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MOVIES | WORLD CINEMA

Determined to make sparks fly

Pascale Ferran lights a smoldering fire under the forbidden-love story 'Lady Chatterley.'

July 01, 2007|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

WHEN it came time to cast "Lady Chatterley," her Cesar Award-winning drama of grand passion, French writer-director Pascale Ferran looked for actors who could not only bring the illicit lovers, Lady Chatterley and Oliver Parkin, vividly to life through their performances but also physically embody the characters' diverse social classes.

With her close-cropped graying hair, glasses and lack of makeup, Ferran, 47, looks more like a tenured college professor or an ex-nun than the artist who directed this sexually explicit adaptation of "John Thomas and Lady Jane," D.H. Lawrence's second version of his long-banned novel, "Lady Chatterley's Lover."

Ferran cast the lithe, gamin Marina Hands to play Lady Chatterley, who lives a dour life in a castle in the English countryside with her impotent husband, who has been wheelchair bound since World War I.

"I knew her as an actress for many years already," Ferran says through a translator. "I saw her in a television two-part series and really noticed her there."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday July 04, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Pascale Ferran: The World Cinema article in Sunday Calendar about French writer-director Pascale Ferran said her 1994 film, "Coming to Terms With the Dead," won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It won the Camera d'Or.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 08, 2007 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Pascale Ferran: The World Cinema article last Sunday about French writer-director Pascale Ferran incorrectly said that her 1994 film, "Coming to Terms With the Dead," won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It won the Camera d'Or.

And for the role of Parkin, Hands' on-screen husband's swarthy, virile gamekeeper, Ferran found newcomer Jean-Louis Coulloc'h in a stage play.

"He was brilliant in the play," she recalls. "I met him shortly thereafter, and it became very clear to me he would be the best incarnation of what I was after in the part."

His body, presence and personality, Ferran explains, were "clearly linked to matter and nature. Very soon it appeared to me he had a lot of similarities with the character. He's sort of wild and shy and at the same time has a great sensitivity. Then I see him as very sexy as well."

Ferran, whose 1994 film, "Coming to Terms With the Dead," won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, discovered Lawrence recently, having read about him in a survey of English literature.

Although quite familiar with other novelists profiled in the book such as Thomas Hardy and Herman Melville, she didn't know anything about Lawrence.

An avid reader, she began devouring the Lawrence canon. "I didn't start with 'Lady Chatterley' since it was the big staple. I started with 'Women in Love' and 'Sons and Lovers.' When I read 'Lady Chatterley' and then read there was another version, I got that one as well. Then I became quite obsessed."

She chose to adapt Lawrence's second version of the Chatterley story for many reasons, most especially for Lawrence's revised take on Parkin. "In the version I picked, he is a man who has a very complicated relationship with speech and conversation," she says.

"Both of the protagonists are going to be very transformed by this relationship, and one of the ways he's transformed is his ability toward the end of the film to open up his emotions."

Long before production began, Ferran began working with her two lead actors breaking down the script scene by scene and then conducting one week's worth of intense rehearsals.

"The three of us worked very hard in details, including the love scenes. For me it was always important to keep in mind the trajectory of the characters ... so when the actual shot happens, they would be comfortable and they could forget all of that work and really be in the present and completely in tune with feelings and sensations."

"Lady Chatterley" opens in limited release July 13.

--

susan.king@latimes.com

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