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Mike Newell Directing Ian McEwan Adaptation ‘On Chesil Beach’; Sam Mendes Now Producing

Written by on November 6, 2011 

It was less than eighteen months ago when it looked like Sam Mendes would delay — or completely abandon — the next Bond film for an adaptation of Ian McEwan‘s On Chesil Beach, a choice that would be a direct result of the spy franchise’s financial problems. Skyfall is now shooting and Beach has been on hold for more than a year, an effective switching of places for the two projects.

But it lives on. ScreenDaily (via ThePlaylist) informs us that the directorial reigns are being passed to Mike Newell; Mendes is still onboard, this time as a producer with StudioCanal, Neal Street Productions, and BBC Films. This could certainly be in a worse place, but if there are any particularly unfortunate developments here, it’s the apparent scrapping of previous casting. Carey Mulligan would have starred for Mendes, but ThePlaylist says that they’re “seemingly starting over on the casting front.” Don’t feel bad for her, though — she’s got new movies from the Coen brothers and Spike Jonze in her future.

I might (read: definitely would) have preferred to see the American Beauty helmer working on this over Newell, someone who’s had what I’d call a lukewarm career. Some comfort could be found, however, in looking at his next film, Great Expectations; that might see him move away from Prince of Persia territory. So, yes, the change here is a mild downgrade, but the source material sounds fascinating enough to still keep me interested.

You can read a synopsis of the novel below (via Amazon):

“It is 1962 when Edward and Florence, 23 and 22 respectively, marry and repair to a hotel on the Dorset coast for their honeymoon. They are both virgins, both apprehensive about what’s next and in Florence’s case, utterly and blindly terrified and repelled by the little she knows. Through a tense dinner in their room, because Florence has decided that the weather is not fine enough to dine on the terrace, they are attended by two local boys acting as waiters. The cameo appearances of the boys and Edward and Florence’s parents and siblings serve only to underline the emotional isolation of the two principals. Florence says of herself: “…she lacked some simple mental trick that everyone else had, a mechanism so ordinary that no one ever mentioned it, an immediate sensual connection to people and events, and to her own needs and desires….”

They are on the cusp of a rather ordinary marital undertaking in differing states of readiness, willingness and ardor. McEwan says: “Where he merely suffered conventional first-night nerves, she experienced a visceral dread, a helpless disgust as palpable as seasickness.” Edward, having denied himself even the release of self-pleasuring for a week, in order to be tip-top for Florence, is mentally pawing the ground. His sensitivity keeps him from being obvious, but he is getting anxious. Florence, on the other hand, knows that she is not capable of the kind of arousal that will make any of this easy. She has held Edward off for a year, and now the reckoning is upon her.”

Would you have preferred Mendes direct On Chesil Beach over Newell? How does this recent news come across to you?

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