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Colin Firth — Johannes Vermeer

Scarlett Johansson — Griet

Tom Wilkinson — van Ruijven

Essie Davis — Catharina

Cillian Murphy — Pieter

Alakina Mann — Cornelia

Judy Parfitt — Maria Thins

Release Dates

Dec 12, 2003 (NY/LA)
Dec 26, 2003 (Chgo/SF)
Jan 9, 2004 (wider)

Jan 16, 2004 (UK)
Mar 11, 2004 (Australia)

May 2004 (Region 1 DVD)


Official Site

Purchase the book

Author's website

<>Vermeer links

Girl with a Pearl Earring: An In-Depth Study

This site explores numerous facets of Johannes Vermeer's masterpiece, the Girl with a Pearl Earring. Each of the more than 40 pages discusses one particular aspect of the work such as the young girl's identity, the pearl, the turban, the painting's history, state of conservation, provenance, signature, precedents, dating painting techniques and materials, and scholarly interpretations. Every page is accompanied by pertinent images and links.

Click for close-up image
[Click on poster for close-up image]

Related articles:

>>Enjoying the Perks of 'Mr Darcy'
>>Mr Darcy's artistic licence
>>Paul Fischer interview
>>Firth, actually
>>CF: Still sitting pretty
>>CF: Taking the Lead
>>Lighting Vermeer

>>Mother of Pearl (Observer)
>>Firth drew inspiration...
>>Capturing the elusive muse
>>The Story Beneath That...
>>Firth Impressions




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Bafta nominations announced
Girl With A Pearl Earring was nominated in 10 categories for the 2004 Orange British Academy Film Awards. Stephen Fry announced the nominees at the Bafta headquarters.

The film received nominations for Best British Film, where it will compete with Love Actually; Carl Foreman award for special achievement by a British Director/Producer or Writer in their first feature film (Peter Webber); Best Adapted Screenplay (Olivia Hetreed); Best Actress (Scarlett Johansson); Best Supporting Actress (Judy Parfitt); Film Music; Cinematography; Production Design, Costume Design; and Makeup and Hair.

The host says he's worried about getting the names of films wrong on the big night. The comedian says the titles of many of this year's main contenders are a real headache. "I'm going to have problems not saying The Girl with the Pearl King and The Return of the Earring," he joked. He will host the awards eremony for the fourth year running at the Odeon in Leicester Square on February 15.

Swab Story
Scarlett Johansson says that her Girl With A Pearl Earring co-star Colin Firth gleefully poked fun at her costume, especially since her head was wrapped tightly in a white scarf for the drama. "Colin kept saying I looked like a peeled egg," says Johansson, 19, who retaliated by drawing caricatures of the wig- wearing Firth with big hair. "He also said I looked like a Q-Tip. He'd stick little Q-Tips with happy faces on them up on our makeup mirror." (People, 1/12/04)

Portrait of a Rising Star
[T]wo and a half years ago, Earring was all set to shoot when Kate Hudson... pulled out, causing the finance to collapse. The producers rallied, finding new backers and a completely new creative team (Peter Webber directs, and Colin Firth took over the part of Vermeer, originally to be played by Ralph Fiennes).

"They thought I would really need to be buttered up—that I would be so upset I was not the first choice," recalls Johansson, cheerfully. "But I had the greatest leading man ever. It was so smooth and so much fun." Now, contemplating the quiet intensity of her performance, it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. (Scotsman, 1/6/04, by Sheila Johnston)

Fabio's Got a Real Pretty Mouth, Too
On a press junket at the Regency Hotel, Ms. Johansson's mouth was painted a berry red...

Her tall co-star, Mr. Firth, ambled his way into the press room, glanced at his watch and nearly collided with pint-size Ms. Johansson's quart-size bouche. Mr. Firth was bemused. Ms. Johansson smiled a hey-big-guy smile.

"Stop checking your watch, you grumpy old man," Ms. Johansson teased.

Was there much mockery on the film set, Mr. Firth was asked. Very much so, he said, clearing his throat. "A lot of it was directed at my wig," Mr. Firth said, referring to the long locks that give him a brooding 17th-century look for the film. On the set, Mr. Firth said, Ms. Johansson kept calling him Fabio. "And what I thought was my sizzling look was met with a smirk, and 'I can't believe it's not butter.' " (NY Times, 12/30/03, by Anthony Ramirez)

Colin Firth: Taking the Lead
"This was a man who painted seemingly serene pictures repeatedly, capturing the calm of the moment in a house that is incredibly chaotic,'' said Firth, who studied Vermeer's work in museums. "Everybody knows what it's like in a noisy house. Everybody knows what it is to need to work, to close yourself off in a room and have the sounds going on. Everybody knows what it is like to have a bit of a secret life, a secret passion or a dream. Looking from my own vantage point, I think one of the most interesting things is that kind of creative intensity within a very earthbound domestic environment.''

Firth is opinionated on the subject of Vermeer's secret life...As portrayed in the movie, Vermeer's relationship with Griet is loaded with sexual tension, but Firth is convinced it was never consummated. "I don't think he does womanize at all. I think he is utterly faithful to his wife. His mother-in-law covers up (the times she sees Griet and Vermeer together) because his wife is extremely jealous, and the mother-in-law knows there will be nothing but trouble.'' 

Still, the scene where Griet poses in his studio is awfully hot, especially when Vermeer smears red paint over her lips. According to the movie, this accounts for the girl's moist red-parted mouth, which leaps out from the canvas far more than her subtle earring. 

"The direction in that scene was eloquent,'' Firth recalled. "You see a brush going across her lips, then you see my thumb going across. There was no more contact (between them) than that.''   (read full article here)

Why I love older men (just ask Colin Firth, Sean Connerey and John Travolta)
No one does turbulent and sexy intensity better than 43 year old Colin Firth, and the unspoken, forbidden attraction between the two creates the most powerful study of erotic tension since Jane Campion's The Piano

It was really lucky that Colin and I had such good chemistry. I had seen him in Pride And Prejudice and Bridget Jones's Diary and he was very sexy, but I still didn't know what to expect when I met him. He's such a genuinely nice guy, so sweet. It was meant to be Colin and me in those roles".

"It's such a rare role because it's about her wonderful inner thoughts, which is so appealing for an actor to play. There's no cheesy dialogue to describe the way she's feeling," she explains, "I could just be quiet, which is rare. Often writers fill the voids with awful dialogue that's very hard to say." And there's no denying that the taboo attraction between Johansson and Colin Firth is at its most electrifying in those silences. (You 12/14/03)

Film directors don't always play by the book
Basing a movie on a well-known novel has its perils. Despite a built-in audience of readers, there's always the possibility fans will dislike the way characters they've imagined are portrayed....

"If you're adapting a novel that's both widely read and intensely loved, you have a certain responsibility," says Peter Webber, director of Girl With a Pearl Earring, based on the best-selling novel by Tracy Chevalier. "It's also really scary because everybody who's read the book has cast it in their head. Your version has to be more effective than their version. That's a tall order."

Actors vary in their use of the source material to inform their portrayals. Firth, who plays the Dutch painter Vermeer in Girl With a Pearl Earring, read the novel closely. When author Chevalier came to the set, "I pounced on her and picked her brain."

Firth explains: "I absolutely got consumed by a desire to discover something about him. I went to look at paintings and read what I could and did as much painting as I could do. I referred to the script, the book, to pictures. It was like a candy store. You do all this stuff and in the end, I don't know how much of it makes any difference to anyone watching the movie. But it made me enjoy it." 

Johansson, who played the title character, made a conscious choice to trust her instincts. "I did not read the book before or during filmmaking," she says. "It's written in a first-person narrative from my character's point of view. I just didn't want to be told what I should be feeling at a particular time."

Johansson read the book after the film wrapped. "I was dying to read it," she says. "We had a copy of it on the set, and it was very tempting. I would start to look over some dialogue, and my eyes would wander over to the page and then I'd go 'No! Stop reading!' "

Similarly, directors choose their own approaches to adapting books to the screen. Some, like Webber, keep the novel as an ever-present guide on set. (USA Today, 12/01/03, by Claudia Puig)

Keeping the ScoreAlexandre Desplat
"Repression is a word that repeatedly came up in talking about this movie. It's a story of repression, of two people—(Johannes) Vermeer, the artist, and his servant. They love each other, but they just can't. The music had to reflect that, so it couldn't be too busy. We underlined that we wouldn't use excessive period music. (Director) Peter (Webber) chose not to make this a period movie because this love story could happen at any time, so baroque instrumenta- tions and choir seemed too obvious. We did use a large string orchestra and recorded at Abbey Road; we used piano, celeste, woodwinds and a few brass. The score is special because it never underlines; it brings to the audience something they can't see. I rather like to restrain myself—hold the orchestra back, so when I let it go, it's worth it."

"The cinematography is very inportant in this film, which was a great idea because light was an enormous part of Vermeer's work. Scenes are marvelously lit: everything is marvelously beautiful outside and in the house, but when you get into the studio, it is dark. In one scene, light is let into the studio when the shades are opened. I found and paired this sparkle of light with instrumentation while trying not to be heavy-handed. Vermeer's world is full of sensation, underlined by the music."

"It's not so often you have the opportunity to score a movie with such an amount of beauty and silence. The painter is painting, and the servant is watching; the music would reflect this carefully coming in and out of scenes. Anything too obvious would have killed the magic." (Hollywood Reporter, 11/11/03, by Ada Guerin)

Taking Stock of His Locks
In the drama Girl With a Pearl Earring, Colin Firth plays a sexy Johannes Vermeer, the 17th-century painter. To the dismay of the British actor, the role required him to wear a shoulder length wig. "It was itchy, and I was always in danger of looking more Woodstock than 17th century," says Firth, 43, whose costar Scarlett Johansson had a tough time keeping a straight face. "Film wigs are more convincing than toupees, but if your leading lady bursts into fits of laughter at the sight of you, it's a challenge," says Firth. "Scarlett would call me Fabio. I would do a sizzling look, and all she would say was, "I can't believe it's not butter!'" (People 12/01/03)

Firth, actually
This is the second time I have met Firth. The last time he was in Luxembourg, busy playing the Dutch master painter Johannes Vermeer in the beautiful film Girl With A Pearl Earring, which opens in Australia in January. Then, as now, I was struck by how his dimpled smile transforms his natural glower into something approaching delight. Based on the book by Tracy Chevalier, Pearl Earring is the story of how the master came to paint a lowly servant in his house, for what was to become perhaps his greatest masterpiece—the luminous painting for which the film is titled. A film of few words, the forbidden and repressed sexual desire between the painter and his subject (played by Scarlett Johansson) is conveyed through loaded glances and electric touches. Ladies will love his smouldering portrait of an artist, all sexy-grumpy in a long wig, lace collars and moody moustache. Filming was going well and in that encounter Firth was relaxed, amusing, giggly, conspiratorial and forthcoming— a side of himself he does not always display to strangers, being a reserved sort of chap by nature, though perfectly polite.

Immersing himself in the art and life of Vermeer was clearly a most satisfying way to be making a living: "I loved going to galleries and being that bloke." Firth intellectualises his roles, takes them apart and examines them from all sides, prepares and researches. "That is the greatest perk of the job, probably," he says from the other side of his sandwich. "It is a licence to have fun and plunge into a different universe. With actors, as long as you have got that sort of thing available to you, life can never really be totally banal. (read full article here)

Demetrios Matheou's Film Festival Diary
British actors don’t often get the sort of reception afforded Hollywood stars - but to the crowds outside the screening of Girl with a Pearl Earring, and the audience inside, Colin Firth is one better than a Hollywood star. The cheering for the man verges on the ecstatic.

Of course he has to field yet another question about a certain Mr Darcy (brushed aside with the smoothness of his black velvet suit), but Firth is smilingly effusive about his role as the old master, Johannes Vermeer, in the film.

“One of the wonderful things about this profession is that you get the opportunity to indulge hopeless, rather nerdy hobbies and interests,” he says.  “For this I was allowed to play with paints in a way I’ve not been allowed to do since I was five years old.

As for how convincing he was, “I took comfort in the fact that a brilliant painter looks the same as an awful one when they have a brush in their hand.”

'Pearl Earring' Wins Top Prize at Dinard
Director Peter Webber's visually striking film "Girl With a Pearl Earring," starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johannson, won the top award [Hitchcock D'Or prize] on Sunday, at the 14th Dinard Festival of British Films.

Inspired by the enigmatic painting of the same name by 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, the film was a "technical tour de force," according to French producer Charles Gassot, who headed the jury of eight. 

[The film also won l'Hitchcock d'Argent (audience award)]

Growing up in Tasmania, Essie Davis’s artist father used to tell her that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing well. ‘Do it with all your heart’, he said,’ she recalls.

That advice seems to be at the core of what makes Ms Davis such a compelling actress. In the movie Girl With a Pearl Earring (based on Tracy Chevalier’s fictionalised tale about how Johannes Vermeer was inspired by a scullery maid to paint his masterpiece), Ms Davis has taken the supporting part of Vermeer’s wife Catharina (pictured right, opposite Colin Firth as Vermeer) and turned her into a tortured soul.

I don’t know that I would have taken much interest in Vermeer’s wife without her fully-fleshed performance. In the film, Vermeer bans his family from the studio where he paints, but allows entry to the maid, played with rare grace by Scarlett Johansson. “It’s terribly undermining when the maid is allowed in, and there is obviously more than work to be done in there,’ Essie said. 

‘It must be terribly saddening to watch your husband get a new best friend,’ she added. ‘I was very concerned that she shouldn’t just be the bad, pain-in-the-ass wife’. Essie succeeds in her aim.     (Daily Mail, Oct 3, 2003)

Quotes from press interviews

"You can't really tell a great romantic love story about a happily married couple," the father-of-three told a Canadian newspaper. "Domestic bliss is the stuff of sitcom. Great love has to have an element of the impossible. Whether Romeo and Juliet, or Tristan and Isolde, they're kept apart. Even in Jane Austen, they only finish with the coming together, you don't even get to a kiss in the books." (reprinted in Hello!)

"I'm interested in emotion, its complications," he says. "I'm not necessarily an optimist in terms of romantic love. I'm not the type of romantic who enjoys the weepy movie and then sighs sweetly about it. I'm more interested in the obstacles and the impossible than I am in resolution and happiness."


The mood: Actor Colin Firth summed it up perfectly: "Most of what gets written about a film in a film festival is by an extremely strung-out journalist and an extremely strung-out actor, for five minutes, and about a movie the writer probably saw at the wrong time of day."


Colin Firth...said that all the 17th-century sets and bottled-up emotions in the film were evident during the shoot. "It was surprisingly intense, it was an emotional pressure cooker in a way....We were all in a closed area under the spell of this thing."

Firth said his understanding of Vermeer's work was helped by taking a trip with director Peter Webber and producer Andy Paterson to see the actual painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring" at The Hague. "Something hits you when you see the real thing on the wall," Firth said. (indieWire)

—Screen caps by Ann

Enjoying the Perks of 'Mr Darcy'
Firth's role is almost silent; his Vermeer has long hair and a week-old beard, and he works quiet hours in his studio obsessing over colours. He is not Mark Darcy, but neither, says Firth, is the role a real departure for him.

"I don't think it's enough of a departure to call it a departure," he enunciates in a voice that was trained for the British stage before it found its place in a series of romantic films. "I've played a fairly taciturn character in period drama before. But not quite like this."

Because not much is known about Vermeer, Firth had to invent him from looking at his paintings—which are so scattered around the world that the prospect of "visiting all the Vermeers in the world" is used as a synonym for wide travel in the film Hannibal—and reading about his life.

"The tacit nature of the character has been drawn somewhat on the tacit nature of the paintings. You have this sense of quiet in the work wi thin what must have necessarily been a chaotic household. There's no question about it, with 11 children running around. It was an active world. He grew up in a pub. The beer consumption was enormous. This was a world that wasn't as calm and tranquil as the paintings might lead you to believe."

Firth said he found both the paintings and the character elusive, which was what drew him to a role in a movie that he thinks is a risk: will people want to watch a slow-moving story, designed as beautifully as a Dutch masterpiece, about how a famous painting was created? (full article)

Who's That Girl
Webber assembled a talented cast, starting with Firth, a British sex symbol... “We were lucky enough to get great actors,” Webber said. “But even with great actors, you never can tell whether the sparks will fly, so you have to use your intuition. Sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s wrong, and in this case it was definitely right. The performances are what make the movie tick. For me, the painting and everything else is background. The most important thing is a middle-aged man’s obsession with a younger girl, a younger girl falling in love with an impressive older man, and the jealousy around the house. It’s a story about power, money and sex.” (Read full story here)

San Sebastian International Film Festival (Sept 18-27, 2003)
The Donostia-San Sebastian International Film Festival has unveiled its official competition line-up for next month’s 51st annual edition (Sept. 18-27).

The festival says the predominant theme of the selection is "living in a world replete with contradictions," and highlights the raft of high-profile emerging directors" on display....

Peter Webber’s UK co-production Girl With a Pearl Earring has been selected for competition, and will also line-up for the Altadis-New  Director’s Award against fellow official competition entries...(Jennifer Green, Screendaily, Aug 22, 2003)

Toronto Film Festival (Sept. 4-13, 2003)
Other gala presentations announced Tuesday include: Girl With a Pearl Earring: Peter Webber's directorial debut starring Colin Firth and Tom Wilkinson. Supposedly the story behind one of Dutch painter Vermeer's most famous and enigmatic works. World premiere. The news conference also included the traditional test of Handling's breath control as he listed all the celebrities who plan to attend. They include:...Colin Firth...

TIFF program listing
Photographed with all the sublime incandescence of the Vermeer portrait for which it is named, Girl with a Pearl Earring lifts the veil shrouding the painter’s mid-seventeenth century home life in a transfixing story told from the point of view of his young maidservant. Every frame is a triumph of composition and light inspired by the Dutch master’s work. Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth, as Griet and Vermeer, are striking for their inner glow of intelligence and quiet insightfulness. Based on the acclaimed novel by Tracy Chevalier, Peter Webber’s first feature is a beautiful study of the glorious surfaces and emotional depths of the period.
When young Griet goes to live and work in the household of Johannes Vermeer, she must maintain her equilibrium in a situation where privacy is hard to come by, the lady of the house, Catharina (Essie Davis), is demanding and perennially pregnant, and her mother, Maria (Judy Parfitt), is tight-fisted and  strict.

As the most political animal in the family, the matriarch lobbies hard for patron van Ruijven’s (Tom Wilkinson) support for Vermeer’s work—but van Ruijven is primarily interested in what the struggling middle-class family can do for him.

When Vermeer, the consummate colourist, discovers Griet’s growing interest in painting, he turns to her as a sanctuary from domestic stress and she responds with an awakening passion for the medium. However, their disparate  backgrounds—in addition to their class, age and religious differences—begin to complicate their developing relationship. Nevertheless, the master asks Griet to pose for one of his paintings, arousing the jealousy and ire of Vermeer’s wife and family.

Webber constructs a glorious vision of the period, full of soft, delicate light. Drawing on Vermeer’s practice of painting female subjects looking out at the viewer, the film draws us into Griet’s point of view through Johansson’s subtle, mesmerizing performance and her wide-eyed, full-faced beauty. And she is matched by Firth, who suggests the restraint demanded of Vermeer by a society which he so beautifully made the subject of his paintings.

Gifted Class
It's this same nostalgic spirit that led Peter Webber, a veteran of British TV dramas and documentaries, to make his feature debut with Lions Gate's "Girl With a Pearl Earring," the long-awaited adaptation of Tracy Chevalier's best- selling novel. 

Based on the Johannes Vermeer painting of the same name, the project came to Webber after a previous incarnation—with director Mike Newell and stars Ralph Fiennes and Kate Hudson attached—slipped through the cracks. Likening the transition from television to film to "slipping into a comfortable pair of shoes," Webber cast Colin Firth as Vermeer and an uncanny Scarlett Johansson as the peasant maid who inspired his famous painting.

"It's really a story about repression," says Webber, who mimicked the painter's elegant simplicity in depicting 17th-century Dutch culture. "We live in a world where very little is repressed, where sexuality is worn on people's sleeves, where every other film people are jumping into bed. I relished the idea of making a film where people can't do what they want and have a passion that's denied somehow. 

"Maybe it's because I'm a Brit," Webber jokes. "We're supposed to be repressed, aren't we?" (Scott Tobias, The Hollywood Reporter, 8/5/03)

Premiere's Fall Gems
Based on the best-selling 1999 novel by Tracy Chevalier, this fictional story about the relationship between the 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (Firth) and the servant muse in his famous painting (Johansson) is the kind of clothes-on love story audiences rarely see these days.  “You want them to be together,” Johansson says of the unspoken adoration her shy character feels for her married master.

First-time director Webber realized he wanted to make the film when he read the script’s sexiest scene, in which Vermeer pierces the young girl’s ear.  “I just thought, 'Oh my God, this is something I haven’t seen before,’” he says.  Firth ("What a Girl Wants") admits he was worried about how to portray the mysterious artist—who left behind a few dozen masterpieces, but no real self-portrait—but he’d come to terms with his own artistic limitations:  “I could do all the research in the world and never do an average portrait.”

CANVASSING THE MASSES: Webber would rather please fans of the book than art historians.  “It’s no surprise to me that there’s an awful lot of middle-aged women who loved this novel to death, “ he says.  “It’s a romantic drama.  We can’t go too highfalutin about it.”

[Click on poster for close-up image]

Canvas to Page to Film
In November, Chevalier's novel becomes a film, starring the British actor Colin Firth (Bridget Jones Diary, Shakespeare in Love) as Vermeer and Hollywood newcomer Scarlett Johansson (The Horse Whisperer, An American Rhapsody) as the mysterious "girl," whom Chevalier named Griet, and fictionalized as a maid who worked for the painter, and eventually became his muse.

"Every writer dreams about their book being made into a film. I had hopes for this because it's a very visual story, but I was also very nervous and somewhat ambivalent because so many books that become movies fall flat," adds Chevalier.

Shot last November in Luxembourg, the film was originally to star Ralph Fiennes and Kate Hudson. Kirsten Dunst was also reportedly interested in the role, but all fell through because of a lack of financing. As the book took off, the money for the film eventually firmed up. Chevalier says she's ecstatic with the actors who are playing the leading roles, adding that Griet is a tough character to play since her role actually has very little dialogue. "It's a very visual book, and a very visual film," the writer says. "Griet does a lot of watching, and very little talking. Scarlett plays it perfectly."

At the Banff session, Hetreed described the film as a domestic thriller. The first-time director Peter Webber calls it a movie about painting. But with a twist. "It's also about money and sex and obsession and power and repression watching people who want to shag each other's brains out and not being able to," he said recently. "That's much more interesting than seeing people do it."

Chevalier agrees, adding that it was intriguing to watch the actors inhabit her characters, and give them a life of their own. "Colin and Scarlett are very different from each other in how they approached their roles Colin became a complete Vermeer egghead. He travelled all over Europe to see Vermeer's paintings. He took painting lessons and learned how to make his own brushes and grind his own paint. He was very engaged in the script."

Very little is known of Vermeer, who died at 43, bankrupt, and leaving behind a wife, 11 children and 35 paintings. Chevalier says Firth, 42, read everything he could lay his hands on about the artist. "And I thought, yes!" Because he became obsessive in a way that I believe Vermeer would have been obsessive about his paintings.

Thankfully, Johansson, who was sporting a mullet at the time the movie was shot, hid that hairstyle under the servant's headscarf. (Gayle MacDonald, Globe and Mail, 6/25/03)

Dressed in a turquoise corduroy suit and sporting a shoulder-length mop of hair, the great Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (Firth) is in the midst of a turbulent domestic scene with his wife (Davis), who has discovered that the servant girl, Griet (Johansson), has modeled for him—wearing her earrings. Quite a scandal, if you live in 17th-century Delft.

"It's a film about painting," first-time director Webber says on the Luxembourg set of Girl With a Pearl Earring, an adaptation of Tracy Chevalier's 1999 best-selling historical novel that imagines a liaison between the artist and the subject of the eponymous painting. (Kate Hudson and Ralph Fiennes were originally set to star until early financing fell through.) "But it's also about money and sex and obsession and power and repression— watching people who want to shag each other's brains out and not being able to. That's much more interesting than seeing people do it."

Little is known about the Dutch master, who when he died at 43 left behind a wife, 11 children, and 35 paintings, but virtually no record of himself. Firth's suit and coiffure are the filmmaker's improvisations. Is the hair real?

"No," says the self-deprecating Firth (Bridget Jones's Diary), fondly twisting a strand. "I think this is probably no longer possible." The actor, who says he fell in love with the painter's work when he saw Young Woman With a Water Jug at the Met several years ago, admits that he has become a bit of Vermeer nerd. But gathering trivia hasn't helped him to demystify the artist. "I would love to know what Vermeer looked like, and what he had for breakfast, and what he sounded like when he spoke," says Firth. "I'm dying of curiosity. But it wouldn't help me get any closer to his pictures."

Johansson (Ghost World), on the other hand, in dyed-blond eyebrows and period clothes looks uncannily like the subject of the famous painting. She also adopted a British accent. "I'm just trying to avoid sounding like a complete asshole," she says. The young actress is relieved to be shooting this under- stated love story in Europe, and that it's not a typical American production. "It would be completely hellish to have the pressure of putting on a Hollywood ending, or putting in a scene where Vermeer sees Griet washing her breasts." 

[Set Fact: "I have a mullet," Scarlett Johansson says of her new hairstyle, which works well under the headscarf that her character Griet wears throughout the film. "So it's not exactly a period cut."] (Kirsten Hohenadel, Premiere, 5/03)

He dons a paint-spattered smock to play the 17th-century Dutch painter Vermeer but Colin Firth is no artist. "I used to paint a bit when I was younger but you could give me a lifetime of lessons and I'd still never be able to produce a Vermeer," he admitted at the opening night of The Three Sisters— starring his English Patient co-star Kristin Scott Thomas—the other night.
"Luckily, I just have to look like I can hold a brush and that's about it." However, in preparation, Colin, 42, fondly remembered as wet-shirted Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, has been travelling the globe to familiarise himself with Vermeer's work. "His paintings are all over the world. Hitler even had one. It's in Vienna and it's still got the Nazi swastika stamped on the back. Chilling." (The Express 4/7/03)

Cillian Murphy, fresh from the lead role in "28 Days Later," has joined the cast of "Girl With a Pearl Earring," along with Alakina Mann ("The Others"), Judy Parfitt ("ER") and Essie Davis.

This quartet rounds out the supporting cast of the movie, which stars Colin Firth, Scarlett Johansson and Tom Wilkinson.

Peter Webber is directing this adaptation of Tracey Chevalier's bestselling novel about the relationship between 17th century Dutch painter Jan Vermeer and his maidservant. Shooting will start Nov 18 in Luxembourg. (Variety 10/25/02)

Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson will star in the dramatic indie feature "Girl With a Pearl Earring" for director Peter Webber. Shooting begins next month, with Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson also starring.

"Earring," based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier, is about a peasant girl (Johansson) who is forced to work as a maid in the home of famed Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (Firth), where she eventually becomes the model for what would become one of his most famous works. Wilkinson will play the wealthy Van Ruijven, one of Vermeer's top patrons.

Pathe Pictures is producing the project, with Lions Gate handling domestic distribution. (THR 10/15/02)

Colin Firth is to take the lead role in new period drama Girl With A Pearl Earring. He will play the 17th-century Dutch painter Vermeer in the film version of Tracy Chevalier's best-selling book. It will be directed by Peter Webber.

Filming starts in Luxembourg in November.

Firth's co-star will be US actress Scarlett Johansson. (Ananova 9/18/02)

It is a great day for fans of Colin Firth. The actor, forever remembered as wet-shirted Mr Darcy in Pride And Prejudice, will shortly be back in period breeches in Girl With A Pearl Earring.

Colin...is to appear as the 17th-century Dutch painter Vermeer in the film version of Tracy Chevalier's bestselling book. It will be directed by [Peter] Webber and filming starts in November in Luxembourg. "The cast have only just been confirmed, " says our thespian source. "Colin's on board as the Dutch Master who died at the age of 43, leaving a widow and 11 children."

His co-star will, we learn, be American actress Scarlett Johansson, 18, who plays a servant girl who forms an "interesting" relationship with the impov- erished Vermeer (who never sold a painting in his lifetime). (Express 9/18/02)

[Scarlett] Johansson has also landed the title role in "Girl with a Pearl Earring, " the Lions Gate/Pathe picture that will co-star Colin Firth. That pic, based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier, nearly went into production with Kate Hudson and Mike Newell, but now Johansson will star for director Peter Webber. (Michael Fleming, Variety, 8/15/02)

  • Tribute Canada's interview with Colin and Scarlett at Toronto Film Festival
  • Tribute Canada's intertview with Colin alone at the Toronto Film Festival
  • MyMovies.net's page with the trailer, several film clips and video of the press conference and interviews with Peter Webber and Olivia Hetreed, the screenwriter
  • Terra's (Spain) article includes a link to an interview with Colin, Scarlett and Tracy Chevalier
  • The National Museum of Photography, Film & Television MP3 file of Colin, discussing the power of unexpressed passion.

Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a 16-years old Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Her calm and perceptive manner not only helps her in her household duties, but also attracts the painter's attention. Though different in upbringing, education and social standing, they have a similar way of looking at things. Vermeer slowly draws her into the world of his paintings—the still, luminous images of solitary women in domestic settings.

In contrast to her work in her master's studio, Griet must carve a place for herself in a chaotic Catholic household run by Vermeer's volatile wife Catharina, his shrewd mother-in-law, Maria Thins, and their fiercely loyal maid Tanneke. Six children (and counting) fill out the household, dominated by six-year-old Cornelia, a mischievous girl who sees more than she should.

On the verge of womanhood, Griet also contends with the growing attentions both from a local butcher and from Vermeer's patron, the wealthy van Ruijven. And she has to find her way through this new and strange life outside the loving Protestant family she grew up in, now fragmented by accident and death.

As Griet becomes part of her master's work, their growing intimacy spreads disruption and jealousy within the ordered household and even—as the scandal seeps out—ripples in the world beyond.

England-based Chevalier's first US appearance is another novel based on a painting of Vermeer....The tale this time is told alluringly indeed by the housemaid who sat as model for the painting in question. Griet is only 16, in 1664, when she's hired as a maid in the grand Delft household of Johannes Vermeer, who practices the Catholic faith and has a family consisting of wife, mother-in-law, cook, and 5 children (by story's end there will be 11). Griet's own faith is Protestant, and her humble family has been made even poorer since her father, a tile-painter, had an accident that left him blind. Hard- working and sweet-tempered Griet is taken on, then, partly as an act of charity, but the austere and famous painter is struck by her sensitive eye for color and balance, and after a time he asks her to grind paints for him in his attic studio and perhaps begins falling in love with her, as she certainly does with him. Let there be no question, however, of anything remotely akin to declared romance, the maid's station being far, far below the eminent painter's, not to mention that his bitterly jealous wife Catharine remains sharply resentful of any least privilege extended to Griet—a complication that Vermeer resolves simply through intensified secrecy. There's a limit, though, to how much hiding can be done in a single house however large, and when Griet begins sitting for Vermeer (his patron, the lecherous Ruijven, who has eyes and hands for Griet, brings it about), suspicions rise. That's as nothing, though, to the storm that sweeps the house and all but brings about Griet's very ruin when Catharine discovers that the base-born maid has committed the thieving travesty of wearing her pearl earrings. Courageous Griet, though, proves herself a survivor in this tenderhearted and sharp-eyed ramble through daily life and high art in 17th-century Delft. Another small and Vermeer-inspired treasure.  (©1999, Kirkus Associates)

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