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The French Lieutenant's Woman (film): Wikis


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The French Lieutenant's Woman

Original film poster
Directed by Karel Reisz
Produced by Leon Clore
Written by Harold Pinter
John Fowles(novel)
Starring Meryl Streep
Jeremy Irons
Hilton McRae
David Warner
Penelope Wilton
Leo McKern
Music by Carl Davis
Cinematography Freddie Francis
Editing by John Bloom
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) United States:
18 September 1981
Running time 129 min.
Country UK
Language English

The French Lieutenant's Woman is a 1981 film directed by Karel Reisz and adapted by playwright Harold Pinter. It is based on the novel of the same title by John Fowles. The music score is by Carl Davis and the cinematography by Freddie Francis.

The film stars Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons with Hilton McRae, Jean Faulds, Peter Vaughan, Colin Jeavons, Liz Smith, Patience Collier, Richard Griffiths, David Warner, Alun Armstrong, Penelope Wilton and Leo McKern.


Background and production

The plot concerns the love affair between a Victorian gentleman and a woman who has been jilted by a French officer, scandalizing the "polite society" of Lyme Regis.

In the original book, the author is very much present - constantly addressing the reader directly and commenting on his characters, and on Victorian society in general, from his Twentieth-century perspective. A direct adaptation would have required a continual voice over.

Instead, the film creates the effect of the 19th Century society looked at from a 20th Century perspective by having a story within a story, the Victorian story being a film being shot in the present and the actors portraying the two Victorian characters having a love affair in their actual life, with the film shifting constantly between the two centuries. And though the actors are not bound by Victorian mores in their actual present-day lives, their affair still presents hard dilemmas since each is in a relationship to somebody else.

Also, instead of trying to create a literal translation of the novel's alternate endings, Pinter's screenplay adopted a more cinematic approach by having the characters' story ends one way, the actors' another.

The book was published in 1969 and unlike his previous novels the transfer to the big screen was a protracted process with the film rights changing hands a number of times before a treatment, funding and cast were eventually finalized. In 1977 Malcolm Bradbury and Christopher Bigsby approached Fowles to suggest they work on a television adaptation which Fowles was amenable to, but then producer Saul Zaentz came in and the film version was finally greenlit.

A number of names were attached to the project, directors mooted included Sidney Lumet, Robert Bolt, Fred Zinnemann and Milos Forman. The script went through a number of treatments including one by Dennis Potter in 1975 and James Costigan in 1976 before Pinter's final draft was used. Actors considered for the role of Charles Smithson/Mike included Robert Redford and Richard Chamberlain and Sarah/Anna included Francesca Annis, Gemma Jones and Fowles's choice Helen Mirren.[1]

Carl Davis' award-winning music performed by an unidentified orchestra and Viola soloist Kenneth Essex, who in earlier years had appeared as one of the four string soloists on several Beatles singles including Eleanor Rigby.

Awards and nominations


Academy Awards

Nominations [2]

BAFTA Awards


  • Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music: Carl Davis
  • Best Actress: Meryl Streep
  • Best Sound: Don Sharp, Ivan Sharrock, Bill Rowe


  • Best Film
  • Best Actor: Jeremy Irons
  • Best Cinematography: Freddie Francis
  • Best Costume Design: Tom Rand
  • Best Direction: Karel Reisz
  • Best Editing: John Bloom
  • Best Production Design/Art Direction: Assheton Gorton
  • Best Screenplay: Harold Pinter

Golden Globe Awards



Other awards

External links


  1. ^ John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Diary, Granta #86, 2004, ISBN 0 90 314169 8
  2. ^ "NY Times: The French Lieutenant's Woman". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-31.  


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