Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Gugu inspired by Jane Austen tales

Gugu Mbatha-Raw has said she took inspiration from Jane Austen's work for Belle

Gugu Mbatha-Raw has explained that she took inspiration from Jane Austen adaptations including Emma Thompson's Sense And Sensibility while making her film Belle.

The actress stars in the period drama as Dido, the illegitimate, mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy admiral who comes to live with her aristocrat uncle.

She said of the many film and TV adaptations of Austen's work: "I was a complete fan, I used to watch Pride And Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle every Sunday night with my mum. I also am a massive Emma Thompson freak and I loved the Ang Lee-directed version of Sense And Sensibility.

"In fact Amma (Asante, director) recommended I rewatch that film to develop the sisterhood dynamic between myself and Sarah Gadd. The Sense And Sensibility analogy we had for Dido and Elizabeth (Dido's cousin), we applied at different moments in the film and who's playing the big sister at which moment."

Gugu continued: "I love the Jane Austen period, it's very romantic. But also what Amma was able to bring out of this film that Jane Austen doesn't explore, is what was going on alongside it which was the abolitionist movement."

She added of being able to play the lead role in a period drama: "It's not just an ego trip, it's very nice to have the lead role, but I think it is important to tell Dido's story because it's inspiring and grounding to know for other bi-racial girls that they have a sense of history and to know your identity and have a historic place is important because then you can do anything."

Gugu said being squeezed into the corsets in Belle helped her to get into character.

She said: "The first 20 minutes [of wearing them] your ribs are going, 'Oh, my God what's going on,' and I used to get really hot because I think all my organs were rearranging themselves, but then you settle into it.

"They are quite tiring to wear because you don't take in as much breath, so it changes your body, it changes how you speak, even my voice was a little higher because I was breathing from a different place."

But Gugu added: "All of those technical things help as an actress because that was really how women dressed and really how they presented themselves."

Belle is in cinemas now.

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