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What the; Dickens!

IT'S dark and sinister and brings the world of Dickens to startling life. BBC

2's new version of Great Expectations begins on Monday and takes a walk on the wild side. TV writer MARION McMULLEN looks behind the frills and bonnets to find out about the stars of the series.

CHARLOTTE RAMPLING

- MISS HAVISHAM

FILM star Charlotte Rampling (left) is a Dickens nut and declares ''I like Dickens because I'm very English. I need that fix.''

She might have lived in Paris for many years, but Charlotte says she still keeps a bolt-hole in England.

''I love working in England. I'm a gypsy in my soul, but England is still my country.''

Great Expectations and the chance to play spurned spinster Miss Havisham was more than enough to tempt the 54-year-old actress back to Britain's shores.

''My son is studying English at the Sorbonne'' she says. ''he had just read Great Expectations and been bowled over by it, so he sent me a copy with the dedication: 'Please read one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.' A couple of months later I was offered Miss Havisham.''

Producer David Snodin laughingly says he has fancied Charlotte since he was 14 and he thinks people will be absorbed by her as Miss Havisham.

''She's got startling cat-like eyes and a natural sensuality about her which no man I know has failed to notice,'' she explains, ''that's why we cast her.''

Rampling's film career has ranged from The Night Porter to Paris By Night, but she describes Miss Havisham as one of the most extraordinary women she has ever played.

''Free-spirited individuals, however, deranged, are people I like,'' she says firmly.

Snodin adds: ''Miss Havisham is ripe for psychotherapy. In modern terms she's a quintessential clinical depressive. She's an agoraphobic who won't wash. These days she'd be on Prozac and it wouldn't do her any good.''

IOAN GRUFFUDD - PIP

IOAN Gruffudd was filming Hornblower in Portugal when director Julian Jarrold flew out to give him a second audition for the part of Pip in Great Expectations.

He was delighted when he was offered the role and says he identifies strongly with the part of the orphan boy who goes from a blacksmith's apprentice to become a city gentleman.

''I remember coming down to Cardiff from Aberdare when I was eight,'' recalls Ioan. ''I was conscious that the children were different, cooler and more fashionable. I was wearing knitted woollen trousers and people laughed at me. Being told you were different and clumsy and poor was something I could relate to. That's a terrible thing for someone to hear, especially in Dickens' time. If you weren't born into the upper classes then, it was so hard to cross the divide.''

Ioan has always been a high achiever and went straight from drama school to top TV roles like Poldark and Hornblower. Not bad for a lad still in his early 20s.

Hornblower earned him the reputation as a heart-throb, but he says his friends and family help him keep his feet firmly on the ground.

''I'm still the one they pick on in the pub'' he grins. '' 'What kind of work do you do?' they ask. 'You just put on make-up and flounce around.' They bring you back to earth and won't let you forget who you are.''

JUSTINE WADELL

- ESTELLA

I WAS in clothes heaven,'' says Justine Wadell happily about her work on Great Expectations.

Justine is no stranger to period drama having appeared in The Woman In White, Tess and Manfield Park, but she says playing vain beauty Estella was the ultimate indulgence and allowed her to wear some wonderful costumes.

''When you're four you draw clothes like that. it's a childhood dream. As a girl watching Gone With The Wind, you long to grow up as an actress playing Estella.

''I hate shopping because nothing ever fits, but as Estella is was a permanent kick to waltz into wardrobe. She's the only character I'll ever play who takes two and a half hours in make-up. With Estella you can be as vain as you like.''

Justine was studying at Cambridge University, but took a year and a half out to pursue her acting dream.

She went back last summer to complete her degree and says it was the right thing to do.

But Justine won't be turning her back on period dramas just yet. ''I wouldn't turn work down just because of bonnets that would be a very bad sign at the age of 23. But I have turned down both modern and classic scripts because they just weren't right.

''I'd never reject something just on the strength of the costumes. People today want to be fascinated and period drama can really deliver that. I remember when Pride And Prejudice went out. Every Sunday we would crowd round the television to watch it and then afterwards everyone would be discussing it.''

BERNARD HILL - MAGWITCH

GISSA job is a catchphrase which haunts Bernard Hill (left) from the days when he played unemployed road worker Yosser Hughes in Boys From The Blackstuff.

''People still say it to me almost every day,'' laughs Hill. ''I tend to pull my coat over my head.''

The Liverpool actor is currently developing a movie career in America following the success of Titanic.

He played the captain of the ill-fated ship and the part has led to him appearing in the new film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream and opposite Clint Eastwood in True Crime.

The Hollywood breaks have been welcomed by Hill whose career has covered everything from I, Claudius to Lech Walesa in Channel 4's Squaring The Circle.

He knows Titanic has opened up new doors for him and says: ''I had a very good time on that film. I liked being around all that massive expertise. It was awe-inspiring.

Surprise

''I also enjoyed working with director James Cameron, which was a pleasant surprise, given his reputation for technology. He's a fairly difficult guy, a compulsive-obsessive as he calls himself, and that's obvious within minutes of meeting him. At times he's very gentle and considerate and at other times a total dictator. He would get irritated if people were not doing their best.

''He asked once 'why is it always like a battle?' and I said: 'Maybe it's because you're a general.' ''

Bernard is hoping to terrify youngsters as he returns to TV to play convict Magwitch in Great Expectations.

''It's impossible to frighten kids with video games these days, but they should be frightened by Magwitch. It's like Macbeth, if you see that he is frightened of the witches, then you're frightened of them, too. In the same way, you see Magwitch through other people's reaction to him.''
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:McMullen, Marion
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 10, 1999
Words:1125
Previous Article:TV: TODAY'S HIGHLIGHTS.
Next Article:TV: TONIGHT'S HIGHLIGHTS.


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