Joe Wright tackles Tolstoy in new 'Anna Karenina'

Getty Images File PhotoClassic lit reboot: Keira Knightley and Joe Wright attend a screening of the new film version of “Anna Karenina.”

Getty Images File PhotoClassic lit reboot: Keira Knightley and Joe Wright attend a screening of the new film version of “Anna Karenina.”

After making his metaphysical action movie “Hanna,” English director Joe Wright was faced with the question of where to go next. The answer seemed to drop right in front of him: “Anna Karenina.”

Leo Tolstoy's late 19th century novel had been filmed many times before, the most famous version being the 1935 Greta Garbo movie.

But Wright, in San Francisco promoting the film, said the Garbo movie was truncated in a way that compromises the lead character: “So many female roles are about being passive and nice, and gentle, and supportive, and all those roles that men desperately want women to be, but actually that's not how women are.”

#link_box { width: 150px; height: auto; margin: 0; padding: 0; margin: 10px 20px 10px 0px; padding: 10px; background-color: #fbfade; /* ecru – light yellow */ border: 1px solid #343a25; /* green – for summer arts */ float: left; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; } #link_box img, #link_box a { border 0px; border-style: none; outline: none; } #link_box h1 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #8A0808; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 12px; text-align: center; } #link_box h2 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #000; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; text-align: center; } #link_box ul { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; border: none; } #link_box li { margin: 0px padding: 0px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; } #link_box li a { display: block; padding: 5px 5px 5px 15px; /* Padding for bullet */ /* border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; */ color: #000; width: 100%; width: auto; /* height: auto; */ /* border: 1px solid blue; */ margin: 0px; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 14px; text-decoration: none; } #link_box li a: before { /* background-position: top left; */ } #link_box li a:hover { background-color: #ddd; color: #000; }

The new version allows for a more complex Anna.

Wright says he wouldn't have considered making the movie without the participation of legendary playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard.

“I agreed to do it if Tom would do it because I was… scared,” he says.

After a draft of the screenplay was completed, Wright had a breakthrough idea. Rather than a faithful adaptation, he would set his story in a theater, not just on a stage, but also behind the scenes.

Wright says the inspiration came from childhood memories of his parents' puppet theater.

“I always found that what was most exciting about the puppet theater was the behind the scenes, and the under the stage and the lighting rig and all those areas that audiences didn't normally get to go to,” he says.

He also says he attended a taping of “Saturday Night Live” and was fascinated by the efficiency of the quick costume and set changes. He decided to bring some of that energy to his “Anna Karenina.”

Then there was the challenge of finding his Anna.

Last year, Wright reunited with actress Keira Knightley, who starred in his “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement,” for a Chanel commercial.

He says, “I thought, 'She's really grown up. There's something different about her.' She went through a bit of a dark time, as we all do, and has emerged stronger and yet more vulnerable at the same time.”

Knightley seemed to understand the character’s emotions and behavior – her sexuality, and how she mistakes lust for love.

“All of these things Keira has a kind of honesty about,” Wright says. “And I find that inspiring, and deeply humbling.”

artsentertainmentKeira Knightleyleo tolstoyMovies

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faced with surge in shootings, Chief Scott reenvisions SFPD’s Gang Task Force

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

Stores including Walgreens and Safeway are required to pay their employees additional hazard pay under a city ordinance that is currently set to expire later this month. (Shutterstock)
Grocery workers could gain additional weeks of $5 per hour hazard pay

San Francisco will vote next week on whether to extend a law… Continue reading

The fatal shooting of San Francisco resident Roger Allen by Daly City police on April 7 prompted protests in both cities. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Daly City approves body-worn and vehicle cameras for police after fatal shooting

Daly City officials on Wednesday approved body and vehicle cameras for police… Continue reading

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays attends an event to honor the San Francisco Giants' 2014 World Series victory on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Willie Mays turns 90: San Francisco celebrates the greatest Giant

By Al Saracevic Examiner staff writer I couldn’t believe it. Willie Mays… Continue reading

Ja’Mari Oliver, center, 11, a fifth grader at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, is surrounded by his classmates at a protest outside the Safeway at Church and Market streets on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in support of him following an April 26 incident where he was falsely accused by an employee of stealing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
School community rallies behind Black classmate stopped at Safeway

‘When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us’

Most Read