-billed Anderson, who lives and works in Britain, is given star treatment here; after all, she's the production's best-known player. Her face adorns the cover of a newly published edition of the novel, and in the teaser-movie excerpt shown to journalists, her role appears paramount.
In a classy aside, Anderson tells the TV critics: "I understand the politics of it and it's very flattering, but certainly the clip -- and I know why it was done. But the clip gives the impression that Lady Dedlock is the central character. And she's really not the central character. The central character is Esther Summerson."
Anderson's right about that, but it's also true that Lady Dedlock is crucial to the action. And the actress's coldly vulnerable portrayal is one of the film's great strengths. We first see her in the drawing room of her grand estate. She looks out the window and her husband, Sir Leicester, asks whether it's still raining.
"Yes, my love," she answers placidly. "And I am bored to death with it. Bored to death with this place. Bored to death with my life. Bored to death with myself."
It's hard to remember the last time boredom seemed so engaging.
Orlando Sentinel Interview
Posted at 7:02 AM (PST) on Saturday, January 21, 2006
AGENT OF CHANGE (EXCERPTS):
PASADENA, Calif. -- In her first television role since The X-Files, Gillian Anderson plays a Victorian lady struggling to conceal her past. Anderson, however, speaks bluntly about the big secret behind the PBS promotion of Bleak House, which starts Sunday.
Masterpiece Theatre bills her as the star of this Charles Dickens epic, but that tactic is misleading.
"It's definitely, definitely not my show and my story," Anderson says. "I know it was such an ensemble. And also Dickens did not write Lady Dedlock as the central character."
Even so, Anderson, who calls the attention flattering, has joined the sales pitch by traveling from her home in London to talk to television critics on their midseason tour.
"I understand the strategy, and hopefully it will do its intentional job and bring people in," she says. "And after they've started to watch it, they'll get hooked."
They were hooked in England, where the eight-hour miniseries became a sensation. Screenwriter Andrew Davies helps the promotional push by saying that, of all his adaptations, he's proudest of Bleak House and Pride and Prejudice. The latter, a beloved miniseries of Jane Austen's novel, starred Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.
Rave reviews for Anderson, from critics and colleagues, should lure viewers as well. In Bleak House, which was published in the 1850s, she's far removed from the extraterrestrial and supernatural phenomena of The X-Files.
Davies says Anderson brought "extraordinary beauty" to Lady Dedlock. "She never seemed so beautiful in The X-Files," Davies says. "She's got an extraordinary stillness. Without appearing to do anything very much, she just moves you. And I don't know how she does it. It's some kind of quality of intensity that she's got."
Anderson seems to move the critics with her frank observations and her off-screen look. She is blond, unlike red-haired Dana Scully of The X-Files or dark-haired Lady Dedlock. Such is her devotion to Bleak House that Anderson carries on despite a sore back from her travels. She also good-naturedly entertains frequent questions about The X-Files.
She agreed to act in Bleak House because it felt like a film.
"I realized how good it was going to be when I first walked on the set," she says. "What was fantastic about it was being accepted in a royal community of unbelievable talent and historically rich and fantastic actors. One, to be allowed in. Two, to be accepted in things I do there. Three, to be verbally appreciated for something that normally would be played by Kristin Scott Thomas. That means a lot to me."
One of those appreciative actors is Charles Dance, who bedevils Lady Dedlock as Tulkinghorn, a villainous lawyer.
"She's a sublime actress and takes the work really, really seriously," Dance says. "It was a terrific experience working with her, and I hope I can do it again."
After taking several years off, she made four films in the last year and a half. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a wacky take on Laurence Sterne's 18th-century novel, opens this month and features Anderson playing herself. The Last King of Scotland, about the relationship between Ugandan leader Idi Amin and a young Scottish doctor, will open in the spring or summer. Other recent films are Straightheads and The Mighty Celt.
Of course, playing Scully can set up misleading expectations for Anderson off screen.
"I was a bit scared of meeting her," screenwriter Davies says. "I thought, 'She's going to be intense in real life.' But she turns out to be quite fun and great to have a party with."
Anderson sees connections between Scully and Lady Dedlock.
"There were aspects of Scully that were very still," Anderson says. "Sometimes I almost feel like I'm schizophrenic. I have two completely different personalities. In my life, I can be very, very still. But I can also be incredibly goofy and crazy. I guess that stillness is probably because it's such an aspect of me. It probably comes into every character I play."
For the full article, click here.
Gillian on NPR Today, Jan. 21
Posted at 6:37 AM (PST) on Saturday, January 21, 2006
Gillian Anderson, Paying a Visit to 'Bleak House'
AUDIO for this story will be available at approx. 1:00 p.m. ET
WARNING: Audio contains spoilers!
Weekend Edition - Saturday, January 21, 2006 · A new film production of the Charles Dickens novel Bleak House will make its debut on PBS Sunday night.
The story, told in weekly installments through Feb. 26, is an indictment of long, drawn-out lawsuits in Victorian England's Courts of Chancery. But, as with many Victorian novels, it's also about lust, murder and greed.
Gillian Anderson, of X-Files fame, plays Lady Honoria Dedlock, one of more than 40 characters who wander through the twisting plot. She talks with Scott Simon about her role.
Posted at 7:21 AM (PST) on Friday, January 20, 2006
Message from the Alinyiikira Junior School's Headmaster:
Hope the new year has started off very well. We are also O.K. but still struggling with the Electricity Company to hook us on the Grid. They keep on promising us that it will be done soon but anyway, we hope that we shall have power before the new term begins. There are many applicants that they are working on but our case is one of the priority cases. We once again thank you for all that you have done in raising the money that enabled us to meet these costs. We pray to the Almighty God to reward you most abundantly.
Wishing you all the best...
For newcomers, click here to read Gillian's letters about the school.
Two New Interviews
Posted at 7:04 AM (PST) on Friday, January 20, 2006
EXCERPTS FROM THE LOS ANGELES TIMES:
Do you feel more at home in England?
I do. I don't know if it is because my early years were spent there. I was 2 to 11, and it was my first language, so to speak. I grew up with a British accent. Even though my parents were American, I felt like a Brit, and that has always been inside my bones. I love Europe. I love the pace of Europe, and I love the history. I feel comfortable there.
Had you ever read the Dickens novel?
I hadn't read it. Once I agreed to do the project, I read it for the first time. It was never part of my college repertoire.
Why is it that Dickens seems so relevant for contemporary audiences?
I think it is because of the human condition, and the emotions and the experiences are universal to human beings. The sorrow that we feel today is the same sorrow that was felt [back then], as well as the pain and the loss and the joy and the compassion and the love. He makes his characters so rich and so individual. They are all completely different human beings.
In "Tristram Shandy" you play yourself as well as the character in the movie-within-a-movie. Were you having as much fun as you appear to on screen?
It was fun. I basically just went in for three or four days. I had wanted to work with Michael Winterbottom for a long time. I thought it would just be a blast. It was wild. He works in a very different way than a lot of directors.
On set — at least with this — he just likes to have himself, the cameraman and the boom operator. So there is no hair or makeup around. Everybody else is far, far away. He just constantly is kind of tweaking and changing something at the last minute. All of a sudden, at the spur of the moment, he decides he wants it this way. It is much more spontaneous and chaotic but in a measured kind of way. He keeps trying things and tries them as long as it takes until he gets it.
After "The X-Files" went off the air in 2002, there was talk of an "X-Files" movie. Is that still going to happen?
Oh, we have had many, many conversations about it. We have contracts. It depends on when it's written. I am asked about it all the time, so there is interest, but how long will there be interest? If we don't shoot it until 2007, and that looks like that would be the earliest, it won't be coming out until 2008. And in 2008, will people really care?
EXCERPTS FROM THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS:
There's a good chance that many of the people who tune in Sunday for the premiere of PBS' sprawling, deliciously addictive adaptation of Charles Dickens' "Bleak House" won't immediately recognize "The X-Files' " Agent Dana Scully in the tormented aristocrat Lady Dedlock.
Disappearances off the planet may belong more to the realm of Agent Scully, but there's little question that Anderson's career cooled for a while, despite excellent notices for her role in the 2000 costume drama "House of Mirth," for which she received a British Independent Film Award.
"I used to say, at the very beginning of the series, that it wasn't going to stereotype me," she said in an interview. "Because I knew... I knew what was inside of me as an actor. I had a belief in myself as an actor and my ability to do things that actors do, to play different kinds of characters, and I just assumed that that would win out in the end.
"And it didn't. And I think it has been shocking. But I think it was a bit of a conundrum to me for a while that, you know, that the public and the filmmaking community couldn't see, you know, me beyond that character, and be willing to take a risk," Anderson said.
"The way people talk about 'House of Mirth,' and the amount of people who seem to really like it and appreciate it, one would think that more would follow. You know, that somebody might have thought, 'Well, cool, we want her in our next period drama,' if nothing else. And that didn't happen. And I've only really started to do - you know, it's three years on, more like four years on, Jesus, since 'The X-Files' ended, and just the end of the year before last is when I started to do films again," said Anderson, whose recent work includes the films "Tristram Shandy" and "The Last King of Scotland." (and, most recently, Straightheads, a dark and twisted tale of revenge)
More Bleak House Reviews
Posted at 6:39 AM (PST) on Friday, January 20, 2006
It's never too soon for a new Dickens film. He's the most cinematically translatable of novelists, whose sprawling stories — with their intertwining plots, vivid characters, Shakespearean mix of the comic and tragic, eminently speakable dialogue and marvelously described set pieces — beg to be put on the screen. (The books will, of course, survive even the failed movies — and this is not one of those.) The series was broadcast in Britain last year in 15 twice-weekly episodes, partly to suggest the novel's original, 19-installment serial publication. I happened to watch it all in a single sitting, and if you have the luxury of any sort of TV recorder and eight hours of continuous free time, I'd recommend gathering the episodes for binge viewing. The gathering force of the story and the need to know what comes next carry you along. It's never dull. But however you split it, it's well worth the time. -- Los Angeles Times
This "Bleak House" is sublimely bleak, as well as richly textured, superbly acted and intermittently funny. Fans of the epic adaptations that have long been the bread and butter of "Masterpiece Theatre" won't want to miss it. ...this is serial TV and literary adaptation at its finest, with chiseled, hard-edged performances by Dance and Anderson, the one-time star of "The X Files" who so ably cut her period-piece teeth on "House of Mirth," the underrated adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel. Anderson's task here is tough, to portray a highly unsympathetic character who gradually becomes enormously likable. Her diffident air and regal bearing are put to great use, along with her quavering fragility.-- Chicago Tribune
Looking icily funereal, Anderson is indelible as Dickens's Lady Dedlock, entrapped by the mistakes of her past. Lady Dedlock suffers every moment of her dreary life, frozen-faced at a window as if in mourning for her own spirit. And Anderson suffers magnificently, with more world-weariness in her visage than you might expect from an actress famous for her network appeal. She pronounces Lady Ded-lock's sentences in a slow sigh, with unbearably weighty sorrow. Anderson doesn't have the most screen time in ''Bleak House," but she effectively casts tragedy and regret over the whole thing. -- The Boston Globe
Memories of high school required-reading lists and English class essays have put some people off Charles Dickens for good. But seeing just a few minutes of this adaptation of Dickens' Bleak House might change their minds.The production is gorgeous with unstinting detail, with this caveat: Even though the filthy streets and ghastly poorhouses are by no means whitewashed, they are so artfully photographed that their strange beauty rivals that of the aristocrats' manor houses. Who better to wrestle Dickens' epic story onto the screen than Andrew Davies, who adapted the wicked House of Cards and charming Pride and Prejudice for television and the delightful Bridget Jones's Diary for the movies. Such a pedigree brightens Bleak House's appeal and might even persuade the reluctant among us to give Dickens another try. -- USA Today
Quality alert. Acclaimed British writer-producer Andrew Davies, who scored with presentations of "Pride and Prejudice" and "Vanity Fair," does it again with an elegant eight-hour adaptation of the sweeping Charles Dickens epic of bitter family intrigue. In her first TV role since "The X-Files," Gillian Anderson is a standout as tormented, icily beautiful Lady Dedlock in this haunting tale that mixes romance, mystery, political satire and comedy of manners. Like those cartoon Guinness guys say, "Brilliant!" -- Detroit Free Press
Years can go by, and have, before a PBS "Masterpiece Theatre" presentation lives up to that promising name - but "Bleak House," the new eight-hour adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, is fabulous in every respect. It's the best Dickensian adaptation since another purposefully sprawling miniseries, the theatrically staged "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby." Anyone tuning in out of curiosity will be hooked instantly, from Gillian Anderson's first appearance and first words. Each half-hour of the drama provides a cliffhanger, making "Bleak House" a kind of Victorian "24." It's a great romp, brimming with performances and lines that won't soon be forgotten. This venerable PBS anthology series begins its 36th season with one of its all-time finest presentations. Other than the title, there's nothing "Bleak" about it. 4 Stars -- New York Daily News
Ever since "The X-Files" ended, we just haven't seen enough of Gillian Anderson. Fortunately, she makes a welcome return in this sumptuous, six-part "Masterpiece Theatre" adaptation of Charles Dickens' ninth novel. Anderson plays the icily beautiful Lady Dedlock, who has a dangerous and secretive link to a dead man. But she's just one thread -- albeit a major one -- in a sometimes daunting tangle of plotlines and characters that are tied, in some way, to a nasty inheritance dispute. Skillfully adapted by Andrew Davies, "Bleak House" works on multiple levels as a gripping legal thriller, a juicy romance and piquant social commentary. Step inside and make yourself comfortable. -- Chuck Barney, Knight Ridder
At eight hours, spread over six Sunday nights, the BBC's miniseries of "Bleak House" may seem as daunting as Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the never-ending legal case at the drama's heart. Be not afraid. This adaptation of the doorstop Dickens novel is one of the best TV events of the new year. ...Andrew Davies' adaptation keeps up with all the memorable characters, and the writer does the novel one better: He transforms the simpering Esther into a character you don't want to backhand. (It helps that Maxwell Martin plays her with warmth and delicacy.) For "X-Files" fans - but not for anyone who saw her in the 2000 feature "The House of Mirth" - Anderson's Lady Dedlock will be a revelation, a glamorous mix of hauteur and despair. Shown last year in the UK in half-hour installments, twice a week, the miniseries sometimes resorts to whiplash, MTV-style edits. Luckily, these would-be hip touches are only a mild distraction. Fair warning: Sunday's two-hour introduction may be the most confusing of the episodes. If you stick with it, though, you're likely to be hooked. Of the novel's many characters, only one major player doesn't make it into the miniseries: the dense London fog that Dickens used as a metaphor. Reportedly, whenever the film crew cranked up their smoke machines, the wind blew it all away.While they didn't get the fog, the makers of "Bleak House" got everything else right. Grade A -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gillian Anderson (of "The X-Files" fame) is brilliant in Bleak House (PBS, Sundays from Jan. 22 to Feb. 26, check local listings). Luminous and mysterious, Lady Dedlock is the flame around whom swirl a variety of heated love stories, a terrible secret, and one of Charles Dickens's most insidious villains - a lawyer who ferrets out truth, but never justice. -- Christian Science Monitor Picks
New York Times: A Very Modern Dickens
Posted at 3:57 PM (PST) on Thursday, January 19, 2006
A Very Modern Dickens, Still Haunting but Lively
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
New York Times
January 20, 2006
"Bleak House" is too good to be homework.
Unfortunately, it is such a fixture on required reading lists that many people forget to read Dickens's novel for fun. J. Hillis Miller's introduction in the old Penguin edition doesn't help: "The novel calls attention to its own procedures and confesses to its own rhetoric, not only for example, in the onomastic system of metaphorical names already discussed but also in the insistent metaphors of the style throughout." (And he gets the girl?)
The six-part television adaptation beginning on PBS this Sunday is a faithful, respectful rendition of the book that does not in the least feel like fodder for a seminar on semiotics at Yale. The series, made for the BBC, is as pleasurable as its tale is grim. It would probably even please Nabokov, who in a college lecture explained: "All we have to do when reading 'Bleak House' is to relax and let our spines take over. Although we read with our minds, the seat of artistic delight is between the shoulder blades."
The story starts at a spine-tingling pace: a young woman cloaked in gray is swept up in a swirl of rain, fog and mud and sped to London by horse-drawn carriage. It is a romantic journey to the most unromantic of places, the chancery courts. The orphan heroine, Esther Summerson, has been summoned by a stranger, John Jarndyce, to serve at Bleak House as a companion to Ada Clare, who, along with her cousin Richard Carstone, is a ward of the court pending a resolution of the infamous lawsuit Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.
Almost all the bad deeds and ill fortune in "Bleak House" trace back to an inheritance bogged down for generations in never-ending details and dispute. ("There are several wills and fragments of wills," one lawyer says. "All of them different and all of them conflicting.") The novel is perhaps most famous as a denunciation of the British courts - Dickens worked briefly as a law office clerk and court reporter, the blacking factory of his legal experience. But "Bleak House" contains almost every other imaginable Dickensian theme and convoluted plot twist, as well as some of the author's more delicious secondary characters.
The BBC adaptation does justice to Mrs. Jellyby (Liza Tarbuck), a full-throated philanthropist who neglects her appearance, her many children and her ill-managed household to devote herself to numerous charitable causes, including her "Africa project." Harold Skimpole (Nathaniel Parker), a houseguest of John Jarndyce, insists he is an innocent who cares nothing about money but somehow manages to sponge off others to cover his expenses and pay off his debts.
Gillian Anderson, best known in the role of Special Agent Dana Scully on "The X-Files," grew gaunt to play Lady Dedlock, and is almost unrecognizable, but quite compelling in the role. She has mysterious ties to the case and to Esther. Too self-centered and autocratic to command sympathy, she is instead sinister. (She can fire a maid like nobody' s business.) Anna Maxwell Martin is remarkable as Esther, bringing an understated charm to a character whom some critics have found too worthy to be persuasive or interesting. Charles Dance is an elegantly malevolent Mr. Tulkinghorn, the lawyer who manipulates the case - and its plaintiffs - to his own ends.
The adaptation was written by Andrew Davies, who seems intent on bringing the entire English literary canon to television: he also wrote the scripts for "Middlemarch" and "Pride and Prejudice," as well as a TV version of "Vanity Fair." (He sometimes dabbles in the instant classics: the screenplay for "Bridget Jones's Diary.") And Mr. Davies once again serves both the author and the television audience well, letting the story unfold at a lively pace without stinting on Dickens's eccentric minor characters or his scalding social commentary.
This is not the first time the BBC has tackled "Bleak House." Diana Rigg played Lady Dedlock in a 1985 version that was a bit more somber than this one. At that time, the executive producer, Jonathan Powell, said in interviews that its creators had stressed the parallels between Victorian England and the government of Margaret Thatcher - not a flattering likeness.
It's hard to detect any subliminal messages about Tony Blair's Cool Britannia in this "Bleak House." Mostly it is an overt, loving tribute to Dickens and one of his greatest novels. And it proves Nabokov wrong. In his lecture, the writer insisted that if readers did not experience a "shiver" of pleasure in reading "Bleak House," "then let us give up the whole thing and concentrate on our comics, our videos, our books-of-the-week."
This video might make even Nabokov's spine tingle a little.
Bloomberg.com's Review of Bleak House
Posted at 3:23 PM (PST) on Thursday, January 19, 2006
Vivid Visit to Dickens's 'Bleak House' on PBS
By Dave Shiflett
Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Bleak is beautiful, at least in Masterpiece Theater's presentation of Charles Dickens's ``Bleak House,'' which makes high art of a ruinous lawsuit.
Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce, the result of a rich man writing multiple wills, has been in court for several generations, producing madness, suicide and massive legal fees. Screenwriter Andrew Davies (``Pride and Prejudice'') does a masterful job compressing the sprawling story into an eight-hour miniseries.
In Sunday night's two-hour opener, orphan Esther Summerson (Anna Maxwell Martin), Ada Clare (Carey Mulligan) and Richard Carstone (Patrick Kennedy) arrive at Bleak House, a magnificent pile of bricks large enough to host most of us and our 40 closest friends.
The house is overseen by John Jarndyce (Denis Lawson), a warmhearted gent who occasionally retires to a room he calls the ``Growlery'' to let off steam; these days he'd probably have a blog, though here he confines his audience to Esther.
'Bored to Death'
Martin is not a flawless beauty -- like several other characters a facial growth or two is in evidence -- yet she has a deeply dignified character. She also bears a burden: ``Your mother is your disgrace and you hers,'' a scolding hag tells her at show's start. Her desire to learn her mother's identity is ever on her mind.
Even more intriguing is Lady Dedlock (Gillian Anderson), a pale, haunted woman who looks as if she hasn't hosted a red corpuscle in decades. Although she professes to be "bored to death with my life,'' she takes a sudden interest in learning the identity of a court-document copyist whose handwriting she recognizes. This alerts family lawyer Tulkinghorn (Charles Dance) that something is up; he is pitiless in his pursuit of this mystery.
The episodes, which air each Sunday through Feb. 26, are meant to imitate the page-turning nature of the original work, which was serialized in 1852-53. Davies succeeds grandly. He, of course, had much to work with: a great plot and some of Dickens's most memorable characters.
Tulkinghorn is a ferocious lawyer whose family tree seems to have been populated by at least one pair of tarantulas. His pursuit of the copyist, a former soldier and current opium addict called Nemo (John Lynch), will eventually reveal a dark secret.
Krook (Johnny Vegas), the aptly named proprietor at Nemo's slum dwelling, is a half whisker from a heart attack, a half swallow from cirrhosis, and a full-time candidate for imprisonment. His theft of Nemo's secret letters is crucial to the plot's development.
Guppy (Burn Gorman), who deeply desires the hand (among other things) of Esther, starts out respectable enough, but soon becomes a stalker with a malevolent glint to his eye. Harold Skimpole (Nathaniel Parker), one of English literature's premier leeches, comes off as a parasite without equal.
"Possessions are nothing to me,'' he chirps while downing yet another load of free chow, compliments of John Jarndyce.
"I have no aptitude for work,'' he adds. Skimpole does admit to being a doctor ``for a time,'' which one suspects resulted in a fatality or two.
Then there's Mrs. Jellyby (Liza Tarbuck), the do-gooder whose compassion does not extend to her own children; they look as if they just climbed out of a dumpster. Her obsession with saving Africa blinds her to her children's simplest needs.
"No pee pee, not on any account,'' bellows this dumpling of a woman, who appears to consume enough victuals to feed a medium-sized village. "Mama is busy!''
Indeed, there are many blimps in this massive production, which boasts 80 speaking parts, along with first-rate set scenes, especially forays into the slums. The street urchins look as if they rose from the mud or at best house themselves in chimneys. The sense of bottomless despair is as thick as the ever-present fog.
In one tenement we find a man who had "been drunk three days'' and sobered up only because he ran out of money; he has beaten his wife, whose child dies in her arms. Elsewhere in this cauldron of hopelessness, three children try desperately to stay out of the orphanages Dickens railed against in other works; we are reminded that his final act on earth was said to have been the shedding of a massive tear.
One assumes the great author would be pleased with this handling of what many consider to be his best book. Viewers will have a difficult time not getting hooked early; some may remember that one character departs the drama in the most notable case of "spontaneous combustion'' in all of literature.
A brilliant exit in a brilliant work.
Hollywood Reporter Review of Bleak House
Posted at 3:09 PM (PST) on Thursday, January 19, 2006
The Hollywood Reporter
By Laurence Vittes
January 20, 2006
Bottom line: An ambitious BBC production team has created a major Dickens triumph for "Masterpiece Theatre."
Sunday, Jan. 22
The BBC's third attempt at the sprawling Dickens novel is its best, capturing with riveting tension and passionate urgency a clash between different ways of life, where ambition, physical beauty and moral squalor play out against a background of legal gridlock and murder to create a high-powered thriller.
Widely discussed in the U.K. -- where it was broadcast as a twice-weekly series of half-hour episodes -- for being the leading edge of an important attempt to popularize the classics and broaden viewer demographics (read: reach a younger audience), Andrew Davies' new adaptation has been the subject of scholarly analyses and critical reviews debating the merits of dumbing down a timeless work of art as if it were a soap opera.
Arriving in the U.S. under the "Masterpiece Theatre" aegis, where its eight hours will be shown over six successive Sunday evenings, Davies and directors Justin Chadwick and Susanne White see to it that the adaptation's story line, heavily laced with romance and intrigue not to mention cliffhanging endings to the individual episodes, rightly exploits Dickens' genius at creating a stream of fascinating characters, many of them the young and vulnerable type who typically appeal to younger viewers.
Although due credit must be given to the many magnificent actors who populate this very liberally populated story, it would be unfair not to single out Anna Maxwell Martin as Esther Summerson, on whose shoulders the story inevitably rests. Hers is a difficult part, since Esther possesses neither great beauty nor great charm, but as she grows and discovers the roots of her history, and those of her fellows, she takes the story convincingly with her.
If there is any criticism to be made, it is that the opening half-hour plunges the unsuspecting viewer into an unfamiliar foreign world of soot and grime and foul deeds and motives. Once settled in, however, this is very addictive television, indeed.
Chicago Tribune Interview
Posted at 2:49 PM (PST) on Thursday, January 19, 2006
Gillian Anderson on Lady Dedlock, Dana Scully and the influence of 'The X-Files'
By Maureen Ryan
A Chicago Tribune Web Log
January 19, 2006
Why did you choose to take this part (Lady Dedlock)? Were you reticent about taking another TV role and the demands that that would make on your time?
“I think it had less to do with the demands on my time and more to do with just doing television, period. I’d turned down everything that had anything to do with TV since `The X-Files’ ended.
“But when I was offered this role [in `Bleak House’], I was told that [taking this TV role] was very different. I live in England and I was reminded that in England it’s much easier for actors to move between television and film and stage, all the time, whenever, and it doesn’t have a negative effect on their careers. It’s just part of their body of work.
“Then I started reading the episodes and they were so beautifully written and the episodes were so intriguing and the character was so intriguing and I got very much wrapped up in it. I met the director and the producers and it all made sense. It was something I really wanted to do.”
Can you describe Lady Dedlock and what about her made you want to take on the role?
“She’s an incredibly complicated and complex character. She lived a particular life at one time then made a couple of choices that, in that day and age, had potentially devastating effects on her career as a wife and mother, which is what women were for back then. As a result of that, she had to keep those — not mistakes — but those decisions very close to her and had to hold those secrets very tightly to keep [them] from destroying her life. Then, after she married, to keep them from destroying her life with her husband.
“The consequence of holding those secrets and the loss that she experienced quite young, over time had a kind of vise-like effect on her and the way she was in her world. She became very kind of constrained and tight and severe and outwardly judgmental and very, very sad.”
Was the challenge playing someone who was so guarded and constrained? Was that part of the challenge?
"No, I don’t think that was part of the challenge. There is, because of the amount of loss that she has experienced and continues to experience throughout the episodes — what was challenging was making those moments different from each other. If you continue to see her in a state of remorse or pain or fear or any of the things that she experiences in the course of the story, the challenge is to make watching that not a tedious experience.”
Did you see any parallels between Lady Dedlock and Lily Bart, the role you played in the film “The House of Mirth”? Did you see any similarities between the roles?
“It was even worse than that [for Lady Dedlock of `Bleak House’] because it was another half-decade before [the era of `The House of Mirth’]. The consequences for a woman were even more dire [in Dickens’ day]. But they’re very different characters. Lily Bart was a very naïve young woman, and Lady Dedlock is a very worldly and experienced woman. They’re quite different. I think Lady Dedlock’s secrets are even bigger secrets than Lily Bart’s secrets.”
You’ve been doing a lot of theater in London, is that what you prefer at the moment? Is that your biggest love right now?
“No, I mean, I’ve done two plays in London and now five films, so I wouldn’t say it’s my biggest love. But it’s certainly something I want to continue pursuing and do more of in the not-too-faraway future.”
Speaking of “The X-Files,” is that something you’re still recognized for?
Does it happen a lot? Is that a part of your life you’re excited about?
"I wouldn’t say it’s something I’m excited about, it’s just a part of my life. I get recognized on a daily basis, whatever country I’m in.”
Is that surprising to you, that you still get recognized so much?
“No, it’s not surprising. When it becomes surprising is when I feel like I look completely different from the character [laughs], and my hair’s up in a ponytail and I’m wearing flip flops and whatever. That’s when I find it surprising, when I think I’m incognito. Not that I try to be incognito, but when I just think that I dissolve into the background [but I don’t].”
Just talking a bit about Dana Scully, the character you played on “The X-Files,” I see all these women on TV now, strong women in law enforcement, working as various kinds of investigators. Do you feel that your portrayal of Scully or Scully as a character helped to bring that about?
“Well, it seems to be [the case]. That comes down to the creator, Chris Carter, and his vision of who this character was and [the person] he wrote and the episodes [that he created]. And that was basically the beginning of all of it [i.e., a change in how women were cast and portrayed]. He fought tooth and nail to get me rather than what used to be the version of women television back then, which was very different. And ironically it had an international effect on women and on television and how women were not just perceived but how they behaved.”
Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s good that the way women are depicted has changed for the better.
“It’s amazing. It’s amazing to think that it did [change]. [Laughs.] This funny old series we were doing had a huge influence on the history of television in many ways, from the lighting on television to the kinds of stories that were being told to the characters. The amount of things you see right now where they even just have a male and female as investigators. It’s almost a joke. It’s like, somebody should come with something different now!” [Laughs.]
Is there another `X-Files’ movie in the offing?
“Yes, we hope, all of us hope, that there will be one, but I think there are some complications right now with Fox. So who knows what’s happening. I keep being told it’s going to happen but then it’s not [happening], so I think it’s just in stagnation.”
Posted at 12:33 PM (PST) on Thursday, January 19, 2006
Bleak House Publicity Report
Posted at 11:07 AM (PST) on Thursday, January 19, 2006
We’re happy to share these first Bleak House kudos:
“Grandly entertaining...the only bleak aspect to this miniseries is that it doesn’t last forever.”
- TV Guide
- People Magazine
“This is law drama such as Boston Legal’s David E. Kelley can only dream about.”
- Time Magazine
“Dark, textured, and lively – this is how Dickens is done. A.”
- Entertainment Weekly
On Saturday, January 14, we presented Bleak House at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. The panel for the lively, well-attended session included Charles Dance, Gillian Anderson, Andrew Davies, and MASTERPIECE THEATRE executive producer Rebecca Eaton—all of whom answered the press’s wide-ranging questions with intelligence, candor and wit. We are delighted to report that the critics and our colleagues deemed the Bleak House session one of the highlights of the tour.
As expected, Gillian’s first role since The X-Files was of great interest to our press, and she graciously gave about twenty interviews at tour.
ANTICIPATED PRESS COVERAGE
Here’s a partial list of anticipated coverage for MASTERPIECE THEATRE’s Bleak House, which premieres this Sunday, January 22 at 9pm on PBS. Most of the stories and reviews will appear on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday of this week, and we will plan to send you highlights early next week. Complete press packets will be mailed after the series finishes its broadcast on February 26.
FEATURE STORIES (These publications interviewed Gillian and/or other talent.)
NEWSPAPER SYNDICATES: ASSOCIATED PRESS, TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, KNIGHT RIDDER, GANNETT
PEOPLE (interview with Gillian to run after the premiere)
NEW YORK TIMES (TV book cover; Sunday Arts & Leisure “The Week Ahead”)
LOS ANGELES TIMES (TV book cover; “Calendar” interview with Gillian)
NEWARK STAR LEDGER
PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS
FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM
TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
We anticipate reviews in dozens of major newspaper, trade, and weekly publications. A partial list:
NEW YORK MAGAZINE
NEW YORK TIMES
LOS ANGELES TIMES
WALL STREET JOURNAL
NPR’S “WEEKEND EDITION SATURDAY” (Gillian to be interviewed by host Scott Simon tomorrow)
ASSOCIATED PRESS RADIO SYNDICATE
ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT (interviewed Gillian at TOUR)
Washington Post: Anderson wooed back to TV for 'Bleak House'
Posted at 6:54 AM (PST) on Thursday, January 19, 2006
Anderson wooed back to TV for 'Bleak House'
By Kathy Blumenstock
The Washington Post
Gillian Anderson fell in love with Charles Dickens' "Bleak House" after she was offered the part of Lady Dedlock. "My first response was, 'I don't do television anymore,' (but) I started reading, and it's an amazing novel," said Anderson, best known for nine seasons of starring as Special Agent Scully on "The X Files."
Set in Victorian-era London, the suspenseful tale centers on a thorny inheritance lawsuit laced with multiple plot lines: a murdered man, an orphan's mysterious past, the passion of young lovers, and Lady Dedlock's own dark secrets, which she fears her husband's lawyer will learn.
"She seems fragile, but she is actually quite tough," Anderson said of her character. "I enjoyed her tremendously, even wearing the corset. It was a very good corset, constrictive but not painful. But I still had to decide if I would eat two bites of lunch, or loosen it and eat more, then put it back and feel disgusting the rest of the day."
Anderson worked with Charles Dance and Alun Armstrong on producer Nigel Stafford-Clark's production, which airs as part of PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre."
"Nigel knew the book and teleplays back to front, and the intricacies of every character," she said.
The real challenge in playing Lady Dedlock, Anderson said, was to express her pain differently "scene after scene after scene. That sounds simple, but it's true. Especially for characters so loaded with history and secrets, you have to pay intricate attention to the emotional state they're in and hope the choices you're making are appropriate ones."
LA Daily News: Dickens of a Time
Posted at 6:39 AM (PST) on Thursday, January 19, 2006
LA Daily News
By Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith
January 19, 2006
DICKENS OF A TIME:
It's a long, long way from "X-Files" to "Bleak House," but Gillian Anderson handles portraying the cool, secret-harboring Lady Dedlock brilliantly in the Charles Dickens drama. At least, she does in the opinion of esteemed British actor/director Charles Dance. "She looks like Rosetti's muse, with the long jawline - wonderful," he says.
PBS will begin airing the saga of love, murder and the quest for a mystery-man's identity in six parts Jan. 22. As for Dance, he plays the merciless lawyer Mr. Tulkinghorn, who is, he says cheerfully, "one of the nastiest villains ever written, with not a redeeming quality about him. Completely vile. You love to hate him."
Variety: Bleak House Review
Posted at 2:15 PM (PST) on Wednesday, January 18, 2006
By Brian Lowry
January 18, 2006
(Miniseries; -- PBS, Sun. Jan. 22, 9 p.m.)
This might sound strange in today's era of instant gratification, but those who wade through the slow-going first three or four hours of this stately production will be richly rewarded by the engrossing final four. Sumptuously produced -- and graced with a sprawling cast that includes "The X-Files'" Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock, the original desperate housewife -- this is "Masterpiece Theatre's" second stab at Charles Dickens' convoluted classic. It takes a while to become acclimated to the interlocking characters and baroque Dickensian flourishes, but once that kicks in, as the Brits say, it's bloody good.
More expansive than the PBS showcase's 1985 version featuring Denholm Elliot and Diana Rigg, this latest adaptation by writer Andrew DaviesAndrew Davies ("Bridget Jones's Diary""Bridget Jones's Diary") brings a dark flair to Dickens' dense tale of a disputed will and closely guarded secrets, set against the class-riven beautiful estates of the upper crust and squalor of the impoverished.
At the heart of the story, originally published in serialized form in the 1850s, is the case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, a battle over a large estate that has languished in the courts for years. Two potential heirs to the fortune, Richard (Patrick Kennedy) and Ada (Carey Mulligan), are taken in by the wealthy John Jarndyce (Denis Lawson), who urges them not to follow the road to madness and obsession by pursuing the case.
Joining Ada as her companion is Esther (Anna Maxwell Martin), whose mysterious origins include being born out of wedlock and abandoned by her mother. All this will figure prominently as the action unfolds, involving the wealthy Lady Dedlock and her wealthy husband's cruel, manipulative lawyer, Tulkinghorn (Charles Dance), who zeroes in on a secret Lady Dedlock has been hiding, leading to a deep pain she labors to conceal.
Along the way, there will be a murder with no shortage of suspects, a smallpox scare, a few other related deaths -- including that of a mystery man tied to both the will and Lady Dedlock -- and a trio of proposals for Esther, the story's moral center. Nicely played by Maxwell Martin, poor Esther pines for the dashing Dr. Woodcourt (Richard Harrington) but must endure the punishments of the damned before anything approaching happiness can come her way.
Slow and murky at first, the narrative (presented in half-hour segs in the U.K.) builds momentum in its later hours. Viewing the entire story in close proximity, as critics can, helps, so some might be inclined to wait for the DVD. On PBS, the production will play out over six weeks, with two-hour installments bracketing the weekly hours in between.
Anderson, who has kept a relatively low profile since "The X-Files," disappears into her role as the tormented Lady Dedlock, who mutters at the outset that she is "bored to death with my life," haunted by a secret that really isn't much of one. Dance, meanwhile, is perfectly hissable as the reptilian barrister, steamrolling over anyone who crosses his path, and Lawson is excellent as the kindly Jarndyce, whose stiff upper lip keeps him from speaking his mind for a good four hours.
"Masterpiece Theatre" remains a rare pleasure for PBS, the shiny franchise that plays to an appreciative older crowd and doesn't provoke cries of liberal bias. Should they look closer, though, conservative ideologues doubtless will have a real beef with this Dickens fellow, who seems to have strong opinions about the unfairness of the legal system and mistreatment of the poor.
Nothing Alien in New Show
Posted at 2:08 PM (PST) on Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Anderson Finds Nothing Alien in New Show
By BRIDGET BYRNE
For The Associated Press
January 18 2006
PASADENA, Calif. -- Since "The X-Files" ended, Gillian Anderson has tried to move as far away as possible from her fame as Dana Scully, the skeptical FBI agent assigned to investigate the paranormal.
In PBS' "Bleak House," she's probably completely succeeded.
As the beautiful but tragic Lady Dedlock in this six-part "Masterpiece Theatre" adaptation of one of Charles Dickens' greatest novels, only Anderson's classic profile is a reminder of Scully.
The American actress, exquisitely dressed and coifed in high-Victorian style, her voice faultlessly English, exudes restrained grief in her role, which is pivotal to the novel's complex plot -- a typical Dickens assault on the inequity of mid-19th century British society and the cruelty of its distorted and protracted legal system.
Anderson says that from her very first reading of the script she felt that she understood Lady Dedlock.
"And as soon as the corset and the dress and the wig went on, she just kind of came to life. She was there," the actress recalls.
"I also respond very strongly to characters I have not done before ... something I can really sink my teeth into, and what's scary, and what terrifies me, because that's where I need to go," says Anderson.
To ensure a completely new experience, the actress even insisted that Lady Dedlock's hair be dark -- not the red first suggested by the producers, which might have been too sharp a reminder of Scully.
Anderson squirms around on a bed in a Pasadena hotel as she talks, trying to ease a bad back. It's not the Victorian corsets that have caused the pain, rather the flight from England to California where she's promoting the miniseries, which starts Sunday at 9 p.m (check local listings).
Anderson, 37, lives in London with her husband, Julian Ozanne, and 11-year-old daughter, Piper.
Her decision to move there was "definitely" influenced by her realization that when "The X-Files" was over in 2002 after nine seasons, "I knew that I couldn't be on a set again for a while ... so I started looking for a play."
She found it -- the London production of "What the Night is For" -- and has worked in theater and film since then, avoiding television until "Bleak House."
She has several feature films due for release, including "The Last King of Scotland," in which she plays a doctor, and Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of the 18th century comic novel "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story."
"I'm just always looking for stuff to change people's minds about me," she says. "It's very different in England ... I'm perceived as an actor and here I think I'm perceived as a temporary television celebrity who does one thing."
Andrew Davies, who adapted "Bleak House" for the miniseries, is delighted Anderson is part of the cast.
"I think she's got a wonderful stillness in her performances, so that she never seems to be acting particularly," says the British writer. "She just brought a terrific sense of tragedy to this part, a woman who has spent her life being so contained, with almost no ability to express herself."
Anderson understands why her name is helpful in promoting the miniseries in America. But she's also swift to note the extraordinary brilliance of her British co-stars, who play the huge variety of funny, evil, tragic, virtuous and outrageous characters -- some 80 speaking roles -- who are stuffed into Dickens' novel.
Davies -- who has successfully adapted the work of other classic writers, including Jane Austen and George Eliot -- notes that Dickens provides a special challenge because "he produces wonderful unnecessary characters."
Yet Davies tries to include as many as possible "because it simply wouldn't be true to Dickens to be absolutely ruthless and go for the spine of the story and chuck out everything and everyone that doesn't relate to that."
Five Minutes in bed with Gillian
Posted at 11:21 AM (PST) on Wednesday, January 18, 2006
By Mike Ausiello
TV Guide: Ask Ausiello
January 18, 2006
Question: Michael, why on god’s green Earth did you spend five minutes in bed with Gillian Anderson on Saturday?
Ausiello: How the heck did you hear about that?!?! That was supposed to be a secret! Well, it's out there now so I may as well spill. Gillian was at the Ritz Carlton in Pasadena for press tour Saturday promoting her Masterpiece Theatre miniseries The Bleak House (premiering Sunday on PBS), and, following her press conference, I asked the PBS publicist if I could get five minutes one-on-one with her for a top-secret story I'm working on for TV Guide magazine.
Well, not only did Gills say yes, but the rep asked if I would mind going to her room in a half hour to do it. Would I mind? Would I mind? Does a wild bear mind doing No. 2 in the woods? Cut to 29 minutes later: I knock on Gills' door, walk in and find her waiting for me (pause for dramatic effect) on her bed.
Being the gentleman that I aspire to be, I reluctantly offer to pull up a chair alongside the bed, but she has none of it and invites me to jump in the sack with her. (Note: I attended the very first X-Files convention in San Diego in 1996. In other words, I shouldn't have been allowed within 50 feet of Gillian Anderson, let alone inside her suite at the Ritz.)
What happened over the course of the next five minutes will stay between me, Gillian, Gillian's manager who was sitting on the other side of the room with a baseball bat in her hand and the readers of TV Guide magazine. (I wasn't kidding about that top-secret story. Really, I wasn't. I swear.)
The Village Voice: Mini BH Review
Posted at 6:40 AM (PST) on Wednesday, January 18, 2006
by Joy Press
January 17th, 2006
The Village Voice
January 22 through February 26 at 9 on channel 13
This spectacular six-part adaptation of the lit classic feels more like a plush Jane Austen tale than Dickens, full of imprudent matches, trembling bodices, and an enfeebled aristocracy embodied by Lady Dedlock (the return of Gillian Anderson at her most delicate and dazzling). But plenty of Dickensian touches remain in this woeful tale of legal bureaucracy gone awry. Spontaneous combustion, bloodsucking lawyers, and a lovesick schemer named Guppy turn Masterpiece Theatre into must-see TV.
Inside Bay Area Interview
Posted at 7:33 AM (PST) on Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Inside Bay Area
By Sue Young
January 17, 2006
From aliens to Dickens
Gillian Anderson looked exquisite, and much calmer, than last time we saw her.
Anderson admits that her nine years starring on "The X-Files" took a toll on her private life. She spent up to 16 hours a day working on the Fox series in Vancouver and spent the rest of the time promoting it.
"I've lost track of how many times reporters would ask me if I believed in aliens, and each time they asked, it was as if they thought it was the first time I'd ever heard the question," Anderson said.
Anderson left the country after the series wrapped and has been living in England, where she met her husband who was working for the Financial Times in London. She's been doing a lot of stage work and independent films.
She now stars in the BBC-produced epic "Bleak House," which will be shown beginning Sunday on PBS. The 16-hour film, based on the Charles Dickens' novel, will air in six parts, with parts one and six airing for two hours and the rest as one-hour shows.
Anderson plays Lady Deadlock, a woman with a secret past that threatens to destroy her.
She says she was reluctant to return to television, even British television, after the grueling "X-Files" schedule.
"I told my agent I wouldn't do television," Anderson said. "But I couldn't resist this script."
Anderson says she won't return to American television, but she is hoping that a new "X-Files" movie will be in the works soon.
"I want to do it. David (Duchovny) wants to do it and Chris Carter already knows what he wants to write," she said. "But there's a hold-up with Fox."
Anderson says that moving to London has been great for her soul, but hasn't done much to help her feature film career.
"I went to a Golden Globes party the other night and it was great talking to about four friends, but my agent was trying to tell everyone I had done 'Bleak House' and no one cared because they hadn't seen it," Anderson said. "In Hollywood, you are only as good as the last thing you were in and it's been a while since I've been in anything. It's very difficult to be on the selling side of this profession."
Posted at 10:26 AM (PST) on Monday, January 16, 2006
Tuned In: 'Bleak House' has bright star in Anderson
By Rob Owen
January 16, 2006
PASADENA, Calif. -- After "The X-Files" closed its investigations into the paranormal, actress Gillian Anderson, who played FBI agent Dana Scully, became an X-File herself. She all but disappeared from public view.
But she's back in PBS's hearty "Masterpiece Theatre" production of Charles Dickens' "Bleak House" Sunday at 9 p.m. on WQED. The eight-hour production, running Sunday nights through Feb. 26, is a labyrinthine, large-cast period drama sure to draw the interest of fans of costume dramas.
Dickens originally published the novel in serialized magazine installments between 1852 and 1853, and the BBC aired the series as 16 half-hour episodes, each with its own cliffhanger. Nothing has been cut for the American airing.
Anderson stars as Lady Dedlock, who recognizes handwriting on a legal document, a discovery that sets the story rolling. The backdrop is an interminable legal case of contested wills, Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. A kind claimant in the case, John Jarndyce (Denis Lawson, who played Wedge Antilles in the original "Star Wars" saga), takes in Jarndyce heirs Ada (Carey Mulligan) and Richard (Patrick Kennedy) and orphan Esther (Anna Maxwell Martin).
Anderson said she initially turned down the opportunity to star in "Bleak House." After "X-Files" ended, Anderson wanted a break and told her agents she was only interested in film or theater roles. She moved to London for a play, bought a house, met and married the man who is now her husband. Her agent convinced her to read the "Bleak House" script.
"In England, it's much easier to flip between doing television and film," Anderson said Saturday, evincing just a hint of a British accent. "It doesn't ruin one's career the way it sometimes does in America. I had to take that on faith, but from the moment I started working on it, it was the best fun I'd had in a really long time."
Anderson said she's definitely game for another "X-Files" movie, but contractual entanglements have stalled that project. In the meantime, American producers haven't come calling.
"People don't know what to do with me in America," she said. "I've disappeared. ... I think there's a perception that I was a temporary television celebrity who disappeared off the planet.
"I try in my life to follow my heart in terms of what moves me and what is important to me," Anderson said. "I know what it feels like to do things that are soul- decaying, and a lot of the large aspects of life in Hollywood, in the stereotypical way, I find unbelievably soul-decaying, and I choose, albeit frustratingly to other people in my life, not to expose myself to too much of that."
"Bleak House" screenwriter Andrew Davies is acclaimed for his scripts, most notably 1995's "Pride & Prejudice" and both "Bridget Jones" movies. He said adapting Dickens proved to be its own challenge because of the large cast of characters in his novels.
"'Bleak House' is a great baggy thing, the plot doesn't work in all sorts of parts, so you've got to tinker with it," Davies said. "Usually I tell myself, find the spine of the story and stick to that and chuck out anything not related to the spine of the story, but that doesn't work with Dickens. You lose the flavor of him if you don't include all those other extra comic characters that he couldn't stop himself from creating. The plot bulges out. It's like horrible boils or something, but in a nice way."
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Interview
Posted at 10:21 AM (PST) on Monday, January 16, 2006
Anderson returns to the small screen
By Joanne Weintraub
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
January 15, 2006
Pasadena, Calif. - Three years after the close of "The X Files," a BBC producer approached Gillian Anderson about starring in a miniseries.
Her response, she told TV critics here over the weekend, was "No, I don't do television. Sorry."
Nine years of playing the dour, dogged FBI agent Dana Scully on Fox's paranoid fantasy hit was more than enough, Anderson felt. She was happy to be making movies and working on the stage in London, where she lives with her husband of just over a year, photojournalist Julian Ozanne.
But then Anderson read the script of "Bleak House," an eight-hour drama based on the Charles Dickens novel. "Sorry" became "maybe," "maybe" became "yes" - and Sunday, the Emmy-winning actress will be seen in her first TV dramatic role since she and David Duchovny packed it in as Scully and Mulder.
Anderson, who scored her first post-"X Files" film success as Edith Wharton's doomed Lily Bart in 2000's "The House of Mirth," will play another star-crossed beauty, Lady Dedlock, in "Bleak House," one of the longest and most lavish presentations in recent years for PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre."
Even after warming to the character, however, "I was still tentative about it," she said Saturday at the TV industry's two-week preview event for journalists.
So "I started to talk to friends of mine, actors in England. And in England, it's much easier to flip between doing film and television and theater. It doesn't ruin one's career as it sometimes does in America. And so I decided to do it."
The miniseries, which will open with a two-hour chunk and continue with six more one-hour episodes on PBS, was packaged differently in Britain, where it held a large audience captive for 16 weeks of half-hour installments. Even four months, however, is a drop in the bucket compared to nine seasons of "The X Files."
In fact, Anderson acknowledged, if she'd known what she was getting into back in 1993, she wouldn't have taken Scully on at all.
"I didn't watch television - I didn't know what pilots were," she said. "I was just kind of going along, and I got this job.
"At the time, I think 'Brisco County' " - a comic Western that lasted for a single season - "was what Fox was putting their money on. And then things changed.
"If I had known ('The X Files' would run nine seasons) before we started, I most definitely would have said, 'Not on your life.' But in retrospect, I'm really glad I did it."
The not-so-small fortune she made as Scully has allowed Anderson - who was born 37 years ago in Chicago but spent much of her childhood in England, where her father studied film - to live comfortably in London and to take stage roles that don't pay especially well. It also enables her and Ozanne, a native of Kenya, to travel frequently to Africa, where they do non-profit work in the areas of poverty, education and health, particularly AIDS.
Before and after making "Bleak House," Anderson has been approached about TV roles.
"Normally, I get a phone call saying, 'I know you're going to turn this down, so I just have to inform you that you were offered this, but I already told them that you're not going to.' That's the way it's gone."
Her next movie, "A Cock and Bull Story," adapted from Laurence Sterne's legendarily offbeat novel "Tristram Shandy," is due for American release later this month.
But apart from some independent films, "I don't get (movie) offers in America," Anderson says frankly. "People don't know what to do with me in America. I've disappeared (to England).
"To be absolutely honest, it's not a question of saying, 'Oh, they offered me (the 2005 movie) "Proof," but I said no, so they went to Gwyneth Paltrow.'
"Perhaps there's a slight perception that I was a temporary television celebrity who disappeared off the face of the planet."
The one Hollywood movie she hopes to do is a sequel to the 1998 "X Files" film.
"David and I and (creator) Chris Carter are determined to do it," Anderson said.
But due to certain rights issues, "it's become a bit messy. I think the intention is that we will and we hope to - and that, hopefully, by the time we actually do, whenever that is, people will still give a damn."
Time Magazine: A Choice Import
Posted at 1:08 PM (PST) on Sunday, January 15, 2006
6 Choice Imports To Catch
TV is an American cash crop, but these shows make the case for free trade
By James Poniewozik
Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006
BLEAK HOUSE PBS, SUNDAYS, 9 P.M. E.T.
Even at eight hours, this adaptation of Charles Dickens' tale of an interminable inheritance case is quite nimble a feat for writer Andrew Davies. The Masterpiece Theatre coproduction captures the novel's satire, melodrama and horror-movie suspense without undercutting any of those disparate tones. Gillian Anderson is haunting as Lady Dedlock, a claimant tormented by the mystery of a long-lost lover. But the emotional heart of the story is Esther (Anna Maxwell Martin), the sensible orphan caught up in the suit. This is law drama such as Boston Legal's David E. Kelley can only dream about.
Gillian and Andrew Davies: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Posted at 10:13 AM (PST) on Sunday, January 15, 2006
January 15, 2006
Gillian Anderson's immediate future looks "Bleak," and she's just fine with that.
Gillian Anderson knows exactly what American audiences must think. "Perhaps there's a slight perception that I was a temporary television celebrity who disappeared off the face of the planet," she said.
In fact, Anderson lives in London, where she has completed several films due out this year, including "Tristam Shandy" and "The Last King of Scotland." That she's popping up in Andrew Davies' eight hour version of "Bleak House" is something of an anomaly.
"Bleak House," by the way, airs on "Masterpiece Theatre" on consecutive Sundays through February 26, beginning with a two-hour opener Sunday, Jan. 22, at 9 p.m.
I repeat, this may be the last time you'll see Anderson in a TV series. That's by choice, not force. "I'm not around to knock on people's doors and beg them to hire me, or to meet directors who are in town or anything like that," she told critics. "It's all sprung from British film makers who are willing to take a risk, and for whatever reason see me as an actor, and not a television celebrity."
"And God bless them, because that's where I've been getting my work."
Davies, meanwhile, also would love to get a little more attention than he does. "I have no private life," he said. "...I don't really have any friends either. In fact, if anyone likes the look of me, will they please come up and..." We all laughed.
"I'm getting quite old now," he continued. "And, you know, if I go up to young people in the street and say, 'Would you like to have a good time with me?' they report me to the police. But if I write these scripts, it gets me into a situation where I meet all these beautiful and talented people."
It's a safe bet that he counts Anderson among his pals these days.
TV Critics Winter Press Tour
Posted at 10:10 AM (PST) on Sunday, January 15, 2006
ON THE TELEVISION PRESS TOUR: DAY 5
In My Opinion
Editor's note: Star-Telegram TV critic Robert Philpot will tell tales about the stars and the shows in his daily online-only reports from Pasadena, Calif., where the Television Critics Association is holding its press tour.
SATURDAY, JAN. 14, DAY 5
Today was PBS day, which meant plenty of sessions about documentaries _ don't run away, I'm not gonna write about all of 'em _ as well as Monty Python and, sorta, The X-Files.
3:35 p.m.: Sitting on a couch at the far end of a very large room is the not very big Gillian Anderson, who looks even smaller in this context. Her 5-foot-3 frame is bundled from the waist up and covered in a blanket from the waist down. I'm one of a revolving door of reporters doing 15-minute interviews with Anderson, who is in the upcoming adaptation of Bleak House, a Charles Dickens novel so massive that it measures over 1,000 pages in a slightly oversize paperback. Bleak House was a big hit in Britain, where it ran in half-hour daily installments, and PBS has high hopes for it here. The eight-hour series will begin a six-week run Jan. 22 on PBS (KERA/Channel 13, although you should check the listings just to be sure).
Because Anderson is so bundled up, I ask her if she's not feeling well or if she's just cold (several places in this hotel appear to have the thermostats set at 59 degrees). She says she hurt her back just after arriving for the press tour. The former X-Files star also seems tired, a consequence of jet lag after a 14-hour flight from London, her current home - and probably a consequence of sitting through a session and then several 15-minute interviews.
Fifteen minutes is just enough for me to talk to Anderson about her absence from TV - Bleak House is her first TV project since The X-Files left the air in 2002 - about her film career (she has four movies due out this year), about classic literature, about her world travels (during the past couple of years she's visited about 30 countries), about her charity work. Her answers are cordial, but not effusive; I get the feeling that she's been asked many of same things several times today, which is always a risk at these kinds of things. But I get enough for a story, which I hope will appear in the Star-Telegram's print edition before Bleak House's premiere.
New York Magazine's Bleak House Review
Posted at 9:20 PM (PST) on Saturday, January 14, 2006
Review: Bleak House
A Dickens adaptation featuring murder, intrigue, and Gillian Anderson is as engaging as it sounds.
Click here to read the review.
Warning: Contains spoilers.
Entertainment Weekly's Review of Bleak House
Posted at 10:36 AM (PST) on Saturday, January 14, 2006
Bleak House on PBS "Masterpiece Theatre"
By Gillian Flynn
"As haunted Lady Dedlock, Gillian Anderson stares out a rain-splattered window and declares her boredom with such ominousness, it gives one chills. This six-part adaptation of Charles Dickens' tale of an endless lawsuit that ensares families only gets more threatening from there.
With a sharp, elegant script from Andrew Davies,(who also adapted Pride and Predjudice and Vanity Fair for the BBC), Bleak House is a mesmerizing piece of clockwork.
The first episode gracefully introduces dozens of characters, shuttling us from London mansions to cramped hovels, starting us fretting about two young wards whose future is tangled in this sticky bit of law - and making us crave more of gaunt, disturbed Lady Dedlock, with her dangerous link to a dead man.
Dark, textured, and lively - this is how Dickens is done."
People Magazine's Review of Bleak House
Posted at 10:33 AM (PST) on Saturday, January 14, 2006
January 23, 2006
Picks & Pans TV
PBS (Sunday, Jan. 22-Feb. 26, 9 p.m. ET)
Former X-Files star Gillian Anderson already proved herself an unexpectedly exquisite model for period fashion in 2000's House of Mirth, based on the Edith Wharton novel.
In this superb six-week Masterpiece Theatre broadcast of Charles Dickens's thunderous 1852 gloomfest, adapted by Andrew Davies, she's Victorian perfection: the alabaster skin seems to have had all the color bled out by a life under clouds. She's Lady Dedlock, whose air of pained ennui hides one of several interconnected mysteries at the heart of a vast, often cruel story about wards caught up in an interminable inheritance dispute. The suit, Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce, is a legal boa constrictor that threatens to loop around, entangle and finally strangle about everyone. Somehow Dickens also manages to pack in blackmail, murder, smallpox and a man who spontaneously combusts - cheap gin ignited by moral rot.
It's rare that an adaptation allows a viewer to experience the full emotional brunt of Dickens's drama. This one does. Hearts don't just break. They're crushed. Anderson's extremely taut performance sometimes has more theatricality than the part calls for: In close-up, each tremor registers as if every inch of ground beneath her feet was goint to give way. But in general the cast, which will be otherwise unfamiliar to most viewers, responds to Dickens's plot turns with a naturalness that's always gracious and often moving.
The only regret is that the original BBC broadcast, a big hit in Britain, aired in 15 installments, a half hour each: That might even better capture the tale's almost dizzy bursts of suspense.
Thanks, nstt and Vivien!
Bleak House Review
Posted at 2:45 PM (PST) on Thursday, January 12, 2006
USCCB TV Review
The popularity of British costume drama -- once such a hearty staple of public television but lately on the wane -- gets a super-duper shot in the arm with this latest BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' "Bleak House."
This isn't the first such production to show there was life in the old genre yet. George Eliot's "Middlemarch" in 1994 was trumpeted as accomplishing that feat, and several other fine productions followed suit.
But this latest series -- shot originally in half-hour installments like a soap opera -- succeeds in hooking you within minutes.
"Bleak House" premieres Sunday, Jan. 22, 9-11 p.m. EST, and concludes Sunday, Feb. 26, 9-11 p.m. EST on "Masterpiece Theatre." The intervening episodes on Jan. 29 and Feb. 5, 12 and 19 run 9-10 p.m. EST (check local listings).
Have no fear that the faster-paced, edgy approach wreaks havoc on a literary classic. Nothing is rushed, and the essentials are as "traditional" as any purist would wish. The comforting appearances by costume drama stalwarts Ian Richardson, Charles Dance, Timothy West, Pauline Collins and others anchor the series solidly.
The source material, a real page-turner, is another plus. The novel provided "Masterpiece Theatre" with another winner when it aired its superb 1985 version with Diana Rigg and Denholm Elliott.
The plot concerns a long-running inheritance lawsuit -- Jarndyce v. Jarndyce -- and there are various claimants, any one of whom stands to come into a vast fortune if the suit is decided in his or her favor.
Among the colorful characters, there's the patrician Lady Dedlock (Gillian Anderson), married to the fusty Sir Leicester (West), whose interests are represented by hard-nosed attorney Tulkinghorn (Dance). There are two innocent lovers, Ada (Carey Mulligan) and Richard (Patrick Kennedy), in the care of John Jarndyce (Denis Lawson), who has hired a good-hearted orphan, Esther Summerson (an effortlessly empathetic Anna Maxwell Martin), to be Ada's companion.
There's also an opium-addicted legal copyist (John Lynch), who goes by the name Nemo ("no man" in Latin) and who is discovered dead early in the story. We learn he had a mysterious connection to Lady Dedlock, now understandably frantic to keep their relationship hidden.
The stage is set for a spellbinding story with many twists and revelations.
The cast perfectly brings Dickens' richly textured gallery to life. "X-Files" star Anderson, who showed herself adept in costume drama in the film "The House of Mirth" a few years back, proves her period mettle once again. There's Nathaniel Parker as John Jarndyce's crony Harold Skimpole; comedian Johnny Vegas as a junk man who purloins some incriminating letters; Burn Gorman as Guppy, who pursues Esther -- each quite wonderful. And based on the first two hours screened, Dance's performance looks to be one of the best things he's done.
Much of the credit must go the ace screenwriter Andrew Davies, a master adapter of the classics ("Middlemarch" was his), and directors Justin Chadwick and Susanna White. This is the sort of masterful rethinking that Roman Polanski might have applied to his otherwise meritorious "Oliver Twist."
The series was a great hit in England when it ran this past fall, and if you're looking for quality drama, "Bleak House" makes grade-A appointment viewing for older adolescents and up, as engrossing as a season of "C.S.I." -- and probably better for you, too!
More from the Straightheads Web Site
Posted at 1:20 PM (PST) on Wednesday, January 11, 2006
They now have a very cool printable brochure.
And click here and here to view stills from the film.
Posted at 11:24 AM (PST) on Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Look for Bleak House Promos in::
New York Times
New York Post
Los Angeles Times
Gillian in TV Guide
Posted at 11:18 AM (PST) on Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Gillian's Back in the House
January 16-22, 2006 issue
(Matthew Fox on the cover: LOST Exclusive)
Matt Roush Rave
I've lost count of the times TV writer-producers have cited Charles Dickens to me as an inspiration for their weekly labors. But you can see why when you get sucked into the grandly entertaining whirlpool of romance, tragedy and diabolical intrigue that is Bleak House (Jan. 22-Feb. 26, PBS), a sumptuous six-part return to classic form for Masterpiece Theatre.
This sprawling yarn of families caught in a legal limbo over a disputed will, with secrets and scandals everywhere, gives a splendid cast ample opportunity to create a gallery of vivid characters: rogues, fools, fops, heroes and villains rich and poor.
Most remarkable is The X-Files' Gillian Anderson in an elegantly stunning performance of quiet desperation as Lady Dedlock, whose buried past gives the story many of its suspenseful, emotional turns. The only bleak aspect to this miniseries is that it doesn't last forever.
The Ex-X-Files Agent Returns in a Dickens of a Miniseries
By Ted Loos
Gillian Anderson's exploring strange new territory again-though this time it's not from the other world but the Old World.
In her long-awaited comeback to television, Anderson trades in the tailored suits of an FBI Agent for the demure Victorian gowns of a 19th century aristocrat with a checkered past.
The Masterpiece Theatre presentation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House represents a 180-degree turn from The X-Files -- and the tough, skeptical Scully was far more resilient than Anderson's emotional, secretive Lady Dedlock.
"She has had to put up a facade over the years but it's eating away at her," says Anderson, 37. "Eventually, it turned her into quite a cold and self-serving woman."
If you think of Dickens as an author of lovable eccentrics, this Bleak House will surprise you-it's a dark tale told with whooshing jump cuts and scary music. An evil lawyer named Tulkinghorn is relentlessly pursuing Lady Dedlock's secret so he can humiliate her-as the fate of three orphans hangs in the balance.
British audiences and critics embraced the six part miniseries as a "masterpiece" when it aired there last fall. "It's an epic love story that has an incredible amount of suspense and intrigue," says director Justin Chadwick, who gives the credit to his famous leading lady. "Gillian brought such weight and depth to that character," he says. "She can do anything."
She was his top choice for the part, but she turned him down at first. "I didn't want to do television again," says Anderson, who spent nine years on the small screen. Friends in the business finally persuaded her to change her mind.
It didn't hurt that she was then living in England where the miniseries was shot. "I had always wanted to have a house in London, so I bought one and fixed it up for the first play that I did here (in 2002)," she says. Then she met her second husband, Julian Ozanne, a British filmmaker, and now spends most of her time abroad, along with her daughter from her marriage, Piper,11.
Putting on a British accent wasn't much of a challenge, since Anderson grew up in England. When she moved to Michigan at age 11, she was teased for the way she talked. "At first, it was kind of cool because I was from another country," she says. "But the other kids just couldn't understand me."
British actor Charles Dance, who plays Tulkinghorn, now counts himself among her biggest fans. "As good as The X-Files was, she's a much better actress than her work on that series would have you believe," he says. "She's fun to be with, but she goes about her business and takes her work very seriously."
The success, although, has come at a price for publicity-averse Anderson. "I used to be able to walk around the city quite incognito," she says. "All of a sudden I'm getting even more recognized than I was before." Piper however, is unfazed by her mother's notoriety. "She's ask me how things went at work, and how a scene went if she know's it's difficult, but the conversation is not about me being famous," Anderson says. Piper has happily indulged, though, in at least one perk of fame: going to the latest "Harry Potter" premiere.
So what would Scully think of Lady Dedlock's predicament? "I think she'd probably be frustrated by her and want her to just f--- the aristocracy!" she says. "Just tell the truth."
For Anderson, the truth will always be out there.
Thanks, jdducker, MulderLuvScully, and Tamara!
Straightheads: Official Site's New Look
Posted at 11:24 AM (PST) on Monday, January 9, 2006
The official STRAIGHTHEADS site at Lumina Films has a new look.
Currently in post-production, STRAIGHTHEADS is the first film out of Panic Attack's stable. Panic Attack is Lumina Films' thriller label which aims to bring sophisticated and stylish thrillers to the international marketplace.
STRAIGHTHEADS is directed by twice BAFTA nominated conflict documentary maker Dan Reed.
Thanks, Irre and Wendy!
The Mighty Celt on the Sundance Channel
Posted at 12:13 PM (PST) on Tuesday, January 3, 2006
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
For those of you with access to the Sundance Channel, The Mighty Celt is scheduled to air this month.
Click here or here for the schedule.