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Ammonite - Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in first-look photo

Ammonite

Story by Jack Foley

PRINCIPAL photography has wrapped on Ammonite, with the release of a first look image.

The still features Academy Award® winner Kate Winslet (The Reader, Steve Jobs) as Mary Anning, and three-time Academy Award® nominated Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Brooklyn) as Charlotte Murchison.

The highly anticipated romantic drama, inspired by the life of the Victorian-era palaeontologist, is an original screenplay by BAFTA nominated writer-director Francis Lee.

In 1800s England, acclaimed but unrecognised fossil hunter Mary Anning works alone on the rugged Southern coastline. With the days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now searches for common fossils to sell to tourists to support herself and her ailing mother.

When a wealthy visitor entrusts Mary with the care of his wife Charlotte, she cannot afford to turn his offer down. Proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, Mary initially clashes with her unwelcome guest, but despite the distance between their social class and personalities, an intense bond begins to develop, compelling the two women to determine the true nature of their relationship.

This is Lee’s sophomore feature, following God’s Own Country, which became the most commercially successful feature debut of 2017 and garnered a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding British Film.

Iain Canning and Emile Sherman from See-Saw Films (Widows, Lion, Shame) and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly (Lady Macbeth, My Generation) are producing. The film is being co-financed by the BFI (awarding National Lottery funding) and BBC Films, with Mary Burke, Rose Garnett, Zygi Kamasa and Simon Gillis of See-Saw Films executive producing. See-Saw developed the drama with BBC Films and the BFI.

Joining the previously announced Winslet and Ronan in the cast are Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve), James McArdle (Mary Queen of Scots), and reuniting with Lee are God’s Own Country alumni Gemma Jones (Bridget Jones Diary) and Alec Secareanu (Baptiste).

Commenting on his inspiration for the screenplay, Lee said: “I first came across Mary Anning when I was looking for a fossil for my boyfriend. I was instantly drawn to this working-class woman who despite being born disadvantaged within a class-ridden, patriarchal society, rose to being one of the leading authorities in her field, but whose accomplishments went almost totally unrecognised by her contemporaries.

“She felt like a survivor despite all odds and I’m deeply drawn to characters within this context as they feel very close to me. There is virtually nothing written about her personally, largely because of her gender and class, but I knew I didn’t want to make a biography, I wanted to give her a relationship with someone that felt worthy of her.

“Within this I wanted to explore the dynamics of a relationship and how we navigate the sense of self within that. Above all, I wanted to make sure I gave dignity and respect to elevate Mary Anning to the status she should have had when she was alive. History for me is a creative discipline based on interpretations.”

Iain Canning and Emile Sherman continued: “Francis is unquestionably one of the most exciting and talented directors to have come out of the UK in the last few years. He is a writer director who connects with his material in a deep and sensitive way.

“We are delighted to be working with Fodhla on this special story with actors such as Kate and Saoirse who inhabit their roles and gift us performances that are both intimate and iconic. We look forward to sharing the film with audiences next year.”

Ammonite was shot on location in the historical hometown of Mary Anning – Lyme Regis, Dorset – and further locations in Surrey and London, with cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine (A Prophet, Rust and Bone).