Is Social Media Responsible for the new Jane Eyre Movie?

Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre (2011)

Lots of news in the media this week over the upcoming release of Jane Eyre, the new major motion picture adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 classic novel produced by the UK trifecta BBC Films, Focus Features and Ruby Films. It premieres in the US on Friday March 11, a full six months before its native land of England, a surprising twist since Yanks usually don’t get anything produced by the BBC until months after it has aired on UK television.

Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre (2011)

We are not complaining mind you, just puzzled at their marketing strategy.  Less than two years ago BBC executives declared the death of the bonnet drama announcing a shift from period fare to contemporary stories. When the premiere television producer of period drama for the past thirty years makes ugly noises we believe them and grieved the loss to our entertainment future. Not only have they changed their minds, but they have moved from television production to major theatrical release of a novel that has been adapted into film no less than 18 times. Why the change of heart, and why Jane Eyre?

Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Reed in Jane Eyre (2011)

Social Times blog asks, How Has Facebook Revitalized Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte? They would like you to contemplate the possibility that social media is driving the market.

More than 150 years after her death, author Charlotte Bronte and her lovable character Jane Eyre are more popular than ever, and experts attribute their newfound notoriety to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

They want to clump Jane Austen into the mix too because Austen has an even stronger online presence than the Brontes. Recently Toronto University English professor Deidre Lynch credited Austen’s recent rise in popularity to actor Colin Firth, Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice 1995, for getting “a lot of people got hooked on the novels,” adding “that’s too simple an explanation for Austen’s ever-growing legion of fans. Social media, too, have given Austen a second life.”

Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre (2011)

Devotees of the Bronte’s can be found on Twitter, Facebook and blogs across the Internet, but as someone who searches social media daily for news on Jane Austen and period dramas, we see more chatter and articles on Austen than on the Brontes, by far. If the logic that the new Jane Eyre movie has been fueled by interest on social media, than exponentially, Austen would have ten new movies in production to the Bronte’s one.

Michael Fassbender and Imogen Poots in Jane Eyre (2011)

We are in favor of the new Jane Eyre producer Alison Owen’s pragmatic explanation.  It appears that in the world of period costume drama, Jane Eyre is inexpensive to produce.

“It’s set in a house in the middle of a moor,” she explained. “Jane Austen can be quite expensive. You need horses, carriages, houses, gowns. But on the whole Jane Eyre is much more starkly peopled than most period movies. You don’t need swaths of costumes. And scenery costs nothing. Point a camera at those moors, and it looks like a David Lean film.”

So, there you go Janeites. Because Austen’s novels do not have descriptions of clothing, scenery or political times, our projected expectations make adaptation costly to produce. Could we abide an Austen miniseries without fine frocks, carriages or country manor houses to drool over? Would the lack of an assembly balls or walks in the shrubberies make us change the channel?

Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre (2011)

I will let you ponder that a bit and bring this back to those bare bones Brontes. I have seen six Jane Eyre movie or miniseries adaptations in my day. They seem to arrive every seven years or so like hungry cicada eager to devour our hearts. The 1943 Jane Eyre with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine was my favorite movie for decades. This is a story that demands to remain in black and white. Give it color and you lose the Gothic shadows and creepy coldness that is required. Even the last 2006 version starring Toby Stevens and Ruth Wilson didn’t get it right. Maybe, just maybe this new Jane will be the one. We shall find out next Saturday with family and friends. Hope you go see it too, so we can chat about it on Facebook and Twitter!

Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre (2011)

Major Cast

• Jane Eyre – Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland)
• Mr. Rochester – Michael Fassbender (Band of Brothers)
• Mrs. Fairfax – Judi Dench (Lady Catherine de Bourgh – Pride and Prejudice 2005)
• Adele Varens – Romy Settbon Moore
• Mrs. Reed – Sally Hawkins (Anne Elliot – Persuasion 2007)
• Blanche Ingram – Imogen Poots (Fanny Austen Knight – Miss Austen Regrets)
• Lady Ingram – Sophie Ward (Land Girls)

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

40 thoughts on “Is Social Media Responsible for the new Jane Eyre Movie?

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  1. I can’t wait to see it! Even though the trailer seemed a bit too dark, almost an horror movie (the scene in the orphanage was quite scary: I know Jane had problems and her wasn’t a happy childhood but still, I didn’t picture it so gloomy).
    Also, I find the main actors too beautiful to portrait Jane and Rochester: when he asks her (always the trailer :-)) “do you find me handsome?” and she says “no” I was thinking “hello?!? if he’s not handsome, WHO is?”. And later on, the fight scene didn’t strike me as much as Ruth and Toby’s or Charlotte and William’s. Always because she’s too pretty to actually complain about being “plain”.
    But they are good actors so I hope it’s just the trailer which doesn’t convey the true feelings.

    And there’s Judi Dench, who is always a pleasure :-) I haven’t yet found a movie in which she’s not superb

    Unfortunately in Germany we have to wait more to see it!

    Let me know if it’s a good adaptation :-)


  2. I certainly found out about the movie via the internet, but not twitter or Facebook (aka Social Media).

    I watched the clips for the movie, and while the actors are well-cast, the director has a chosen an extremely restrained acting style for some of the most dramatic scenes.

    The film “opens” on March 11, but do take a look at the list of where the film is playing because you may have difficulty finding a movie theater near you. I can find one within 100 miles of my home only on March 18.

    I’ll be interested to see how the film does, but I think the 2006 version will remain my favorite!


  3. Jane Eyre is scheduled to open in my area on 4/1…I was so hoping 3/11 would see a wider release but I guess I can wait 3 more weeks.


  4. I must admit, I have not seen a commericial advertising this new “Jane Eyre” movie, I learned of it from a fellow tweeter. I too have been disappointed by each film adaptation made and completely agree that the 1943 black & white film is by far the best.

    It does bother me that the general media speculate that Colin Firth ALONE has all of us hooked on Jane Austen. Mr. Firth w/his wet shirt coming out of the lake at Pemberley was certainly our bait….swooning just thinking of the scene…..but it is Austen’s wit, strong characters and quality of work that has kept our attention all these years since 1995.


  5. I, too, am a bit dismayed at their decision to open in select theatres… like Melinda, the only cities showing it are roughly 100 miles away from where I live.
    Definitely a day trip, once you plan for lunch or dinner… babysitter… :)

    I’ve had difficulty warming up to Jane Eyre in the past, I suppose, because I’m spoiled by Austen’s upbeat wit and feel-good endings, and was never partial to the Bronte’s darker gothic romances. (Or Jane’s Nothanger Abbey, which parodied the style, for that matter, lol)

    But the trailer looked enticing… and as every new adaptation is released, I always tell myself “Try it again. Like brussel sprouts, Bronte may be an acquired taste.”


  6. Just went through a marathon of four tv/film versions of Jane Eyre! The one with Timothy Dalton is the most faithful to the book, IMO. He really makes the words of Brontë come to life… one of the last great actors in the vein of Olivier.

    The Zeffirelli one had the best score and cinematography, and eye candy cast, but awful condensation of details.

    The one with Ciaran Hinds had the cheesiest dialogue, although i did enjoy Samantha Morton as Jane Eyre.

    My favorite is still the one adapted by Sandy Welch. I’m a sucker for Toby Stephens and he had good chemistry with Ruth Wilson. And the pulsating music was incredible as well…

    So looking forward to this new adaptation. Loving the clips and screencaps. The first one with Jane and the backdrop of a petrified tree reminds me of a japanese anime scene, for some reason.


    1. Jojo, so nice to hear from you – and of course you can offer us a 4 adaptation roundup review. I am up for it too. It has been over a year since Emma premiered here in the US, so I am in serious bonnet withdrawal. I hope you see this new version soon. How long is your wait?


      1. RL has calmed down a bit, so am catching up with your blogs! =)

        Oh, I will be really surprised if they even show this one in our theaters… So, I will have to be resourceful in procuring a copy of this one. ;-)

        I agree, serious bonnet withdrawal, hence the Jane Eyre marathon (which I have been meaning to do), which also lead me to finally watch Tenant at Wildfell Hall (disappointing, even with Toby Stephens) and Turn of the Screw (Sandy Welch adaptation… now must read the novella!).

        Just found a copy of the Orson Welles version, so I’m off to watch that! I’m looking forward to your review of the new adaptation, Laurel Ann! =)


  7. This is one of those books that they will keep trying to make it “just right” but it never seems to work out so… I agree with you Laurel Ann – the b/w with Orsen Welles and Joan Fontaine has the right amount of gothic elements, and Orson Welles is just so powerful a figure that no one can come close to the seething passion and anger in the man – the scene on the stairs when Jane leaves the party and he comes after her is one of the most passionate scenes in any movie…. Nothing since can compare –

    I just re-watched the Timothy Dalton rendition – thought he was the most brilliant of recent adaptations – perfect as the angry, romantic, childish petulent mess Rochester is – but Jane was far too quiet and so short I started at times to laugh how far Dalton had to bend over to stroke her cheek! –

    Looking forward to this – Jane Eyre remains in my top five books of all time – the social networking hype I have largely ignored – and it looks like it won’ t be here in VT until March 18th – just don’t want to experience that disappointing feeling of it not getting it right yet again – though so many have tried and I have seen them all ! – George C. Scott, William Hurt, Dalton, Stephens, Hinds – but I live in hope, and then will likely come home and re-read the book…

    Thanks for this thoughtful post Laurel Ann! –


    1. Fond memories of girlfriends swooning over the Dalton version when it was first aired. I saw it years later but Dalton was SO handsome, that no mater how well he acted the part, it did not fit for me.

      In the 1943 version, Joan Fontaine’s crooked smile gets me every time. And a young Margaret O’Brien as Adele and Elizabeth Taylor as Helen! Perfect.


    2. The marked height difference between Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke also made me laugh! This thought often crossed my mind while watching: ‘OMG, Mr. Rochester is going to devour Jane whole… like the big bad wolf!’ She only came up to his chest… she was so tiny, and too sedate for my taste. I prefer Jane Eyre to have a bit more spunk. =)

      There’s also a George C Scott version? Must search for that as well.


  8. I, too, thought it was interesting that it is coming out so much earlier here in the US than in the UK. Weird?

    I haven’t read Jane Eyre (gasp) and am wondering if I should do that before watching it, however I think seeing it on the big screen would be better than not. Oh, decisions, decisions. :)


  9. I have a really good feeling about this production. At first I too thought another Jane Eyre? But it’ll be lovely to see it in theaters! I haven’t been able to find a local theater that’s playing it on the 11th yet though… not even in downtown Seattle….


  10. Laurel Ann, I wish this movie appears in the movie theatres here in Brazil or even in the blockbuster! As you and Deb said so many interesting points of view of the Orson Wells adaptation, I will try to find this movie here! ;)


  11. I’m also frustrated that it isn’t a wider release. By the dates and cinemas listed there, it isn’t coming even to my STATE at ALL. I guess I’ll be waiting along with the Brits . . .


  12. I, too, have watched all the remakes of Jane Eyre and although I loved Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson, I have to agree that Timothy Dalton was truest to the real Rochester. I was quite disappointed in Zelah Clarke’s portrayal of Jane – she felt miscast next to Tim. I also wish that the director’s would keep the ending true – he regains his sight in one eye in time to see his first son born. Little details like this from the book , I hope are kept in the film. I am very much awaiting this new rendition of Jane Eyre. I doubt, also, that I will be able to see it in the theater – so I will await the DVD.


  13. I tried to keep and open mind when I read the book – to love Jane Eyre as much as I love Jane Austen – but I just couldn’t manage it. Still, I want to see this new movie. Maybe it will finally win me over.


    1. Shannon, I think you are comparing apples and oranges. Don’t try. Love them both for different reasons. I too appreciate and gravitate towards Austen. I would much rather laugh than be torn to bits and then pasted back together. It’s just a different love experience. I think Marianne Dashwood would be hooked on the Bronte’s!


  14. Jane Eyre is VERY different from any of Austen’s books. For one thing, it is in the first person and covers the child’s development, sexual awakening, relationship to religion, and the meaning of family and belonging in ways that few novelists have ever achieved. No movie can really do justice to riches in Jane Eyre the book. It is quite a phenomenal, rich, complex, and astonishing work! I hope all will find the time and ability to appreciate Charlotte Bronte’s work, but it is not axiomatic that if a person who loves Jane Austen will take to Jane Eyre!


  15. Once again I hear it here first.

    Didn’t know about the Jane Eyre. Why can’t more American production companies come out with series as well written as some of the Austen adaptations and the recent Donwell Abbey?

    Brendan Coyle deserves a wider audience. As does Austen.


  16. Dear Laurel Ann: This mish-mosh of substandard
    English should NOT be on your lovely site.
    I wonder if death is often “eminent.”

    by Pamela Aidan

    Ever wonder how Mr. Darcy got so arrogant? In this Pride and Prejudice prequel, we meet thirteen year old Fitzwilliam Darcy home from Eaton for the holidays and facing the eminent death of his mother and the challenges of being the wealthy young heir to Pemberley.


  17. The 2006 version of “JANE EYRE” didn’t get it right? I certainly had no problems with it. In fact, I had no problems with the 2006 version, the 1983 version and the 1944 version. And despite its flaws, I rather enjoyed the 1997 version.


  18. I am a bit late commenting here.
    I am glad that BBC is continuing with there period drama movies and mini-series. I will be going to see this new version of ‘Jane Eyre’, to be sure.
    It does make one stop and wonder about the power that social media can have and furthermore what else can we strive to accomplish with it.
    It amazes me, the plathora of blogs, facebook accounts, and websites that cover period drama, fashion, and everyday living that took place. I think it rather amazing.


  19. I loved the Willima Hurt-Charlotte Gainsbourg movie : In spite of the wig, William Hurt was a fascinating Rochester (but I must admit I’ve always been partial to him) and in spite of being french, Charlotte was a very good Jane.


  20. Like several others who have posted, I, too, had a marathon of Jane Eyre adaptations mostly from Netflix. My favorite remains the old 1943 film with Orson Welles — he will always be my Mr. Rochester. However I found something to enjoy in all of them — loved Timothy Dalton as Rochester though I do admit he’s very handsome for the role. In the old movie, Peggy Ann Garner is terrific as young Jane in the Lowood scenes and her little friend Helen is played by an exquisite Elizabeth Taylor. I digress. To get back to the original discussion, I found out about the new Jane Eyre on IMDb — I am on that site constantly — it’s a great resource. I will be seeing the new Jane Eyre on March 22 — two friends asked me to go with them, otherwise I would have gone already. Here’s a Bronte question, with numerous adaptations of Jane Eyre, why has my favorite Bronte novel Villette never been adapted for film? If it has, I know nothing about it — it’s possible there has been one in UK that was never shown in America. And why no adaptation of Barbara Pym’s favorite Bronte novel, Shirley?


  21. Answering my own question, according to IMDb there was a series based on Villette in 1970 — I don’t know if it was ever shown in America. I’ll look into Shirley as well.


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