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Great Expectations

Wednesday 27th February 2013

Young orphan Pip is given a chance to rise from his humble beginnings thanks to a mysterious benefactor. Moving through London's class ridden world as a gentleman, Pip uses his new found position to pursue the beautiful Estella; a spoilt heiress he's loved since childhood. Yet the shocking truth behind his great fortune will have devastating consequences for everything he holds dear.
Toby Irvine, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Sally Hawkins, William Ellis, David Walliams, Bernice Stegers, Tim Freeman, Alan Rushton, Sheila Simpson, Ralph Ineson, Steve Morphew
Mike Newell
Laurie Borg, Cliff Curtis, Jana Edelbaum, David Faigenblum, Peter Hampden
Lions Gate Home Entertainment UK Ltd
2 hours 8 minutes
2012
GreatExpectations

Mike Newell, BAFTA award winning director of Four Weddings and A Funeral and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, directs a high calibre ensemble cast including BAFTA winner and Academy Award nominee Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech, Alice in Wonderland) as Miss Havisham, BAFTA winner and Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List, The English Patient) as the convict Magwitch, Robbie Coltrane (Bond, Harry Potter) as Jaggers and newcomer Jeremy Irvine, fresh from his lead role in Spielberg's War Horse, as Pip.

They are joined by Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) as Estella, Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting), Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First Class), Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky, Made in Dagenham), Tamzin Outhwaite (Sweet Charity), David Walliams (Little Britain), Jessie Cave (Harry Potter), Olly Alexander (Bright Star), Ben Lloyd-Hughes (The Hour) and William Ellis as Compeyson.

This adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic and finest novel is produced by award winning partners Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley (Made in Dagenham, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, The Crying Game) and written by acclaimed screenwriter and novelist David Nicholls (One Day). The film has been financed by BBC Films, the BFI Film Fund, Lipsync Productions, Unison Films and Hart/ Lunsford Pictures.

Pip, a 10-year old orphan boy from a working class family, is surprised one winter's day by an escaped convict who demands food and tools to remove his chains. Terrified, Pip does as he's asked but the convict is ambushed and thrown back into his dreadful gaol, the prison ships that border the marshes by Pip's home.

A year later, Pip is employed by eccentric Miss Havisham, a local gentlewoman who has lived in seclusion since being abandoned at the altar 30 years ago and has never since seen daylight. Pip is to act as a companion to Miss Havisham's devastatingly beautiful 12-year-old ward, Estella. Pip falls in love with her and longs to become a gentleman in order to win her back when he's of age. It's a hopeless fantasy. The children part and Pip becomes an apprentice to his kindly brother-in-law Joe, the village blacksmith.

Ten years later, Pip, now a young man, receives the astonishing news that he has been given a huge fortune by an unnamed benefactor and is required to abandon Joe and his humble country life to be educated as a gentleman in London. Astonishingly, his childish hopes are fulfilled and he can now become the sophisticated young man he hoped to be during his childhood days with Estella.

But Great Expectations is a cruelly ironic title, as Pip's hopes founder on the discovery that his benefactor is none other than Abel Magwitch, the former convict he helped on the marshes all those years ago. Pip's money, his aspirations and his sense of self are tainted by his connection to Magwitch, a violent criminal: and so Pip's story is set in motion and we watch his fate take him by the throat.

From its very first appearance in his weekly journal 'All The Year Round' in December 1860, Charles Dickens' Great Expectations has proved an enduring work. After boosting sales of the author's failing magazine to the 100,000 mark, Great Expectations was published in novel form in 1861, going into its fourth edition within weeks of its first printing.

Even though the critics were far from united in their praise at the time, the novel - with its misguided hero, Pip and a host of memorable supporting players, including the beautiful but loveless Estella, the enigmatic convict Magwitch, the unforgettable Miss Havisham and the sturdy Joe Gargery - has gone on to become the most widely read and universally lauded of all the writer's works.

It is therefore no surprise that Great Expectations has enjoyed a vibrant life on the screen. Filmmakers Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley believe that it is time for the story to be told on the big screen once more. "There have been lots of fine television adaptations", Karlsen begins, "but a faithful screen adaption has not been done in over 60 years".

"Dickens is such a fine writer", she continues. "His books are an absolute pleasure to read and Great Expectations obviously is the classic and the greatest of them all. That novel still resonates clearly today with all its themes, children damaged by adults, people trying to pick up pieces of their lives after they've been damaged, people seeking revenge, being jilted, thinking you are someone and finding out you are someone else, people being discarded by society, notions of poverty, women being sold off as if in a cattle market or displayed in society like jewels. Class is still with us, even if it's in more insidious forms than in the 19th century".

To adapt the book for the screen the producers turned to author and screenwriter David Nicholls, with whom they had worked on When Did You Last See Your Father. "There's so much to the story, so to get a writer of David Nicholls' undoubted talent was absolutely vital", says Karlsen. The writer made his name with the screenplay for the TV series 'Cold Feet' and the novel and film Starter for Ten, before going on to adapt Tess of the D'Urbervilles for the BBC and to write the bestselling novel and the screenplay, One Day. He says that Great Expectations is his favourite novel.

"When Elizabeth and Stephen asked me about adapting Great Expectations I had just adapted Tess of the D'Urbervilles", says Nicholls, "which was my first attempt at writing a script of a 19th century novel and also another book that I love, so I was a little unsure to begin with. But then I took a deep breath and it has been wonderful, a great experience. I have really enjoyed it.

"It has always been my favourite book", he continues, "the one I have been back to time and time again. I have read it a million times and I have always loved it ever since I was about 13 years old. It is not a thing I'd have expected to adapt, though".

Returning to the book for the first time in a decade, Nicholls was struck by the intricacy of the plotting and Dickens' skill as a mystery writer. "I hadn't read the book for about ten years when I was offered the job", he recalls, "and I took time to reread it and one thing that struck me was how brilliant the plot is. Pip in the last part of the novel becomes almost like a detective. I love the idea of Pip unravelling the truth".

Nicholls says for all the novel's thematic complexity, "such a large part of the story is just about the struggles of a 19-year-old boy, trying to work out who he is and what he wants to be and I think in condensing the action a little in the screenplay, we have added to that sense of it being a thriller and a mystery".

The writer's love of film noir was in the forefront of his mind when writing the script, "the idea of Miss Havisham holding the key, the idea of a femme fatale, the dark house that holds secrets. A lot of those ideas seem to me draw upon film noir, mystery and the gothic so I think there is a great deal of that in there but also I hope that we have clung onto the brilliant, sharp social satire".

After all Great Expectations is the supreme novel about class, aspiration and misguided ambition. "Pip's terrible desire to be a gentleman, without really knowing what that involves, what that means, I think is just brilliant writing", says Nicholls. "It is a brilliant book in its analysis of snobbery and aspiration. I hope that is in the script as well".

When rereading the novel, however, Nicholls was most taken with the power of the love story. "Writing romance is not Dickens' greatest strength", he notes, "but Estella is an extraordinary character and the relationship between Pip and Estella is incredibly touching and romantic and painful.

"I think the novel contains a really extraordinary piece of lyrical writing. I have never read the novel and not been moved by it so this was something that I wanted to draw upon in this version. I hope this version will be affecting and that it will have high emotion and drama and melancholy as well, at times".

It was the quality of Nicholls' writing that immediately engaged the film's director Mike Newell, who counts on his impressive CV films as diverse as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Love in the Time of Cholera and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

"What I loved most was that David Nicholls did one very ballsy thing, which was to tell the story from different points of view", says Newell. "He told the story from several different points of view, not just Pip's. The way the story keeps refracting is something that David had made a big feature of his adaptation.

"I loved constantly returning to the story and finding what you thought was true wasn't true at all", the director adds. "The main trick of the book is that the person who gives Pip his great expectations, who gives him the money and makes him a gentleman, is not the person that he thinks it is and the person he thinks that it should be.

"In fact, it is somebody who is not acceptable to him. It is a convict. That is a tremendous irony in the novel and the way that David has told this story from all these differing points of view allows you to build up an overall picture in the end. It is a wonderful bit of writing".

At the time of its publication, Great Expectations was seen as one of the writer's more joyful later novels though the modern-day reader may find it more melancholy. Certainly most critics believe it is a very personal novel. "For me it was one of the most personal of all his books", says Newell, "and I think it is a book that in lots of ways is impregnated with all sorts of guilt. And I think that one of the questions that you can absolutely legitimately ask about the book is why is the leading character such a shit. And he is.

"Pip is treacherous, he will cast aside friends who have his best interests at heart. He will not see that his character is better suited to one of kind of life rather than to the life he aspires to and he rigorously refuses to listen to the people who would try to teach him otherwise. And he is absolutely horrible to the truest friend in his life, Joe Gargery, the blacksmith".

Newell said that he found Pip's nature fascinating and was interested "in the sort of psychological insights that would have to go with that. Plus", he adds, "Dickens was writing this rip-roaring dramatic story, which is absolutely wonderful, but which at the same time is a portrait of two abused children, Pip and Estella".

And it is the adults who ought to have their best interests at heart that abuse them. "Estella is brought up by Miss Havisham to be cold and haughty and a heartbreaker and dreadful, while Pip is tempted by money to become what he is absolutely unfitted for, a gentleman", Newell continues.

"He is no good at being a gentleman whatsoever. In fact he screws up himself and everybody around him by not listening to the people who try to tell him that, so both of those young people are horribly distorted by these adults' selfish ambitions".

Newell also wanted the story to be full of passion. Like Nicholls, he is excited by the love fostered between Pip and Estella, even though it burns but slowly in the latter. "I also think that there are lots of versions of this story, all of which I have seen and I can't say that any of them are very sexy", the director says.

"Here we get a chance to ask: What does a young man feel about a young woman who he is absolutely head over heels in not only love but lust as well? And that side of the story is very rarely told".

When casting Great Expectations, Newell says that he needed "actors who would dive into their characters as deeply as they were able to do, so you could absolutely believe how unlucky they were to have their stories woven together. I think our choices for who would play Pip and Estella were just terrific".

To play the role of Pip, the filmmakers turned to Jeremy Irvine, who earned praise last year for his leading performance in Steven Spielberg's WWI epic War Horse.

"Jeremy was terrific in his screen test", says producer Stephen Woolley, "and we needed the innocence of Pip, because in many ways Pip is quite naïve. But also we needed him to be desperate to succeed in his new role as a gentleman in society. We need to understand the motivation for that, which is to get the hand of Estella. You need him to be all these things and also appealing, because the character could come across as repulsive. He's such a complex character and Jeremy is an actor who could bring all this complexity to the table".

Irvine says that Pip is characterised by his ambition and drive. "It is quite easy to make Pip quite a passive character", the actor says, "but what David Nicholls has written is this incredibly ambitious and driven young man. This is someone who has been the victim of really horrendous physical and mental abuse growing up and he is horribly bullied in childhood. He has lost his parents".

Irvine notes, therefore, that when Pip falls in love with Estella, "it is not just a childhood love it is this real burning desire; that this is the key to everything, a way of solving all his problems and getting out of the horrible circumstances that he is in. It isn't a comfortable telling of the story but a very violent and exciting sort of portrayal".

He adds, "It is a rollercoaster of a story but what also sets it apart in this adaptation is that you get a sense that the violence is real". Pip suffers terribly at the hands of his sister and guardian, Mrs Joe and his Uncle Pumblechook. "There is something very sinister and dark about that", Irvine says.

For Pip, the character of Estella, whom he meets at Miss Havisham's haunting house, inspires a passion that burns his whole life, even in the face of Estella's seemingly cool response.

"It is not a done deal that Pip and Estella would ever get together", Irvine says. "Even the way we have ended it, it's not a certainty, not at all. Especially if you go back to the social attitude of the time, the idea that someone like Pip would ever be with a character like Estella is almost ridiculous.

"But what it develops, which I was very keen to get across in my portrayal of Pip, is that this is someone who is knocked down time and again, every time he goes to visit Estella. Characters like Jaggers, Miss Havisham, Mrs. Joe, all these people keep knocking him down knocking him down and he develops this resilience. He is not a soft character at all. Our Pip is a very hard, strong maturing character".

David Nicholls adds, "Pip is desperate for the good opinion of people who are worthless, terrible people, but they are really not worth the time of day and that's his great lesson".

"He becomes decent but it is a long painful journey. Estella, meanwhile, I think, is one of the most compelling characters in Dickens. Both Estella and Pip have this common bond. They have been abandoned and suffered a type of abuse. They had terrible things done to them from a very early age and I think that bond between them is serious and compelling.

"Despite being cold and mean Estella underneath still has some vulnerability and potential to be a normal, functioning young woman".

To play Estella the filmmakers turned to young English actress Holliday Grainger. "Estella was adopted by Miss Havisham, who is a rich heiress who was jilted at the altar when she was younger", begins Grainger. "She was so absolutely heartbroken that in her anger she decided to wreak revenge on the male sex by bringing up a pretty young child to break men's hearts.

"So from a young age Estella had been taught how to wind men in and then break them. Also she was always taught not to fall in love because love always causes pain, so she has had the ability to love beaten out of her".

Grainger says that part of the novel's tragedy lies in that fact that Estella is capable of love "but she is just far too terrified of the idea of it, because she has always been told that it is going to hurt her. When she feels Pip's love she thinks she is not worthy or good enough for his love because she feels she wouldn't be able to give it back.

"I think the feelings she has for Pip are actually genuine because he is the only person who has ever shown her any affection. So when she warns him off it is almost a cry for help. She is kind of saying that, 'This is who I am and I can't break who I am so I don't want to hurt you.' I think that is what she is saying".

The actress studied the novel at school and at university - "I was actually writing an essay on Great Expectations when I got the call" - and says that the character of Estella has always intrigued her.

"I kind of didn't get her and I hated her when I first read the book", says Grainger, "but the more re-readings of the novel I have done, the more I really feel for her. The older I get I feel sorry for her, how damaged she is. I know a lot of people think of her as being this cold coquettish, selfish, spoilt little girl but I have grown to see her as a victim of Miss Havisham's and as being damaged and asking for help. I was really keen to do my version of her".

Miss Havisham's influence steers the course of both Estella and Pip's lives and when the latter is informed of his great expectations it is to Miss Havisham that he thinks he owes his thanks. He is appalled when he discovers that the terrifying convict, Magwitch, has paid for his good fortune and gentlemanly path. Magwitch is, undoubtedly, one of Dickens' most memorable characters.

"I am in awe of this vivid character with such a rich character, full of contradictions", says Nicholls. "He is malicious and violent, brutish, powerful and by the end of the book he becomes a tragic figure, again a misused and abused man who can't escape his past".

Potential father figures abound in Great Expectations and all are flawed, "whether it is naïve and foolish and otherworldly Joe Gargery who wants to be Pip's father and whom he rejects, or Magwitch the brute who wants to look after Pip and wants to be his father and who is initially rejected. Those scenes between Joe and Pip and Magwitch and Pip are very much at the centre of our version of the story".

Nicholls believes that the relationship between Magwitch and Pip is "one of the most touching things, not just in Dickens but in all literature, the way Pip goes from disgust and abhorrence for this awful, brutish, low figure to love and respect".

To bring this famous character to life, the filmmakers recruited two-time Oscar-nominee and BaftA winning Ralph Fiennes, with whom Newell worked on 2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. "I had worked with Ralph before and worked very happily", says Newell. "He is very good at doing violence and I wanted Magwitch above everything else to be a truly violent man and one that people would be frightened of".

Producer Elizabeth Karlsen points to Fiennes' performance as the Nazi officer Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. "Ralph he is one of the greatest actors around", she says, "not many come close. Interestingly, when we decided to cast him most people were asking us whether he was playing the lawyer, Jaggers.

"The expectation is always that Magwitch is big and burly and working class; but Ralph is sinewy and has a ferret-like, feral quality to him here. When you think of him in Schindler's List he is just terrifying".

Fiennes says that he was attracted to Nicholls' screenplay. "I just thought it was a perfect combination of being true to Dickens' dialogue from the book but also editing it and adapting it so it had a filmic economy", says Fiennes. "The way that David filleted out certain speeches from the original into the film script was just wonderfully done; it's a wonderful piece of editing and film writing. It was very faithful, as well, which I liked".

That the story is so enduring, Fiennes notes, is down in part to the dazzling array of recognisable characters that populate the story. "It is a rites of passage story for Pip, a young man and it is so full of extraordinary, quite extreme characters so vividly described and also very recognizable", he notes.

"The peculiar men and women, all the unusual characters that Dickens creates are rooted in our own observations. You feel sometimes that these people are still around - that there are modern versions of Miss Havishams and Magwitchs. In fact, that is why Ethan Hawke and Robert De Niro's Great Expectations [directed by Cuarón] worked so well.

"There is a circularity too", adds Fiennes. "Dickens doesn't only write about families, but also pictures of separation, memories, forgotten loves, disappointments, disappointments of the heart. These are very recognizable in people and in their situations".

One of the most recognisable characters in all English literature is the inimitable Miss Havisham. "She is one of Dickens' supreme creations", coos Nicholls. "In fact, she is perhaps one of the greatest feats of the imagination".

Director Mike Newell says that he was keen to show how Miss Havisham's own expectations have damaged her life. "Her character is made by the moment at which time stopped", says Newell. "She is dumped at twenty to nine in the morning as she is dressing for her marriage, as the story boldly states and time stops and she is living in a time warp from then on.

"It is then a case of what that warp does to her", the director adds. "It is how the warp warps her and it is all done because of this huge expectation that she had of life - that she was in love and that she would have a future in front of her but that is all chopped back and what happens to her character is what happens to a person who is chopped down in that brutal fashion but does not die of it".

Highly acclaimed actress, BAFTA winning and two-time Oscar-nominee Helena Bonham Carter takes on the role. "I think Helena did a brilliant job in showing how Miss Havisham changes during the course of the action", says producer Elizabeth Karlsen, "how she repents, how she becomes aware of the damage she has caused both to Pip and Estella".

Bonham Carter says that she was excited by the combination of working with Newell - "I love his films, he's a great storyteller and I'd heard such great things about him" - and being asked to play Miss Havisham, who, she says, "is such an icon and such a great part".

"It's funny", she adds, "when Mike made the offer, it was quickly followed by him saying, 'Don't worry, if you look at the book she's not actually 78 years old!' She's probably only 37 when Pip meets her".

The filmmakers wanted to move away from the notion that Miss Havisham is an old crone, "which she isn't in the book", says Nicholls. "She is not particularly aged. She is a lonely, tortured, anguished woman, troubled and we wanted to get away from the idea of her being witchy and malicious and unchanging".

Bonham Carter revelled in the role. "She is fascinating, this woman", the actress says. "Take away the age thing and there's still a lot going on with her. She's very, very ill, mentally, for a start",

The actress says that she became "a real swot" when researching her role, speaking to several psychiatrists and experts on osteoporosis. "Miss Havisham has been inside for 15 years, so she would have had no vitamin D in her body", she notes, "and she'd have a had a failing eyesight. She is always asking Pip to come closer.

"I like all the illness, because when you play characters who are so damaged you really wonder what made them get to this point, what made them such a weirdo. Often if someone is truly damaged or hurt they have a bit of OCD, because they think that if everything is fine and they control their exterior then they'll never be hurt again.

"There are so many interesting sides to this character", Bonham Carter concludes. "She is pathologically grief-struck, but is totally narcissistic. It's all about her - people do get their hearts broken and most people survive".

Someone who is definitely a survivor is the lawyer for Miss Havisham and Magwitch, the inscrutable Mr. Jaggers, played here by Robbie Coltrane, with whom Newell had worked on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

"I was very interested to work with Mike Newell again because he is one of my heroes, someone I hugely admire as we all do", Coltrane says. "Also I have never done Dickens and David Nicholls' adaptation of the story was absolutely wonderful. It is very, very difficult to get such a huge book into a film but he did an awfully good job".

Coltrane says that the Jaggers character is perennially interesting, a lawyer who counts all the most powerful figures in the story among his clients and yet who is largely unfathomable himself.

"Mike Newell and I had long talks about this, whether or not he was a good man or a bad man", says the actor. "Jaggers is a character who would do anything within the law when he is working for a client, but once he has stopped working for you he has no interest in you at all.

"He is very slightly detached about it. He treats clients like patients. It is just a job for him. There is no love between Pip and Jaggers despite the fact that he's such an important person in his life".

Producer Karlsen concludes, "Robbie, Ralph and Helena are all terrific, as are Jeremy and Holliday. We have such a rich and wonderful set of actors".

The cast is rounded out by the likes of Jason Flemyng (Joe Gargery), Sally Hawkins (Mrs Joe), Ewen Bremner (Wemmick), David Walliams (Mr Pumblechook), Jessie Cave (Biddy), Olly Alexander (Herbert Pocket), Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Bentley Drummel), William Ellis (Compeyson) and Tamzin Outhwaite (Molly). Irvine's younger brother, Toby, plays Young Pip and is joined by Helena Barlow who plays the Young Estella, Cave's younger sister, Bebe, who plays Young Biddy and Charlie Callaghan who plays Young Herbert Pocket.

Jeremy Irvine (Pip) studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and has appeared in stage productions including the Royal Shakespeare Company's 'Dunsinane.' Irvine made his feature film debut starring in the highly acclaimed film War Horse, directed by Steven Spielberg.

Irvine has recently been seen in the independent feature Now is Good opposite Dakota Fanning, who plays a teenage girl with a terminal illness who resolves to live her life on fast forward. The film, based on Jenny Downham's novel Before I Die, is directed by Ol Parker.

He recently wrapped production on The Railway Man opposite Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman which is based on a memoir by Eric Lomax that chronicles his experience working on Japan's Death Railway during World War II. Irvine will play the young Lomax in the film.

Olly Alexander (Herbert Pocket) started his cinematic career working with critically acclaimed directors such as Gaspar Noe on Enter The Void and Academy Award winner Jane Campion on Bright Star. He has since gone on to star in Tormented opposite Alex Pettyfer, Dust and Gulliver's Travels with Jack Black. Most recently, Alexander has completed The Dish and The Spoon and Cheerful Weather for the Wedding opposite Elizabeth McGovern, Felicity Jones and Mackenzie Crook. TV credits include Summerhill, Lewis, The Fades and Not At The Table.

Alexander is a member of the National Youth Theatre with whom he performed in Identify 1000 and his professional theatre debut was in the critically acclaimed American play, The Aliens at the Bush Theatre alongside Mackenzie Crook and Ralph Little.

The Young Herbert Pocket is played by Charlie Callaghan

Ralph Fiennes (Magwitch) Ralph Fiennes studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and won his first role immediately after graduating when he appeared in two productions of Shakespeare at the Open Air Theatre in London's Regent's Park. In 1988 he was invited to join the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company for whom he subsequently played Henry VI, Edmund in 'King Lear' and Berowne in 'Love's Labour's Lost'.

His first film role was as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights which brought him to the attention of Steven Spielberg who cast him as the Nazi officer Amon Goeth in Schindler's List for which he was awarded a BAFTA Award, the New York Critics' Best Supporting Actor, the London Film Critics' Best Actor and the National Society of Film Critics award but was also nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.

He went on to star in Robert Redford's Quiz Show, Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days, Anthony Minghella's The English Patient, for which he received his second Academy Award and BAFTA nominations, Oscar and Lucinda, The End of the Affair (BAFTA nomination as Best Actor), Red Dragon, Onegin (which he also produced),Sunshine, Spider, Maid in Manhattan, The Constant Gardener, for which he received numerous nominations including his fourth BAFTA, The White Countess, The Duchess (Golden Globe and British Independent Film Awards nominations as Best Supporting Actor), In Bruges (BIFA nomination) and The Reader. He has made his mark as one of literature's most terrifying villains, the evil Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series of films. He was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance in HBO's bio-pic Bernard and Doris.

Throughout his film career, Fiennes has continued to work on the stage and among the highlights of his theatre work are the title roles in Hamlet (London and Broadway), Ivanov (London and Moscow),'Richard II and Coriolanus for the Almeida Theatre, Brand for the RSC, Mark Anthony in'Julius Caesar, 'The Faith Healer in Dublin and New York, Oedipus at the Royal National Theatre and a comic success in God of Carnage. In 2011, he took on Prospero in Trevor Nunn's production of The Tempest to rave reviews.

In 2009 he filmed roles in Clash of the Titans, Cemetery Junction, Nanny McPhee 2 and the final instalments of the Harry Potter films. In 2010 he realised a long-held ambition to direct and star in a feature film of Shakespeare's tragedy, Coriolanus which he also produced. The film was invited to premiere In Competition at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival and to screen at the Toronto and London Film Festivals the same year.

Fiennes was nominated for a 2012 BAFTA for Outstanding Debut as director and for a British Independent Film Award for the same. He received the 2011 Richard Harris Award from BIFA for his career achievements.

In 2011/12 he also starred in Wrath of the Titans and Skyfall. In 2012 he directed and starred as Charles Dickens in The Invisible Woman, the little known story of Dickens' relationship with a young actress, Nelly Ternan.

Jason Flemyng (Joe Gargery) prolific in his output, Flemyng juggles a hugely successful career both in the UK and the US. He has worked repeatedly with Matthew Vaughan and Guy Ritchie on the box office smash X:Men: First Class, the critically acclaimed Kick Ass, Stardust, Layer Cake, Mean Machine, Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He has worked on David Fincher's award winning The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Flemyng has also starred in Joe Wright'sHanna, Clash of the Titans, Eran Creevy's Shifty, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell opposite Johnny Depp and Rock Star with Mark Wahlberg.

TV credits include Primeval, Losing Gemma, Ghost Squad, Quatermass Experiment, Alice in Wonderland and Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Stephen Spielberg's Young Indy and Danny Boyle's For The Greater Good.

Highlights of his theatre career include Coriolanus, As You Like It, Moscow Gold, Barbicans and All's Well That Ends Well all at the RSC Barbican.

Robbie Coltrane (Jaggers) needs no introduction to national and international audiences after a prosperous thirty year career. He first appeared on the circuit in 1973 with 'Young Mental Health, a 50 minute documentary which he both directed and produced and which went on to win the Scottish Education Council Film Of The Year Award.

Following that auspicious start, Robbie enjoyed five successful years in live theatre, before making an huge impact on fast-developing alternative comedy television shows in the early 80's. Appearances included: Alfresco, Kick up the Eighties, Laugh I Nearly Paid my Licence Fee and Saturday Night Live.

He's since made star appearances in thirteen Comic Strip productions and was awarded the Peter Sellers Award for Comedy at the 1991 Evening Standard British Film Awards for his contribution to film comedy and for Nuns on the Run.

However, Coltrane has not had a career solely devoted to comedy. He is remembered fondly for his role in John Byrne's drama, Tutti Frutti, in which his superb performance as Danny McGlone earned him his first British Academy of Film and Television Awards [BAFTA] Best Actor Nomination.

Robbie's towering performance as Fitz in the phenomenally successful Granada series Cracker was central to the programme's success. Nine films over three years earned the series awards galore, most notably 2 BAFTA best drama series awards in 1995 & 1996; Royal Television Society Award for best drama; Broadcasting Press Guilds 1993 award for best series; USA Cable Ace Awards best movie or mini-series.

Robbie's triumphant portrayal of Fitz has been recognised by Three BAFTA awards as best television actor in 3 consecutive years [1994, 1995 & 1996]; a Silver Nymph Award as best actor from the 1994 Monte Carlo Television Festival; best television actor at the 1993 Broadcasting Press Guilds Awards; Royal Television Society's 1994 award for best male performer; FIPA's best actor award ; and a Cable ACE Award in USA for best actor in a movie or mini-series.

Some of Robbie's more recent TV credits include The Planman which he also executive produced, the final episode of Frasier, a new one-off TV film of 'Cracker' written by Jimmy McGovern and directed by Antonia Bird and Robbie Coltrane's B Road Britain, a 3 part documentary series for ITV. He has also written three books Coltrane in a Cadillac, Coltrane's Planes and Automobiles and B-Road Britain.

Robbie's career also involves some 48 films, including Mona Lisa, Danny Champion of the World, Henry V, Nuns on the Run, Perfectly Normal, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Buddy, Montana, Frogs for Snakes, Message in a Bottle, two Bond films Golden Eye and The World is not Enough, From Hell, Stormbreaker, Ocean's 12, The Brothers Bloom and Tales of Despereaux.

One of the UK's most prolific and respected film and television actors, Coltrane earned BAFTA and Los Angeles Film Critics Circle Award nominations for his performance as Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. He reprised his role in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Most recently Robbie has starred in Murderland; the critically acclaimed three part British television series created by David Pirie and directed by Catherine Morshead. Robbie was awarded the OBE in the 2006 New Year's Honours List for his Services to Drama.

Helena Bonham Carter (Miss Havisham) has lent her talents to a wide array of diverse feature films such as David Fincher's provocative Fight Club, Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination and an Evening Standard Best Actress Award and the dark comedy Novocaine, directed by David Atkins. In 2011 Helena starred as Queen Elizabeth in the Academy Award and BAFTA winning film The Kings Speech for which she personally received Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations, she went on to win the BAFTA.

On the last day of filming her screen debut in Trevor Nunn's Lady Jane, James Ivory offered her the ingénue lead in A Room with a View. It was the first of a series of roles in E.M. Forster adaptations that would bring her international acclaim and was followed by Charles Sturridge's Where Angels Fear to Tread and James Ivory's Howard's End for which she received a BAFTA nomination. She played Ophelia in Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet, opposite Mel Gibson and portrayed Elizabeth in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh. She subsequently appeared as Woody Allen's wife in Mighty Aphrodite.

For her performance in Iain Softley's Wings of the Dove, Helena received a Best Actress nomination for an Academy Award, as well as a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. She received a Canadian Genie Award for Best Actress for Mort Ransen's Margaret's Museum and was also Emmy-nominated for her role in Steve Barron's mini-series Merlin.

Other feature film credits include Hans Canosa's Conversations with Other Women for which she received an Evening Standard best actress award, Burton's Big Fish in which she played two roles, Jenny and The Witch, Planet of The Apes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Michael Petroni's Till Human Voices Wake Us and the HBO film Live from Baghdad, directed by Mick Jackson, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award. Paul Weiland's Sixty Six, Thaddeus O'Sullivan's The Heart of Me and McG's Terminator Salvation.

Bonham Carter provided the voice for Lady Tottington in Nick Parker's animated feature film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and the voice of the Corpse Bride in Tim Burton's stop-motion animation feature Corpse Bride. Helena has also appeared as The Red Queen in Tim Burton's 3D Imax Experience Alice in Wonderland and as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series and Burton's Dark Shadows.

Bonham Carter's television appearances include Magnificent 7, inspired by the life of Jacqui Jackson, she plays a mother with seven children, three normal daughters and four sons who are each in one form or another autistic, Dancing Queen, Fatal Deception, A Dark Adapted Eye, Henri VIII and Toast. Her performance as Enid Blyton in the BBC drama Enid earned her a BAFTA nomination. Helena's stage credits include Woman in White, The Chalk Garden, House of Bernarda Alba and Trelawny of the Wells.

Holliday Grainger (Estella) first garnered attention when she took on the role of 'Emily' in The Scouting Book for Boys, a film previewed to critical acclaim at the London Film Festival and winning its writer, Jack Thorne, the award for Best British Newcomer at the awards. In the same year, she played the role of 'Mollie' in Pat Holden's feature Away Days written by Kevin Sampson and starring Stephen Graham.

She has since been seen in the much lauded adaptation by Moira Buffini of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre alongside a stellar cast including Dame Judi Dench, Jamie Bell, Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. Further projects include Bel Ami opposite Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman and Kristin Scott Thomas and she is the the lead role of Lucrezia Borgia in The Borgias.

Holliday made her stage debut in the four-handed play Dimetos alongside Jonathan Pryce, Anne Reid and Alex Lanipekun. Holliday played the role of Lydia in Athol Fugard's 1975 tale of a reclusive engineer harbouring a destructive passion for his niece.

Alongside her film and stage credits Holliday's television portfolio is extensive. She starred in the BBC's drama'Five Daughters as well as reprising her role as Sharon Bilkin in the second series of Above Suspicion based on the adaptation of Lynda La Plante's best-selling crime novels. She also starred as Dirty Debbie in the BBC Three pilot Stanley Park and has also taken on roles in Demons (ITV), Merlin (BBC), Robin Hood (BBC) and Blue Murder (ITV).

Holliday was also recognized for her character of Charlie Cooper in a one-off television adaptation of Kate Long's novel The Bad Mother's Handbook; Holliday starred opposite Catherine Tate, Anne Reid and Robert Pattinson in this popular comedy drama. Other television credits include Waking the Dead (BBC), Waterloo Road (BBC), Where the Heart Is (ITV) and Any Human Heart (Channel 4). Her most recent project has been Anna Karenina.

The Young Estella is played by Helena Barlow.

David Walliams (Mr Pumblechook) is one of Britain's best-loved actors, writers and comedians. The international award-winning Little Britain, ran for 4 series and played in over 100 countries worldwide. Little Britain Live toured the UK, Ireland and Australia with a total audience of a million people.'Come fly With Me marked a return to the BBC in 2010, airing to record UK audiences of 17 million. David's critically acclaimed serious roles include his performances as Frankie Howerd in the BBC biopic Rather You Than Me and Greville White in Steven Poliakoff's Capturing Mary with Dame Maggie Smith.

Theatre includes Foster in Rupert Goold's production of Harold Pinter's No Mans Land with Sir Michael Gambon and film work includes Dinner For Schmucks, Run Fat Boy Run and Stardust.

David's writing skills are not limited to the screen - his critically acclaimed children's books, The Boy in the dress and Mr. Stink and Billionaire Boy, are best sellers. David is an honorary trustee of Comic Relief, raising over a million pounds with his 2006 Channel swim. He also swam across the Straits of Gibraltar with James Cracknell and in 2010 he led a team on a non-stop bike ride from John O'Groats to Land's End. In September 2011 he swam the entire length of the River Thames for the charity.

Tamzin Outhwaite (Molly) rose to fame in 1998 as Melanie Healy in BBC's Eastenders for which she won numerous television awards. She went on to star in a number of hugely popular, British dramas such as Red Cap, Hotel Babylon, Paradox, Vital Signs and The Fixer. More recently she has been seen in the popular ITV series Law and Order: UK and Fast Freddie, the Widow and Me.

In 2009, Outhwaite starred in the UK revival of Sweet Charity. She received critical acclaim for her performance in the lead role of Charity and was asked to reprise the role in the West End transfer of the show at the Theatre Royal. She has also starred in Di, Viv and Rose at Hampstead Theatre and Breathing Corpses and Flesh Wound at the Royal Court Theatre.

Outhwaite made her film debut in Dominic Savage's Out of Control, which won recognition at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival. She later starred in Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream and 7 Seconds with Wesley Snipes.

Sally Hawkins (Mrs Joe). Since picking up a string of awards, including the Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical Golden Globe, for her performance as Poppy in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, Sally has gone on to complete work on Mark Romanek's Never Let Me Go, Gurinder Chadha's It's a Wonderful Afterlife, Nigel Cole's Made in Dagenham, Richard Ayoade's Submarine, Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre and Paul Murphy's Love Birds.

Sally made her first notable screen performance as Samantha in the 2002 Mike Leigh film All or Nothing. She also appeared as Slasher in the 2004 film Layer Cake. Further film credits include: Happy Ever Afters, An Education, Cassandra's Dream, Waz, Persuasion and The Painted Veil.

Her first major television role came in 2005 when she played Susan Trinder in the BAFTA-nominated BBC drama Fingersmith, an adaptation of Sarah Waters' novel of the same name, in which she co-starred with Imelda Staunton, as she had in Vera Drake. Since then she has gone on to star in another BBC adaptation, Patrick Hamilton's Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky. Sally was the recipient of the RTS Best Actress Award and Golden Nymph Best Actress for her role as Anne Elliot in ITV's Persuasion.

Sally's theatre appearances include Much Ado About Nothing (2000), A Midsummer Night's Dream (2000), Misconceptions (2001), Country Music (2004) and David Hare's adaptation of Federico García Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba in 2005. In 2006, Sally appeared at the Royal Court Theatre in Jez Butterworth's The Winterling and most recently she has starred as Marianne in Mike Longhurt's Constellations at the Royal Court.

Ewan Bremner (Wemmick) is probably most widely recognised as Spud in Danny Boyle's Oscar and BAFTA nominated Trainspotting where he played opposite Ewan Mcgregor and Robert Carlyle. He would later star in the stage version of Trainspotting as the lead role, directed by Nick Ward.

He has since gone on to have a great and varied cinematic career working with hugely successful directors such as Ridley Scott on Black Hawk Down, Bryan Singer on Jack and The Giant Killer, Guy Ritchie on Snatch, Michael Bay on Pearl Harbour, David Mackenzie on Perfect Sense and twice with Woody Allen on Match Point and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

He has also worked on critically acclaimed TV programmes and highlights include David Hare's Page Eight, Dominic Savage's Dive, Coky Giedroyc's The Virgin Queen, Tom Hooper's award winning Elizabeth I, Tom Green's The Fuse and David Blair's The Accused.

His theatre career includes Kathy Burke's 'God of Hell' at the Donmar Warehouse, Philip Howard's Damascus and David Glass' Gormemghast.

Jessie Cave (Biddy) started her film career in Iain Softley's Inkheart and has since gone on to star as Lavender Brown in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

On television, she has had roles in the BBC/Tiger Aspect BAFTA winning series Summerhill, Sadie Jones and Grandma's House. On stage, Cave starred as the title role in JM Barrie's 'Mary Rose, as Liv in Lou Ramsden's Breed, for which she won an Off-West End Stage Award and Thomasina in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia directed by David Leveaux.

She created and runs the comedy sketch website www.pindippy.com and makes her debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2012 with her solo show "Bookworm. The series of videos she created for Project Amstell: Simon Amstell gets Connected featured regularly on the Guardian.

The young Biddy is played by Jessie's sister, Bebe.

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