Thompson Scoops Chalfant in Screen WitDate: 10 April 2000
American writer Margaret Edson's Pultizer Prize-winning play Wit, which just opened in the West End last week, has this weekend been guaranteed a much longer life with the news that film director Mike Nichols intends to make a big screen version of it, featuring British star Emma Thompson.
Wit tells the harrowing story of Dr Vivian Bearing, an English literature professor who is suddenly struck down - physically, mentally and emotionally - by ovarian cancer. The unmarried and iron-willed middle-aged academic is forced to re-evaluate her life and learn about the importance of human kindness as she fights but loses in her battle against the disease.
Veteran American stage actress Kathleen Chalfant made her West End debut when the play opened last Monday at the Vaudeville Theatre. She also originated the role two years ago when Wit premiered in New York, where it continues to run. Chalfant has won numerous plaudits and awards for her performance as the feisty professor, including an OBIE.
But it's Thompson, 40, who scooped the coveted film role, in which she'll be making her professional comeback after nearly a two-year break. The double Oscar winner's last film was 1998's Primary Colors, also directed by Nichols. She took time off following personal tragedies, including her divorce from actor Kenneth Branagh and the death of her father, and then had a baby, born in December, with her new actor-boyfriend Greg Wise.
Wit is Margaret Edson's first play, based in part on her experiences working at an AIDS inpatient centre. Now a kindergarten teacher in Atlanta, Georgia, Edson says she does not intend to write another play.
The British stage production is directed by Leigh Silverman, recreating the work of Derek Anson Jones who died after the play's New York premiere.