Mr. Macolm’s List: Making of Emma Holly Jones’ Regency Rom-Com

The 7-Year Journey Behind Regency Rom-Com

Director Emma Holly Jones, writer Suzanne Allain, and stars Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù and Freida Pinto discuss the film’s long road, what makes its leading characters so special and the women who helped bring the inclusive story to the big screen.

 

During the New York premiere at the DGA Theatre, director Emma Holly Jones, screen and book writer Suzzane Allain and leading actors Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù and Freida Pinto talked about the film’s long and rocky journey to screen, what makes its lead actors so special and the women who helped bring the inclusive regency rom-com to screen.

Allain, who wrote the script as well as the original story — and who is currently writing two follow-ups — credited Jones with shepherding the film through its seven-year journey to getting made.

“She was so determined and without her determination, I really don’t think we’d be here today,” the author said. “Because it takes that to get a movie made.”

 

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Suzanne Allain JAMIE MCCARTHY/WIREIMAGE

The Mr. Malcolm’s List writer wrote the original story, and the movie’s script, which Jones had first heard as podcast supported by The Black List.

“It’s surprising because for so many writers, someone else gets brought on,” Allain said of her ability to remain with the film from original script to the screen. “And I think there is an advantage because I created the world originally, so I’m very familiar with these characters. They’re part of my life at this point. I’ve lived with them for a long time.”

The characters have been with Jones for a while–around seven years–with the director jokingly reflecting on how much she’s put into the film since wrapping as “a lot of post-work. I’ll say that. A lot of VFX shots I had to paint like switches out of.”

Jones, who worked with female-led production and producer team on her feature directorial debut, is grateful for everyone who worked on the film’s 27-day shoot in Ireland during the middle of COVID-19.

Ahead of the film’s screening, she celebrated that team of producers in particular — Pinto, Laura Lewis, Laura Rister and Katie Holly — in her pre-screening speech, alongside Bleecker Street CEO Andrew Karpen, who similarly championed the women behind the film.

 

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From left: Laura Rister, Katie Holly and Laura Lewis MICHAEL LOCCISANO/GETTY IMAGES

Jones gave credit to “the cast and their absolutely incredible performances,” but also the “many impeccable people who have worked on this film,” including costume designer, composer and editor.

“Amelia Warner, the composer is unbelievable. This music is unbelievable. I really hope more people get familiar with her work. My editor Kate Hickey who deserves all the jobs and all the praise,” Jones said. “Pam Downe my costume designer; what that woman did on this budget was just mindblowing.”

While Jones’ praise was for the team, Dìrísù turned it back on Jones, crediting her with changing how even he saw himself as actor and what roles he could inhabit in his career: “I needed her to believe in me because I didn’t believe in me. I didn’t believe that in my career trajectory that a romantic lead in a period drama was possible.”

“It’s only because of Emma, because of Tamara-Lee Notcutt, our casting director,” he added. “They said, ‘We want you to do this,’ and I was like, ‘Really?’ They were like ‘We believe that this can happen.’ And it’s because of their belief that I believed and I hope because of this film more people will believe.”

While Jones previously said it took years for studios to believe in the story with its inclusive cast (that includes Pinto, Dirisu, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Zawe Ashton, Theo James, Ashley Park, Divian Ladwa and Sianad Gregory) and two lead characters of color, once the team was on set, they also faced yet another challenge with the pandemic.

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From left: Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Zawe Ashton, Freida Pinto,Theo James and Divian Ladwa JAMIE MCCARTHY/WIREIMAGE

“We didn’t have much time to prepare. We were in a lockdown. I think we managed to go on two walks together. That was it,” Dìrísù said of how much time he and co-star Pinto had to build their believable and charming chemistry as Mr. Jeremy Malcolm and Selina Dalton.

The two leaned on each other through the process, offering praise for their screen-partner.