Love and long­ing be­fore there was Sex and the City

Poet Emily Dick­en­son por­trayed by Cyn­thia Nixon

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - BUSINESS - Richard Crouse For Metro Canada

“Suc­cess is counted sweet­est, By those who ne’er suc­ceed,” wrote Emily Dick­en­son in one of the seven po­ems she pub­lished dur­ing her life­time.

Those lines must have played on the minds of the film­mak­ers be­hind A Quiet Pas­sion, a biopic of the reclu­sive nine­teenth cen­tury poet. Pro­duc­tion suf­fered set­back af­ter set­back while bring­ing the story to the screen.

Five years af­ter be­ing of­fered the role Cyn­thia Nixon said, “I never thought it would come to­gether. I thought, ‘Thank you for think­ing of me, it is a good part for me but I don’t see how you are go­ing to get this made.’”

The for­mer Sex and the City star of­ten thought about the project but claims she was never im­pa­tient at the film’s lack of progress.

“I started act­ing as a 12-yearold and I went to a very tough school and what that taught me was that when I was up for a job that I re­ally wanted and I didn’t get, I would think to my­self, ‘At least I don’t have to do dou­ble duty. I don’t have to do school and work.’ Now I have three chil­dren and am mar­ried. I run a house­hold so when I am not work­ing, I feel it less than other peo­ple.

“If you are in some­thing for the long haul you are not con­stantly tak­ing its tem­per­a­ture.”

It took years but Nixon and direc­tor Ter­ence Davies suc­ceeded in telling Dick­en­son’s story, bring­ing to cin­e­matic life not only the facts — she was reclu­sive and never mar­ried — but also the essence of a per­son with an in­sa­tiable need to ques­tion so­ci­etal norms.

“The ques­tions she is ask­ing as a per­son and as a woman,” says Nixon, “they are big ques­tions. How do I deal with all this love I feel? What does it mean to be in­ti­mate with an­other per­son? Will I lose my­self and do I want to lose my­self? I think she was so ahead of her time in think­ing these things were an op­tion, like whether she would marry or not. For her that was a ques­tion. It wasn’t like she was dy­ing to get mar­ried and didn’t. She chose not to. Whether she was go­ing to be a mother or not. These are ques­tions that women to­day deal with as a mat­ter of course but most nine­teenth cen­tury women would not have even stopped to con­sider.”

Nixon says Dick­en­son’s ideas and words have been a con­stant in her life. “We had a record at home of Julie Har­ris read­ing some of the po­ems and the letters. I would lis­ten to them again and again so some of the bet­ter-known po­ems and letters I learned by heart.”

Dick­en­son died 130 years ago but Nixon feels there are timely el­e­ments in A Quiet Pas­sion for to­day’s au­di­ences.

“If you think about the mid nine­teenth cen­tury in Amer­ica and you think about the is­sues we were deal­ing with in terms of women, it is a straight line from there to here. We’ve ob­vi­ously come very far but it is ex­actly the same is­sues. Are women go­ing to be treated equally?

She saw the jump be­tween the way things are sup­posed to be and the way things are, and she didn’t try to wall­pa­per over any­thing.”

CON­TRIB­UTED

Five years af­ter be­ing of­fered the role as Emily Dick­en­son, ac­tress Cyn­thia Nixon thought the film would never come to­gether, writes Richard Crouse.

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