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UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN

The Script
"I wanted to make an ecstatic movie about heartbreak.” (Audrey Wells) 

Early in 2002,Audrey Wells began drafting her script of "Under The Tuscan Sun.” From the start, she sought to fuse her own aims with those of Mayes's book, pursuing, as she puts it, "a happy marriage of ideas.” 

Wells appreciated that Mayes had written "a very dense and poetic autobiographical tale about buying a Tuscan villa with her husband, restoring it, and becoming immersed in Italian life. Her writing is full of wonderful detail, personal meditations and atmosphere. The only thing her book lacks is the dramatic storyline that works for film.” 

Mayes agreed that a successful screen adaptation of her book would entail melding her work with Wells's ideas, which, however inventive, were entirely at one with the book's core themes of renewal, of making life an adventure. As it turns out, Mayes is an enthusiastic partisan of what Wells has wrought. "I was astonished to find,” says the author, "that Audrey created a storyline not present in my book, yet one in which I recognize my book, and myself. The film is very harmonious with the underpinnings of what I wrote.” 

Here again, a certain serendipity came into play. Recalls Wells: "When I first read the book, I was already in the process of working out an idea in my head for an entirely different script, one about a woman overcoming heartbreak. I realized, with some amazement, that my idea could combine elegantly with the world Frances described.” 

One bold structural move Wells makes, as a storyteller, is to leave the blood and guts of the dreaded divorce entirely off screen. We never meet Frances' husband. Our only glimpse of this man is as a ghostly blur in an old snapshot. What is clear in the photo is Frances' lost happiness. That was no blur. For the rest of it, Wells develops this tale of her broken heroine with exuberant lightness and speed. What matters from end to end is Frances, and her new adventure. Everything that went before was another life. 

A central experience in Wells's own life as a movie lover was Federico Fellini's 1957 Academy Award® winner for Best Foreign Language Film, "Nights of Cabiria.” "When I think of Giulietta Masina in that film, especially near the end – that is one of my favorite moments in all of movies. When she's been duped by a lover yet again, and this time has lost everything. There she is – destroyed. You think. But then, she picks herself up, dusts herself off, and starts to walk, all alone, down that road through the forest, and even then she finds a way to reconnect with life. She remains open enough to be touched by the sweetness of the young lovers and strolling minstrels who weave by, on foot and on their little motor scooters. You can just see it on her face that she's renewed, as she looks around, and even looks straight at us. She's going to live again. She's even going to fail again! And so what? That, to me, is absolutely transcendent.” 

What Wells sees is a hidden harmony between what we suffer, and what we must become. "I think painful things are funny,” she says. "That which hurts is the richest mine for comedy – those things that horrify you most, that scare you most. The road back from personal catastrophe is full of peril. It can be inspiring, a little crazed, and like all painful things, darkly funny. I wanted to look at this journey with attention and humor. 

"What the character Frances realizes in her journey,” continues Wells, "is that you have to keep saying yes, despite the chance of failure. Yes to experience, yes to the unexpected, yes to the thing you dread. Frances is not a Candide living ‘in the best of all possible worlds,' and neither are any of us. But she keeps going. The mere act of refusing to give up yields a tremendous good for her, in the shape of a new life. 

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