Lady Chatterley Production Notes

Last Update: 24 June 2002
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Filming on Lady Chatterley began at Wrotham Park, Hertfordshire, in May 1992, and continued for 11 weeks, ending up on the Isle of Wight. Wrotham - where the earlier Sylvia Kristel adaptation had also been filmed - provided the locations not only for Wragby Hall, but also the nearby mining village of Tevershall, which designer James Merifield created around some existing buildings on the estate. These were a happy discovery: not only was there a large chimney already in place, but in one of the buildings, the art department found an old mechanical pump, which, with appropriate dressing , was pressed into service for one scene.

To create the village, existing buildings were mirrored with purpose-built sets to make streets, while truckloads of tarmac were spread over the concrete farm yard and dressed with heaps of coal. Once farm animals had been herded elsewhere, the set was sprayed with water to give an extra blackness to the coal and extras - including a Salvation Army band - put in place, the transformation was complete.

Working with cinematographer, Robin Vidgeon, and the art department team, Merifield turned a sunny June day into misty November with the use of sack loads of dry leaves, bracken and a smoke machine. Autumn gave way to Winter with a sprinkling of salt; then this was removed and specially cultivated daffodils imported to welcome in Spring. Such disregard for the season proved a problem only for the cast, who were forced to stand around in sweltering heat wearing thick overcoats and fur hats, whilst the crew masterminded another startling transformation dressed in shorts and T-shirts. The winter scenes in particular were notable for the regular mopping of brows between takes.

Once the bulk of the scenes had been completed at Wrotham, the production moved to woods in Oxfordshire, where Mellors' work hut was constructed, and then on to Pinewood studios for the interiors of the hut and Mellors' cottage. Finally the crew packed everything up once more and departed for the Isle of Wight to shoot the scenes at Sir Michael Reid's seaside house, Mandalay. This move proved a particular challenge for location manager Peter Elford; the short crossing from Southampton offered the perfect opportunity to shoot the final scenes, in which Connie and Mellors are reunited aboard ship, but this required detailed planning, since there was no scope for repeated takes on a journey of predetermined length.

In the event, no one could have anticipated a severe storm which blew up during the day, obliterating almost all daylight, and threatening to sweep cast and crew overboard. Happily, however the necessary shots were completed against the odds, and the production ended on schedule and budget.

Sean Bean

Born in Sheffield, Yorkshire on 17 April 1959, Sean Bean came to the role of the gamekeeper Mellors fresh from Hollywood success in PATRIOT GAMES opposite Harrison Ford. Already a burgeoning star in the UK, he is rapidly establishing himself as an international leading actor.

He was attracted to LADY CHATTERLEY, he says by the fact that it was Lawrence's most famous novel. He was also intrigued by the character. "Mellors is not really at the surface," he says. "There are a lot of undertones to him. These only emerge gradually as he falls in love with Lady Chatterley. He's had a bad time out of life, really - certainly a bad time out of women. That's why he has retreated into a little world in the woods - his own domain where he can walk free and get away from people."

"At first he resents it when Lady Chatterley intrudes on this. But she brings out a lot in him, something he has been long searching for - a love and a passion he's never had. Although they are from different classes and different walks of life, yet when they come together it just breaks down the barriers. That's what I found so fascinating - the idea that regardless of background and class there is a great passion and love between them that nothing can break down."

Like Mellors and Lady Chatterley, Bean's own background is very different from his co-star Joely Richardson's. Whilst she comes from one of Britain's most distinguished theatrical families, he has no roots in acting. "I can't think of anybody else in my family who's an actor," he says, "I originally wanted to be a painter. I got into acting through art, plus I also loved reading.

"It's a big change: coming from Sheffield it's not the sort of thing you tell your dad you want to do. But once I got into RADA I did love it. My parents were great. They were a bit shocked at first, but they were good about it."

Since leaving RADA, Bean's career has blossomed rapidly. "I've been doing one thing after another, playing different characters. It's nice to be able to go through the ages as it were. From CLARISSA, which was 18th Century, right up to the modern day. PATRIOT GAMES was the first film I've ever done over in Hollywood. I did an American film called STORMY MONDAY a few years ago, but this is the first thing I actually filmed there.

"Harrison was really good to work with. He's like a sort of hero. I had a lot of scenes with him, but we did not have much dialogue, because we were fighting all the time. We reshot the ending three times, so I kept having to fly out again. The last time was just before we were about to start on LADY CHATTERLEY. For continuity, they wanted me to have my hair cut again - a crew cut - which would have been a big problem for doing Mellors.

But in the end it wasn't the hair that was a problem. 'I rang the LADY CHATTERLEY production and said,"I got some good news and some bad news. I managed to keep my hair, but I've split my eye open." I had eight stitches where a boat hook hit me in the final fight scene.'

Bean still goes back to Hollywood for the right script and the right director. "But I still think we do the best work," he adds.

Joely Richardson

Born Joely Kim Richardson, in London, 9 January 1965. The daughter of the late film director Tony Richardson and actress Vanessa Redgrave. She is also the granddaughter of Sir Michael Redgrave, and the sister of Natasha. Joely Richardson comes from one of Britain's largest and most distinguished theatrical families.

She herself trained at RADA, and since graduating has established herself as one of the UK's leading film actresses. She has also appeared regularly on television and in the theatre.

Now she plays one of literature's most famous - and in some quarters infamous - women, Constance Chatterley. The decision to accept the part, very shortly after the birth of her first child, Daisy, stemmed from a powerful conviction in the role. "The story has such a strength", she explains. But with the scenes of love-making central to the story, such a decision might have been ill-advised in anyone less physically fit.

As it is, Richardson is keen to defend the intimate scenes in LADY CHATTERLEY from the accusations of pornography which were laid at the novel when it was first published, and later to the film adaptation with Sylvia Kristel. "The nude scenes may be explicit, but they are not titillating or voyueristic," she states, "You won't snigger this time - although you might gasp." She is the first to admit that moral values have changed significantly since the celebrated trial.

"Nowadays you can date and have boyfriends, love-affairs or whatever - and only when you meet the right person do you have to make a decision. Lady Chatterley just made a decision to marry because she had to. It happened to be the wrong one; regardless of her husband being paralysed it was never going to work out."

Having already appeared in several Hollywood films, Richardson returned to L.A. soon after filming on LADY CHATTERLEY, where she spends equal time with the UK.

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