ROGER MICHELL (Director) was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1957. After leaving Cambridge University in 1977, where he was awarded the Royal Shakespeare Company Goodbody Award for best student director, Roger spent two years at the Royal Court Theatre, where he was fortunate enough to act as assistant director to both John Osborne and Samuel Beckett.
Before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985, Roger directed plays in London, Southampton, Sheffield and Florence. His play "Private Dick," which he co-wrote with Richard Maher, enjoyed success both at the Edinburgh Festival where it won a Fringe First Award and in the West End where it starred Robert Powell and Philip Marlowe.
At the Royal Shakespeare Company where he was Resident Director for six years he directed over a dozen Dead plays including "Hamlet," "The Merchant of Venice," "Redevelopment," "Temptation" and "Conversation" all by Vaclav Havel, "Restoration" by Edward Bond, "Kissing the Pope" and "The Dead Monkey" both by Nick Darke and "Some Americans Abroad" by Richard Nelson which he also directed at the Lincoln Center and on Broadway, where Roger was nominated for a Drama Desk Award.
In 1990, he took the BBC Drama Directors Course followed up by directing the three-part film drama "Downtown Lagos," which was written by Leigh Jackson and produced by Fiona Finlay. In 1993 he directed the award winning four-part serial "The Buddha of Suburbia," for which he also wrote the screenplay with Hanif Kureishi. His first documentary about the Indian actor Harish Patel, "Ready When You Are, Mr Patel," was recently seen as part of the Omnibus series. Roger currently has two successful plays running in London: "Under Milk Wood" at the Royal National Theatre and the multi-award winnng "My Night with Reg" playing in the West End.
"I read Persuasion when I was at school, I was uncharacteristically keen on Jane Austen as a late teenager, and this was always my favorite of her four great novels. It is not the brightest or most glittering, like Pride And Prejudice , but it's the most poignant. I was moved by the idea of the author, shortly before her death, writing a novel about lost opportunities. She died a virgin in 1817 and here she is writing an erotic love story which is full of sexual yearning. We know that there were moments in her life when she could have married and for one reason or another didn't. One can't help wondering whether she was thinking, "I missed out."
As far as the look of the film goes, I am very wary of the kind of precedent for this sort of film, that particular glossy, classic look in period drama. That is not what I wanted. For example, there are no wigs and the women don't wear make-up. It was a period of naturalness, albeit an artificial naturalness. It was a period in which people aspired to be natural, so make-up was only used if it was undetectable.
I am also pushing the worlds further apart than they are in the novel, so that there is a real contrast between the chilly formality of Kellynch Hall and the warm, wet feel of Uppercross. Then, when the party of the Musgroves and Anne Elliot go to Lyme Regis, it's like a holiday in France for them. They frolic in the sea and meet seamen (like Captain Benwick, a fellow officer of Wentworth's) who have a completely different way of behaving and speaking to each other.
The navy plays a crucial role in "Persuasion." We begin and end on a boat. The idea of the navy changing England was very important to the period, and to the novel itself. Jane Austen's brothers were both in the navy, so she would have been extremely learned in this respect. The navy was one of the few social arenas in which a man could jump on as a midshipman and advance himself to become a member of the nobility.
Because of the system of taking prize money from captured ships, an officer could return from a "good war" as a millionaire. In addition to which he sailed all over the world. As a result, he brought a modern sensibility back to England. He brought into the salons and assembly rooms tales of experiences, together with an informality of behavior and language which was in marked contrast to what was there before. From the Battle of Trafalgar onwards, having routed Napoleon, the navy was incredibly popular.
Crucially, Anne Elliot is affected by this. She is intelligent and amiable. The film is about a woman who has no voice at all at the beginning of the film, and who slowly learns to speak. She comes up against new ways of behaving, new ways of talking and new ways of having an equal relationship with men and women."