Growing up, girls often tend to read and whole-heartedly believe in fairytales, and think their lives could magically turn into a head-over-heals love story, like the ones they read in Jane Austin novels. While many girls start to outgrow their romanticized fantasies as they mature into young women, there are some who wistfully cling to their belief that their Mr. Darcy will still arrive on their doorstep to sweep them off their feet.
Jane Hayes, the main character in the new romantic comedy Austenland, which marks the feature film directorial debut of Napoleon Dynamite writer Jerusha Hess, is one such hopeless romantic who longs to live in a Jane Austin novel. It isn’t until she lives out her life-long fantasy though that she realizes that her dreams aren’t as romantic as they seem.
Austenland, which is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Shannon Hale, follows the 30-something, single Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), a seemingly normal young woman with a secret: she’s obsessed with all things Jane Austen. She decides to spend her life savings on a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women. Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she could have imagined when she meets two seemingly diverse but possible suitors-Mr. Henry Nobley (JJ Feild), one of the actors at the resort, and Martin (Bret McKenzie), one of the ranch hands. With the help of one of Austenland’s other guests, Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge), Jane must decide who she truly wants to be with once her fairytale is over.
Several of the film’s main actors, including Russell, Coolidge and Feild, as well as Hess and producer Stephenie Meyer generously took the time recently to talk about filming Austenland during a roundtable interview at New York City’s Crosby Hotel. Among other things, the actors and filmmakers discussed which fantasy resort they’d like to visit if they were to visit one on vacation, and if they believed in fairytales as children.
Check out the interview below.
So what was going on behind the scenes when you weren’t filming?
Jennifer Coolidge: We all bonded. The whole cast bonded over the plastic container full of the chocolate curly wurlies. We never recognized the protein in our meals. We got a lunch and dinner and we didn’t know what it was. It had sauce all over it and was full of sodium, but we didn’t know what it was.
Kerri Russell: I liked violet crumble too. Those boxes of junk food saved us.
What was it like wearing the period costumes like while you were filming?
Jennifer Coolidge: It was wretched. They were so tight. Keri was pregnant and it didn’t bother her at all, but for someone like me, it was like, I had to beg the costumers to loosen it up. She said, “Then it won’t be Venetian at all!” (laughs)
Keri, your character is obsessed with the Jane Austen novels. What’s your quirkiest hobby?
Keri Russell: Jennifer keeps telling everyone that I collect Beanie Babies.
Is this true?
Keri Russell: No, but I like it. We just told the last person that I’m going to a convention for Beanie Babies.
JJ Feild: What are beanie babies?
Keri Russell: They were popular in the ‘90s, and they were animals full of beans. I’m obsessed with sleep and massages-none of which I get. (laughs)
Jennifer Coolidge: I have a storage unit, as I moved out of a bigger house into a smaller house in L.A. I put all my stuff in a storage unit, where I have the most amazing collection of bad paintings, which took me 10 years to put together.
No one purposefully paints a bad painting. It’s someone who’s trying to do a good painting, but it’s terrible. I have one with a matador, and the bull is going through the blanket. You can tell the painter didn’t know how to paint it. (Russell laughs). I have another one where a lady’s looking through a fish tank, but the painter didn’t paint the borders of the fish tank, so it looks like she’s in with the fish. They’re so brilliant, and I’m bringing them down to New Orleans.
Keri Russell: I was just shooting in New Orlenas over the summer and I want to her house, and it’s amazing. It’s one of the best houses I’ve been in.
Jennifer Coolidge: You know why she was down there? She was shooting one of the biggest movies, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I thought she was Cornelia, the female ape, but they thought she was too pretty.
Keri Russell: You know who played her, right? Judy Greer.
Jennifer Cooldige: She is? I could have been Cornelia; if Judy Greer could play Cornelia, I could have played that ape! (laughs)
Keri Russell: It’s a sad, dying ape giving birth.
Jennifer Coolidge: Oh, never mind then! (laughs)
Keri, how was that experience of shooting Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?
Keri Russell: Fun, crazy, and bizarre. Grown men in grey unitards making ape noises, and emoting; it was bizarre! But Matt Reeves directed it.
If you could go to a fantasy literary resort, where would it be?
Keri Russell: People keep asking me if I had to go to an Austenland, where my fantasy resort would be. My version of a fantasy dream sequence for a week is a cowboys, midnight, moonlight ride and such.
Jerusha Hess: Since it’s literature, I guess that counts Dirty Dancing out. But those camps probably do exist, except without Patrick Swayze.
Stephenie Meyer: At this point, it probably would be a Jane Austin resort, which is one of the reasons why I was attracted to the book. As I was reading it, I was like, why doesn’t that exist? Maybe if we make the movie, someone will make it exist.
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