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THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

Production Information
"Oscar Wilde must be one of the funniest writers of all time. He was funny a hundred years ago as a modern writer, and he's no less funny now, nor indeed any less modern.

In fact, I'd call him eternally modern. The freshness of his wit and vision remains breathtaking; and the fact that behind the glittering surface lies an enormous humanity is genuinely inspiring. True to the paradoxes that he is master of, Wilde is never more insightful nor profound than when his touch is at it's lightest.

So here's a story that is, as Wilde described it, a ‘delicate bubble of fancy.' The art – it seems - is as light as air, no matter that all the while it challenges our prejudices and berates our intolerance. It touches on themes of identity and social injustice without ever breaking sweat.

What I hope to do is capture the spirit and energy of the original and bring to it a contemporary vision and sensibility. There seems to me to be great opportunities on film to bring out and develop some of the play's latent qualities. It has been a very happy surprise in the making of the film to see how some scenes turned out to be more moving than I'd imagined. This is, I believe, because while film can lend scale to storytelling, it also allows a greater intimacy and insight into its characters' lives.

As a story of mistaken identity and incredible revelations, its roots in Shakespeare and Restoration Comedy are intentionally clear; but I am particularly intrigued by its specific relationship to A Midsummer Night's Dream. In both stories there are lovers escaping the rigours of the city. In the dream they enter the woods, while here the countryside is a land where anything seems possible, where love, the great transformer, is on the loose.

In developing this, I wanted to shed a little light on the fears and fantasies of the characters. I enjoy the chance to hint at the hysteria beneath some of these repressed Victorians, to highlight the strange passions that drive the women to insist on a certain Christian name for their loved ones. In fact, I sometimes see this story as a demand for the respect of other people's desires, however lunatic or ridiculous they may be.

Performances are clearly crucial in a piece such as this. I was keen to assemble a cast that would be undaunted by the language, whose individual charm would bring pathos to scenes that can become brittle. I was after actors whose quick wits would make the insanely witty dialogue seem, well, almost natural.

Overall, what fuels my enthusiasm for this project is Wilde's great generosity of spirit and his desire to entertain. And what I wish for, is that we can pass some of this pleasure on."

More than a century after his death, the wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde remains as relevant as ever. No one knows this more than director Oliver Parker, who first brought Wilde to film audiences with his lauded adaptation of An Ideal Husband in 1999: "I was incredibly encouraged by the way Wilde's work has such a contemporary feel," he explains. "The humor really hasn't dimmed in any way – a century on and his wit still has the same spark."

The Importance of Being Earnest began with a conversation between Harvey Weinstein, Oliver Parker and producer Barnaby Thompson at the Los

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