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Wednesday, September 19

Robin Swicord: An Interview With The Screenwriter and Director of The Jane Austen Book Club, Part 1

Elegant Readers,

I've had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Robin Swicord, the director and screenwriter of the upcoming movie, The Jane Austen Book Club. Here, then, are her answers to my questions:

Ms. Place: Jane Austen is probably more popular today than ever before. Did directing the movie (and writing the script) change your perception of her? How and why?

Robin: For about ten years I had been immersed in all things Austen, in preparation for writing a comedy about a family of Jane Austen scholars – so I had already given a lot of thought to Jane Austen’s novels. So writing and directing TJABC didn’t change my perception so much as give me an opportunity to share with others my affection for her work and her wonderful characters.

Ms. Place: What are some of the more obvious parallels between the plot of this movie and the novels Jane Austen wrote?

Robin: Jocelyn is a matchmaker like Emma. Allegra is impulsive and unwise in love, like Marianne in Sense & Sensibility. Sylvia is the quiet foundation of her family, waiting and loving and trying not to hope – like Fanny Price in Mansfield Park. Like Anne Elliot in Persuasion, Prudie alienates the man she loves, and then is given a second chance to repair the relationship. Bernadette, like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, finds humor in the foibles of others, and like Elizabeth, she worries about other people’s happiness. The lone man in the group, Grigg, embodies all of Austen’s worthy men in this very modern aspect – at first meeting, Grigg is misunderstood by the women of the club, and as in all of Austen’s novels, it takes a while for the woman he wants to see his good qualities and his readiness to love.

Ms. Place: If by some miracle Jane Austen could advise the members of the Jane Austen Book Club, what do you think she would tell them? In particular Jocelyn and Sylvia?
Robin: I can’t presume to speak in Austen’s voice (nor am I clever enough) but I’d imagine that Miss Austen might write Sylvia an email to spare her the embarrassment of receiving what might be unwelcome advice. Miss Austen would suggest that Jocelyn fix her own life before she tries to fix Sylvia’s. Austen would point out to Sylvia that it is a truth universally acknowledged that when your husband dumps your for a woman at the office, family and friends become even more important. And Miss Austen would say nothing at all to Prudie regarding her infatuation with Trey -- but instead she’d write to her sister Cassandra that a newly married young woman of her acquaintance is rumored to have behaved shockingly in a parked car with a young man who is not her husband.

I will post Part II of this interview over the weekend! To learn more about Robin, read her bio at Expert Spotlight :

While in New York, she wrote "Last Days at the Dixie Girl Cafe," for some fellow graduates of her alma mater who were setting up a theatre company. The play received good notices and eventually moved to off-Broadway. Swicord wrote the scripts for "Shag", which starred Bridget Fonda, and "You Ruined My Life", which was shown as a movie-of-the-week on CBS. She wrote and directed the recent film version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" starring Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon. Swicord and her husband, Nicholas Kazan, wrote the screenplay for "Matilda" based on the novel by Roald Dahl. Other screen credits include screenwriter and producer of "Practical Magic" and "The Perez Family" and director and screenwriter of "Red Coat".

The only bit of trivia I'd like to add to this sterling resume is that Robin's father-in-law is the late Elia Kazan, director of On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. Click here for Part Two of the interview. Click on the following links to learn more about the movie and Robin.
  • For clips, book reviews, and first impressions about the movie, click on Austen blog.

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