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May 2004

There are faint glimmers of hope about the filming of Tulip Fever, but, as one producer said, “I don’t call a film greenlit until the SECOND day of principal photography.” Most of the movies which were hit by the government’s ruthless action in February have managed to get themselves up and running again, but the timing affected us particularly badly, and ours was such a big budget that swift re-finance was impossible. 12,000 tulip bulbs, all potted up and ready for their big scene, had to be dispersed. I ended up with about 20 of them and they have just finished flowering, in pots in my back garden. All that remains are tattered leaves. Bit symbolic, really. The whole thing has been horribly upsetting for all the creative people involved. Still, a pair of greater-spotted woodpeckers are nesting in the cherry tree in my back garden; I can hear the young ones chirping away in their hole in the trunk. They don’t care, and that cheers me up.


“Pride and Prejudice” is due to start shooting on July 19th. Strangely enough, Kiera Knightley is starring in that, too (she’s one of the Tulip Fever stars). Joe Wright is directing it; he directed the terrific (and BAFTA-winning) “Charles !!” for the BBC recently. I don’t know much more at this stage.


I’m talking about my latest novel These Foolish Things at the Hay Festival (with Howard Jacobson) on 29 May. I’ve booked tickets for about 8,000 other events there too, as it’s packed with amazing writers this year. I’ll be appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival too, and several other venues. As for writing, the screenplay of “The Lion Children”, about an English family in the Botswana bush, is on its second draft. My favourite stage direction is baboons ransacking a mess tent and running off carrying food and colanders. Just wait till a director tries to film that. I’m also writing the second draft of my adaptation of The Stand-In, a thriller I wrote about an American movie star and her English stand-in – a tale of jealousy, revenge, and obsession. Second drafts are always a lot more interesting to write than first ones; more liberating, more filmic. And adapting ones own work might have its dangers, but at least one knows the characters through and through.