Last day of shoot

Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility, 1995
Photo: colaimages / Alamy

Emma Thompson spent five years crafting the screenplay for Sense and Sensibility, a period that might be described as part love affair with Jane Austen’s novel, part wrestling match with the challenge of adapting it for the big screen. When finally released in 1995, boasting a star-studded cast including Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman, the film met with critical acclaim, box office success, and awards—including, the next year, an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Keen to chronicle this adventure, Thompson kept a diary throughout, and it is awash with endearing anecdotes and heartfelt reflections. The following entry came on the shoot’s final day.

The Diary Entry

FRIDAY 7 JULY : Last day of shoot. Driving in to Shepperton at 6.30 a.m. squashed into the back of the car with all the presents and a unicycle between my knees (it’s for Bernie, who, contrary to appearances, is a wild thing). Very successful morning doing Christmas. Ang very moving—he loved his tea caddy but would have been happy with a teabag. Hugged me for a long time in silence. Everyone weepy. 

Sun’s come out. I lie down and listen to sounds of construction. We’re all down at Kempton Park Racecourse now. Hot. Picnicky and fun.

Last shot for me was at 7.30 p.m. Slate 549. In the carriage. Alan’s got Wimbledon on. I didn’t even know it was Wimbledon. It’s the women’s final. I cast aside my sweat-soaked corset in some relief while Kate collapses on the grass. She cries. I beg for alcohol.

10.15 p.m. Off home. Finished on Take 5 of Slate 550. A shot of Alan cantering against the sunset. The camera is inside a large gyroscopic white sphere, hung off the end of a small crane attached to a truck. Quite by accident I got a place on the back of the truck and witnessed the final take of the shoot go down, followed by the sun. Then we ate hamburgers and rubbery chips and drank champagne and there was much love around. People very moved. Lindsay and Laurie cried. I just grinned from ear to ear all evening. All within Elinor’s breast was strong, silent satisfaction (it’s in the book).

Further Reading

Emma Thompson’s diary, or at least the entries spanning the film’s three month shoot, can be found in the book, The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film, published in 1995 by Bloomsbury. Humorous, candid and poignant, they are exactly as you’d expect from Emma Thompson. It’s just a shame there aren’t more.

Diary entry reprinted by kind permission of Emma Thompson.

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