Rethinking the “Secret Garden” for the new generation Entertainment

Francis Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic “The Secret Garden” has been adapted in several films, series and even in a Broadway musical. But it has been 27 years since Mary Lennox last starred in a movie, and it seemed time for another visit to the Myseltwaite mansion. Like “Little Women,” each generation is entitled to its own version.

Producer Rosie Allison of Heyday Films (the store behind the Paddington films) as a child was fascinated by the 1911 novel and the 1949 version of MGM with Margaret O’Brien. She was convinced that it was attractive to modern children, who may not have had to linger too long to join the material – a generation that grew up with Agnieszka Holland’s 1993 version, now also grew up with their own children.

“It’s such a beautiful, saving fable,” she said. “We are talking about damaged, slightly inappropriate children who are lonely and find friendship in nature. Parents think they will be bored, but I think a lot of kids really enjoy it. ”

They found support staff at StudioCanal, who were also partners in the Paddington films and are always looking for family travel. Alison said it was easy to convince them, but: “Everyone was a little nervous because it’s not a big action game with branded characters.”

The director was recruited by Mark Manden (“National Treasure”), they took on board Colin Firth and Julie Walters and reviewed about 800 tapes to find their perfect Mary. The role was given to 12-year-old Dixie Egerik, who demonstrated “excellent intelligence” and understanding of the character.

“She’s not really your traditional heroine,” said Egerik, now 15. “What I like about her is that she’s pretty complicated. At first she is very unpleasant, rude and unpleasant, but we learned that it is because she is lonely and she has no one.

The filmmakers received a relatively modest budget for a film with visual effects ($ 20 million). But even with elements of magical realism, most outdoor scenes were filmed on site, including in the garden itself. It was previously decided that it was impossible to “invent” nature on the sound stage, so the filmmakers went on a journey through 50 gardens in Yorkshire, North Wales, Wiltshire, Dorset and Cornwall to find the perfect combination of options for a charming, abandoned garden.

“It’s more in line with Mary’s imagination and her subjective view of the world, and there are slightly smoother boundaries between her way of seeing and the world around her,” Allison said. “Now that she goes into the garden, it just seems limitless, because that’s the way it is for a child.”

To make it a little less remote for modern children, the creators have moved history back several decades from its Edwardian roots. That still had to be in the past, Allison said. Things like child care and health and safety would be involved if it were too modern.

But now, instead of 1911, the action takes place in 1947 as part of post-World War II. However, most of the notes will feel familiar. Mary is still a native of India, her parents are still dying of cholera, and Archibald Craven (Firth) is as distant and ghostly as ever.

Like many films during the coronavirus pandemic, “The Secret Garden” was to become a big screen. It is now available as a video on demand in the US. However, in the UK it will be shown in October. And while the situation is disappointing, Alison is trying to focus on the bigger picture

“I hope that in the coming years there will be a lone 9-year-old child who flopped in front of the TV and finds out about it, and it really means something to them,” Allison said. “I would like it to give hope to the children.”


Follow AP writer Lindsay Bar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr


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