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UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN

About The Production
"I mean, who wouldn't want to buy a villa in Tuscany? But the way my life has been going, it would be a terrible idea.'' [But then the light goes on in her head:] "A truly – terrible – idea.” (Frances, "Under The Tuscan Sun'') 

In Audrey Wells's screenplay – as in Frances Mayes's best-selling memoir – the central location is an iconic house in the Tuscan hills. But unlike in Mayes's book, this house was to play a pivotal role in the revitalization of a broken life. So when Wells traveled to Italy with her production team to scout locations for "Under The Tuscan Sun,” ‘Bramasole' – from the Italian bramare, to yearn for, and sole, sun – was of essential importance, the very epicenter of Frances' voyage. 

"We started by looking at many books about Tuscany and Italy to imagine what Frances' life was going to be like here,” says Wells. "From those references we looked for ways to visually manifest her inner and outer journey. We tried to make her discoveries of Italy, and Cortona in particular, evolve from the merely touristy to the nearly fantastic.” 

Once the team was able to locate Bramasole in all its sad-sack ruin and dreamy potential, all other locations – including the town of Cortona, the city of Florence, the bustling metropolis of Rome and the seaside village of Positano – would spread out from it like a ripple in the water. Surprisingly, the first house they viewed was the one they eventually chose. 

For Wells and production designer Stephen McCabe, Bramasole had to have the physical potential to accommodate and reflect the transformation of Frances over twelve months. In effect it is another major character in the story. "Bramasole represents Frances in many ways,” says Wells. "So we were looking primarily for a house that could take on that kind of change: a mysterious house with personality that could be physically transformed over the course of the movie. The house starts off in poor shape. It's like Diane's character. She arrives in a bad psychological state and then finds a new life for herself. So her transformation and the house's work hand-in-hand.” 

Apart from the house itself, the garden at Bramasole – which has to reflect the changing seasons and chart the passage of time – was another prerequisite in choosing the location. "One of the things that attracted me to the house was that there was an ancient garden there,” says McCabe. "It was very much in ruins but the bones of the garden were there. There were stone walls, overgrown plants, huge bushes of ivy and other very good visual features. So we had the bones of the garden and on top of that we had to strip that back and create, as it were, the abandoned garden: landscaping it in its old state. That also, like the house, had to develop and also simultaneously go through the seasons of the year.” 

Stephen McCabe made a number of visits to the real Bramasole where Frances Mayes, and her husband Ed, live. "It is quite a different kind of house from the one we picked,” he says. "It's on a very steep hill quite high above the road and its garden is a terrace, but it would have been too difficult to reproduce that. It certainly wouldn't have given us the flexibility that we needed for the shooting of the film. Again, most things were interpreted according to the script.” 

Once Bramasole was chosen, Wells, McCabe and crew were free to explore. "We were then able to look at the local small towns that had beautiful piazzas or the space we needed for the flag-throwing festival,” says Stephen McCabe. This proved to be Montepulciano. "Not only was it a spectacular town but it gave us the high views from the surrounding buildings that were needed to look down into the square for the flag-throwing event.” 

On other occasions, Stephen McCabe and his design team had to be more ingenious: if they couldn't find it, they would build it. A great ex

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