The Sylvia Plath Forum

Ted and Sylvia discussion: January-September 03

Elaine and Stephanie - I'm not sure what this says about me, but I found Sylvia very likeable and sane in her Journals. She's extremely witty and during her darker periods (which who among us didn't have those between the years of eighteen to the late twenties?) had tremendous insight into the inner workings of her mind. The understanding and effort she put into conquering the fear she felt as a new Smith teacher was admirable. There's also a lot of levity in the Journals....something that's not readily apparent in her poetry (although there are exceptions.) Small examples...her amusing description of schlepping around the apartment in peach nightgown and red socks and mocking humor about her chances of winning a slogan contest or getting a poem/story published. The Journals abound with her sheer gaiety of everyday life. Other than the later poems, I feel the Journals were her greatest accomplishment.

Sacramento, USA
Saturday, September 27, 2003

My God! I've read so many things about the film that I don't know what to think or what to expect. Well, I'll try to sit down in the cinema with the minimum of prejudices... though it'll be hard: I love Sylvia too much. And, well, Gwyneth's not such a bad choice, after all -- just imagine if it were some kind of Juliette Lewis (or the like) playing Sylvia!! :)

I think I'm going to make a flashy trip to London in order to watch the film in English, just to make sure about the accuracy of accents and all this. It sounds crazy, I know, since I live in Barcelona, but just think about the situation: The film here will be dubbed in Spanish, so it'll miss a great part of charm and interest; and I'm quite afraid they're not going to show it in the original version in cinemas. Almost no one here is interested in the matter.

So, can you please someone tell me the date when the film will be in London cinemas? I'll be really grateful. Thanks in advance!

Barcelona, Spain
Saturday, September 27, 2003

I absolutely cannot stand Gwyneth Paltrow. It saddens me that my favorite poet will be introduced to masses of Gwyneth fans - knowing full well they couldn't give a fig about poetry, or introspection.

I doubt seriously if the film will deal with Sylvia's tragic end. I have seen the trailer and there isn't the slightest indication that this is anything more than a Hollywood romance flick.

I only wish that they had cast someone more fitting to immortalize Sylva Plath on celluloid. Now anyone you mention Sylvia Plath to will think to themselves - "Oh yeah, wasn't there a film with Gwyneth Paltrow in it about her?"

Jennifer Huber
Orlando, USA
Saturday, September 27, 2003

To those who have voiced their concern that Gwyneth Paltrow might not have been the best candidate to play Sylvia Plath, look on the bright side. Her casting has to be far better than having David Carradine play Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory. There was absolutely no resemblance between the two. And if I'm not mistaken, Bound for Glory, was nominated for an Academy Award! That's Hollywood for you. On the other hand, if indeed Ms. Paltrow has not attempted Ms. Plath's Massachusetts accent, that will be very disappointing. I don't know how Tom and Viv was received in the UK, but I believe William Defoe deserved a lot of credit for his total portrayal of T.S. Eliot.

James Keane
Pompton Lakes NJ, USA
Monday, September 22, 2003

I know just what you mean about finding Plath unlikeable in her Journal Stephanie. I found it very difficult indeed at times to read and there can be few people who admire her poetry more than I do. Another admirer said he felt as he had been, "closeted with a lunatic for two hours" when he first read them. I doubt very much if this dislike will impede Gwyneth Paltrow's performance.

Hebden Bridge, UK
Monday, September 22, 2003

Actually, Laura, there is poetry in the film. Under the fair use notice they were able to use some of her poetry...just not as much as they would have liked to. Regardless, getting a tiny tidbit of Plath's poetry will hopefully inspire people to go out and get The Collected Poems and realize the different colours of Plath's work themselves.

No one is 100% happy with *anything*. Paltrow is too blond....Craig is too short...I mean, honestly, they can't mirror Plath and Hughes completely. They are simply trying to portray them to the best of their ability. It seems though, that so far more people are seeing the good in the film rather then the little details that some people are picking out and assuming that the film is going to be bad.

By the way, the film will be closing the London Film Festival on November 6th of this year. Tickets can be bought online starting October 9th on the London Film Festival website (especially good for those in the UK who have to wait until January for a general release).

Interestingly, I have a good understanding of Plath, yet, I found her incredibly unlikable in some of her journal entries. It's just like knowing someone in real life...there are things you like about them and things you don't. Just because Paltrow might have found her somewhat unlikable does not mean she has a limited understanding of Plath as an artist. I also don't think Plath was that "dowdy". They have her hair style down to a T in the film during her "matronly" style hair cut period of the I don't think the film-makers have done a bad job at all in attempting to interpret Plath's general "look".

Ottawa, Canada
Monday, September 22, 2003

The preview looks, well, very disappointing. The party that they meet at seemswholly unlike what Sylvia describes (which was a rather beat-niky drunken poet-fest, complete with wild rock music and twisting), and the whole preview comes off like a standard Hollywood love story.

Also--Gwyneth is just all wrong--much too blonde and pretty, and she doesn't even attempt to nail Sylvia's MA accent, which is well recorded by her readings at the BBC--she sounds like a gushing young Hollywood actress instead of an educated intellectual.--the scenes of Jared Harris intoning " you're soooo beautiful"--when in fact, one of the most important aspects of the story is that Sylvia lost her girlish beauty after having two children, which certainly played a part in Ted's infidelity--and which is another reason why feminists related to her---as Sylvia's girlish beauty waned, her genius grew and flourished--and her husband left her for a more exotic model--and it's worth noting that after Assia had a baby and gained weight and aged, he cheated on her as well. But Gwyneth, appear on screen looking dowdy and maternal? Never.

And Daniel Craig is just too short to play Ted Hughes--he has none of Hughes's towering charisma--still (sigh) I'll see it. and just hope against hope that Gwyneth had the slightest understanding of the woman she portrayed (although, since she admits in her Vogue interview that she couldn't read all of Sylvia's journals because "they made me not like her", I don't think the odds are in her favor). and the lack of use of Sylvia's poetry in the film will be a huge detriment--how can the viewer appreciate Sylvia's genius if they can't hear or experience the poetry?

Laura Dawn
Saturday, September 20, 2003

Today's (Sept. 17) Drudge Report has a link to a short article on Paltrow playing Plath with a rather steamy photo of Paltrow and Craig as Plath and Hughes floating around in the ocean in a semi naked embrace. According to the 'This is London' article, Paltrow's role as Plath is a departure from her usual, "slightly prissy" roles. I still am wondering, however, why this film didn't play at any of the recent film festivals, like Toronto or Venice. Focus Films is currently in the spotlight as 'Lost in Translation' by Sofia Coppola is getting great reviews.

Detroit, USA
Wednesday, September 17, 2003 ate

I thought the trailer looked enticing. Maybe she doesn't look exactly like her - but pretty darn close, and the rest is where "acting" will hopefully come in. Perhaps it won't be the 100% artistic endeavor some people want -- but, it will be fun/interesting for many admirers like myself to see a part of her "come to life." I for one can't wait to see the film, and realize that this is not the end-all interpretation of Plath. Just the creation of many people who were also obviously moved by one of her many facets -- be it the poetry or the drama of her life. :)

Mystic, USA
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Actually, Stephanie, despite the rather minor "details" you have mentioned concerning the film...from what I've been told, it has been extremely well received at screenings and apparently, Paltrow is supposed to give an amazing performance.

Ottawa, Canada
Sunday, September 14, 2003

While I agree wholeheartedly that Paltrow was not a good candidate to play Plath, nevertheless I think it would be a challenge for any actress to authenticate this role. Nicole Kidman would not work either. Hmmmm? Angelina Jolie would have been a better choice, given the options. I think Hollywood should have waited to make this film until it found an actress that fit.

Irene Mcmurdock
Anchorage, USA
Sunday, September 14, 2003

I don't believe that Paltrow was the best possible candidate to play Plath. The trailer for the movie shows Paltrow blonde half the time. In life, Plath's predominant, natural hair color was light brown -- with exception to the short period where she opted for a change and went platinum blonde.

Another thing that bothers me is Paltrow's physical appearance. She looks nothing like Sylvia! Plath often refers to her nose as "fat" (The Unabridged Journals), which contradicts Paltrow's cutely mouse-ish nose. Also, Plath didn't have the blue eyes that Paltrow displays for the movie (Paltrow could have worn contacts).

When your portraying a deceased figure the least you can do is correlate appearance as closely as possible.

Case in point, Selma Hayek who portrayed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo -- Hayek's resemblance to the great painter was quite striking and believable. Then there was Jennifer Lopez who played the famed Tejano singer gunned down, Selena. After watching that movie I could hardly distinguish between the two, I was so absorbed.

Frankly, casting could have put more effort into finding the appropriate Plath. Just because Paltrow is an award winning actress doesn't mean she'll awe us with an award winning performance.

Woonsocket, RI, USA
Thursday, September 11, 2003

The trailer for Sylvia is here

Boston, USA
Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Love Again, the recent BBC television movie about Philip Larkin, proved that the lives of poets can be translated into first rate film making. It certainly helped that Hugh Bonneville and Tara Fitzgerald looked a lot like Larkin and Monica Jones. In fact the quality of the acting was excellent. However, the best thing about the film for me was the recital of several of Larkin's poems at various stages throughout the film, because the drama was able to place the poems within their biographical context. In this respect it is a great pity that Frieda Hughes has not given her permission to the makers of Sylvia to use any of her mother's poetry in the film. Poems such as 'Morning Song', 'The Bee Meeting' or 'The Disquieting Muses' could have fitted perfectly into a biographical drama of Plath's life.

Wakefield, UK
Thursday, September 4, 2003

Movie artI'm not sure, but the "Sylvia, Interrupted" poster design seems like an attempt to tie into the the McLean/Susanna Kaysen mental institution saga, even though the setting is a few years off.

T. Clair
Northport, NY, USA
Friday, September 5, 2003

Having just caught up with the film discussion, I've one reaction: Folks, just give it a break until we see the film! The time to pick it apart is after we've viewed it.

At least two contributors said, in essence, we all have our own vision of what should be based on our individual reading of the poems, journals, even the biographies. The film will be yet another vision, which we can condemn or applaud.

To condemn in advance is simply silly!

Miriam Korshak
Houston, TX, USA
Wednesday, September 3, 2003

I do not like this poster at all! To have the entire poster be a closeup of Gwenyth Paltrow's face (lovely as it is) with a knowing smirk is not going to help bring people into the theatres. I was expecting some reference to the love story. Not only are people who see this poster going to have no idea what this film is about, they are not going to be the least bit curious. I have a hard time believing this poster will get filmgoers to want to find out more about this film. The producers had better hope they get great reviews so they can put some quotes around that unappealing smirk.

T.C. Smith
New Orleans, USA
Sunday, August 31, 2003

SylviaThe poster for SYLVIA is now up on Focus Features website:

Boston, USA
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

This is my first time posting on the forum, but I do have a few comments. First, in response to the concern that the upcoming film will divert some from the poetry and to The Bell Jar, it was this novel that developed my interest in Sylvia Plath. Before reading the novel, I was not interested in much of her poetry because I had only read what my high school English teachers chose to share. I feel that readers of The Bell Jar, when they learn that the novel is largely autobiographical, will want to investigate Plath's genius much further than The Bell Jar allows.

I plan to see the film and cross my fingers that it is not horrible.

Nitro, WV, USA
Monday, August 25, 2003

Elle magazine counts the collaboration of Paltrow and Jeffs as one of the highlights of this fall season. There is a new still of Jeffs and Paltrow (in costume)in the September issue of the magazine. They talk about Jeffs' film Rain and how it dealt with the destruction of a marriage and compare it to Plath's relationship with Hughes.

Also, keep an eye out for Paltrow on the September cover of Allure magazine.That featuire article should leak some additional information about the film.

Lastly, I have to say that despite the fact that Focus has been distracted with Lost In Translation -- I am thrilled that Sylvia is a Focus film. I am much more excited about the film knowing that it is in Focus's fall lineup rather than say Miramax's. I don't think I could handle another Gwyneth Oscar campaign done by Miramax's publicists.

Boston, USA
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The On-line version of the Guardian has an article on the upcoming Sylvia movie (long on the technicalities of screen writing and movie making, but interesting none the less) and a shorter article on a "secret" shrine to Ted Hughes.

Thanks to Pat Stevens, Kate, Michael Gates, Kristina and Stephanie for also sending the Guardian link.

Claudette Coulter
Dayton, OH, USA
Friday, August 22, 2003

I am here with my two cents due to the influence of this upcoming movie. As a total fool for Gwyneth, I tend to research anything in which she's involved. This time, I found a gem. Sylvia Plath seems quite amazing. And this from only reading some of the journals (82 version edited by Ted), and Bitter Fame.

Normally, I'd agree that movies tend to warp and distort in the quest for the change, and the masses, in this case, can't handle the truth. But once in a while, the wide appeal of a moving picture captures the eye of one who would otherwise be blind. And I've become an admirer and fan of this tragic genius that your fine group already celebrates, so thank you.

Eddie Correa
Phoenix, USA
Friday, August 22, 2003

Hi I havent posted here in ages. I dont plan to see the film but I was wondering a couple of things:

1) Is anyone else not going to see the film?

2) Aren't you afraid it will make her "trendy"? I'm afraid that this film will enhance her cult figure status. Fortunately its target audience is not my age group, but just like 'The Hours' did to VW, this movie will probably put Plath back on the best sellers list for a few weeks. I'm worried that people might not check out the poetry like they will The Bell Jar.

Boston, USA
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Entertainment Weekly's fall movie preview issue gives a relase date for Sylvia of October 17. The issue includes a sentence or two about the movie and a photo of Paltrow and Craig. In the Oscar Buzz section, EW mentions Paltrow as a possible nominee for her role in the film.

Stacey Greenwell
Lexington, KY, USA
Saturday, August 16, 2003

Hi All,

Capitol Films has a couple of new pictures from "Sylvia" online (small, unfortunately) and they can be see here

Hi Kate, Yeah, I've been thinking that all along about Focus and their lack of promotion for the film. Many people, on many boards have been inquiring about a trailer. I'm guessing that once "Lost in Translation" is released in September (also by Focus) then a trailer for "Sylvia" will become available since it is Focus' next release after LIT.

Apologies for the typos in my last's embarrassing to read all the mistakes! :)

Ottawa, Canada
Saturday, August 16, 2003

Additionally, Premiere magazine has a blurb and a new picture from Sylvia in their latest edition. I plan on scanning the picture on Monday (power outages here!) and will post it for those that can't get a hold of Premiere.

Also, there is an article called "Real-Life Stories: The Challenge of bring Fact-Based Dramas to the Screen" and there are some blurbs from John Brownlow, about writing "Sylvia". You have to scan through the article to find his comments:

Here is a link to an interview with John Brownlow where he also mentions Sylvia

Ottawa, Canada
Saturday, August 16, 2003

The September Fall Movie issue of Premiere Magazine has some news on Sylvia. There is also a new still from the movie. Their interview was done mostly with Christine Jeffs and Daniel Craig.

I am surprised at the lack of promotion so far for this movie. Focus Features is keeping very quiet on this one -- in comparison to what they did last year for Possession. With the release date only two months away -- I would have expected to see a trailer by now.

Boston, USA
Thursday, August 14, 2003

I'd like to point out the increasing trend of readers looking down on those attracted to the screen rather than the page. If this were a book we would have less bias - and possibly read it before giving judgement, as everyone seems so eager to do. Which brings up the question of why. What is the difference between movies/television and books? Both are forms of entertainment - and, so was Sylvia's work, entertainment. She was an entertainer as a writer, and by writing about her own life, she was making that entertainment too. So there can be nothing wrong with making a movie - even if it be false, it will definitely make Sylvia's name and work even more well known and appreciated. Thus I would not boycott this movie - I am interested in what "Hollywood" thinks of the Sylvia we all know from her journals. I suppose I'm not "sincere in my allegiance to Sylvia's life" as according to Jenny's post on the 4th, but Sylvia's dead, and I'm sure she won't mind.

I'd also like to comment on everyone's seeming hatred of Paltow. It doesn't seem to be that big of a deal to me - let's not forget that Paltrow is merely a woman, she is not trying to replace Sylvia, she's just going to be her image for a while. One actress is much like another.

Florida, USA
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

I am not harboring high expectations for "Ted and Sylvia." I've begun to believe that the only true account of the marriage of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath is in Plath's poetry and the Plath biography, "Bitter Fame." The more recent "Wintering" had some marvelous moments of insight into the sense of spiraling and isolation facing Plath that last harrowing few months of her life and it also made Dido Merwin seem like a supreme witch. Whether Merwin was a witch or Hughes was guilty of numerous infidelities before finally leaving Plath for Assia (who, distraught, overweight and possibly haunted by Plath's suicide, killed herself five years after Plath), the facct remains that Plath could not have been an easy person with whom to live.

Depressive people aren't a lot of fun to be around; depressive people with obsessive traits are event tougher. That doesn't exonerate Hughes for adultery, but neither does that make him the incarnation of evil (which I understand is the characterization of him in a current play about Plath and Hughes called "Edge," I believe).

It's interesting to me how later generations adopt and/or coopt long-dead icons in an effort to get closer to their lives while seeming to overlook the most obvious point-of-reference, the work, the canon - if the person was a writer.

This latest coopting of the "passionate love story" of Plath and Hughes will have all the high points, but will it get the finer points, the ones that invariably are extracted from any biographical film because they're just not interesting enough? If this film is meant to be a womb-to-the-tomb of the Plath-Hughes relationship, it may have enough film length to exlore the deeper aspects of their marriage. I have the feeling, though, that the filmmakers are going to focus on Hughes' and Plath's short courtship and marriage, their joint decisions to quit teaching, Freida's birth and - boom - show everything going to hell with Ted Hughes' affair(s) and Sylvia crying to Dido (?) and appearing more like, well, a Gwynneth Paltrow character than Sylvia Plath.

I shall pay my $7 and walk away weary as I would from any movie which purported to be the true story and will actually be the true story with glamour lighting and embellishments to the truth to make the film palatable to what people want to see and hear.

Kansas City, USA
Tuesday, July 22, 2003 is reporting that the film Sylvia will open October 17 in New York and LA. No word yet on when it will open across the country or overseas.

Detroit, MI, USA
Friday, July 18, 2003

I terriby could not disagree more with Jenny and Frieda Hughe's right to keep her mother's material beyond availablility of filmmaking.

Deemed a story of "a passionate love affair between two great minds," Ted and Sylvia emerges from Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters. Published in 1998, this poem-sequence stands as Hughes's first and last stand regarding his tumultuous relationship with his first wife.

The Paltrow movie is only a ripple in yet another big Plath Kahuna. Thirty-nine years after her death, this spring also brings the publication of two new books, a memoir by the poet's friend Jillian Becker and a novel about her domestic life, Wintering, by Kate Moses.

Intellectuals, who are notoriously hostile to pop culture, have always beenaverse to the idea of a biopic, likely assuming the great Lady Lazarus could not possibly rise "Out of the ash" into something as insipid as a mainstream film.

Plath, however, was an avid consumer of trash culture. She expended a great deal of her genius writing inane stories about women changing nappies and gushing about matrimony for the magazines she called "the slicks"; in her diaries, she recounts dreaming that Marilyn Monroe appeared to her as her fairy godmother, and gave her an expert manicure.

I think Plath would have liked Paltrow to portray her -- a vain blonde, who once modelled sexy spring fashions, and whose lust for hot clothes was only marginally exceeded by her desire to be the kind of babe who could "eat men like air," she would have been flattered by the movie star's beauty and style.

Further, as a shrewd student, in her prose work, of authenticity, she would have appreciated Paltrow's almost demonically flat voice and utter lack of affect, which are just so "Sivvy" (Plath's nickname of choice).

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the long-dead Plath would have thought of the film: She forfeited her rights to such matters when she killed herself, dying intestate and leaving behind two children, who happened to be sleeping in the other room.

These two children, Nicholas and Frieda Hughes, have been largely silent about their mother. They are Hugheses after all, and the entire family's conduct is typically high-English: quietly suffering, sepulchral and guarded. Consider the Royal Family's squeamish relationship to their own Lady Die.

Frieda Hughes, however, is an artist and poet, who has recently made a tentative foray into the world of letters. In 1998, she published Wooroloo, a flawed collection that plunders from the work of both Ted and Sylvia, deforming it in the process.

Wooroloo's strong suit is its autobiographical elements, which are muted, for the most part. In the poem Readers, however, she expresses her stringent contempt for fans of Plath whom she accuses (in discomfiting verse) of having "fingered through her mental underwear." There are further distasteful references to her corpse mother's "withered thighs" and "shrunken breasts" -- comparing one's dead parent to a particularly awful piece of rotisserie chicken is, I imagine, one of the many unfortunate byproducts of being cruelly orphaned.

Suicide, however poignant its circumstances, is an act of vengeance, and one that demands a like anger, and ambivalent despair among its victims.

Recently, Frieda's loathing of Plath's devotees has centred on the makers of Ted and Sylvia. When the filmmakers approached her, she told them she would have none of it: "Why," she asked, rather sensibly, "would I want to be involved in moments of my childhood which I never want to return to?"

As the literary executor of Plath's estate, she denied all access to her mother's writing and, further, wrote a long poem about her distaste for the entire enterprise, soon to be published by The Tatler.

This poem, unfortunately, reads like an outtake from Wooroloo: a mishmash of Plath's and Hughes's writing, underlined by the proprietary venom the Hughes family has always wielded against interlopers, against anyone interested in a version of Plath that does not follow its own carefully circumscribed party line.

The following excerpt best expresses both the wrath of the woman and the artlessness of the poet: "Now they want to make a film . . . The peanut eaters, entertained/At my mother's death, will go home,/ Each carrying their memory of her,/Lifeless -- a souvenir./Maybe they'll buy the video."

"They think I should give them my mother's words," she continues, "To fill the mouth of their monster/Their Sylvia Suicide Doll."

The Sylvia Suicide Doll! Now there's a Chatty Cathy I can appreciate. Hughes's indignation is understandable; her grief unimpeachable. But her attempts to possess, in the tradition of the censorious and vituperative Hughes family, her own version of a Plath souvenir must be censured.

When Patricia Cornwell had the audacity to accuse painter Walter Sickert of being Jack the Ripper, his living family's objections barely registered. The Hugheses' continued hoarding of Plath is what has, in fact, made a "doll" of her; worse, that has reduced her to the ventriloquist puppet of a grieving and grievous family's complaint.

In Burning the Letters, Sylvia Plath writes of destroying her adulterous husband's "scum." She offers the papers to the flames and observes that they stain the air, "Telling the particles of the clouds, the leaves, the water/What immortality is. That it is immortal."

In the 1970s, Plath's tombstone in the Heptonstall churchyard was routinely attacked by feminists who would hack away at the name Sylvia Plath Hughes, believing she should reside beneath her maiden name alone, and locals are reported to fear that the film will encourage a new wave of vandalism. If Plath needs to rest in peace, she also needs, to cite one of Eminem's better tattoos, to "rot" or rest in pieces.

Engraved on her tombstone is a Sanskrit quotation that Hughes chose, as it is one that comforted her in life: "Even amidst fierce flames/The golden lotus can be planted."

Her tragic life, love and death notwithstanding, she remains one of the 20th century's most formidable writers, and those who appreciate her art understand, amidst the "jet" of her wise blood, that her immortality resides outside of the reach of living, in the intangible regions of the fires she started, and fanned.

Milton Milputz
Los Angeles, USA
Monday, July 7, 2003

At first I was all excited that there was a film being made on Sylvia. I have read her journals, poems and some biographies. I have connected with her in so many ways, and I still cannot beleive that she went through with her death. The thought of seeing a reflection of her on screen was enticing for me. But after I read about her daughter's wishes, I changed my mind. And if you really know Sylvia from her journals, I think you would come up with the conclusion that this is not what she would have wanted done with her life story. To me, the tragedy is too fresh. Sylvia had much love for her children and this would not be what she would have wanted. So if you are really sincere in your allegiance to Sylvia's life, I would boycott seeing this movie. The essence of Sylvia's writings went against this kind of thing.It would be better that the world does not come acquainted with the "hollywood" version of Sylvia. Having the world not know of her, would be better then that. Those of us who have taken the time to pour over her journals, know her to best extent we can without having met her. I am thankful for her and wish with all my heart that she would have beaten her disease. She is a real person, wrote as a real person. She is not a character in a movie. She is not entertainment. And I think that is why her daughter wishes her to stay within her journals.

Aloha, USA
Friday, July 4, 2003

I have been sent an email regarding the Sylvia Plath film apparently from Icon Film Distribution asking me to make a choice from the following 3 names: Sylvia, Ted and Sylvia, and The Beekeepers Daughter. There is also the opportunity for people to submit their own suggestions.

Helen D
London, UK
Thursday, July 3, 2003

Loved Daniel Craig in "Moll Flanders", but am concerned his head is just not huge enough to portray Hughes appropriately. (Hughes' head was massive, don't you think?) Perhaps talent will see him through....

Sue J.
BC, Canada
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

As an aspiring actress and huge fan of Sylvia I would never in a million years consider playing her. For a shallow actress like Gwyneth Paltrow and the team behind the film to actually think they could do her justice is ludiucrous and without the blessing of her children-have people no shame? No doubt they will romantasise the relationship as well, from the journals we can clearly see Ted Hughes is more of a Torvald Helmer than a Romeo, lets not pretend it was an ill fated romance, see it for what it was another short lived mis-matched marraige. From the Journals it would almost seem Sylvia married on the rebound from Richard Sassoon. Does anyone know if HE will be betrayed in this blasphemous film?????

Ciara Nic Gabhann
Monaghan, Ireland
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

This was posted on IMDB today re. Sylvia

Paltrow Reps Deny Poor Movie Reviews
Gwyneth Paltrow's representatives are angrily denying the Hollywood beauty's new movie Sylvia will be a critical flop. According to gossip website Pagesix, spies at the movie's production company have slated the film, in which Paltrow portrays suicidal poet Sylvia Plath. Speculation is also mounting over the state of her own mental health, with one source saying, "Gwyneth is really depressed about her career. She hasn't had a hit in a very long time. This is on top of the depression over her father's death." But Paltrow's spokesman, Stephen Huvane, insists, "We are doing an Oscar push for the movie which will be released the first week of October. Gwyneth saw the first draft of the movie and thinks it's the best thing she has ever done. We have already booked three covers of three major magazines - we are shooting one right now - to help promote the movie." A rep for Focus Films, the indie production house that's putting out the biopic, adds, "We are releasing Sylvia this fall and are very excited about it.

K Hathaway
Boston, USA
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

I am not sure about the validity of a film about the lives of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Authenticity is a problem in dramatising the lives of the recently departed. For instance, I am so familiar with the cadences of Plath and Hughes' voices from listening to audiotapes of them reciting their poetry, not only will the actors have to look like the people but they will have to sound like them too to be convincing. Also I hope Plath's death occurs off-screen. I found the Virginia Woolf suicide scene quite distasteful in 'The Hours' recently.

Wakefield, England
Saturday, June 7, 2003

Well, according to what I've been told, Kim, the financiers of the film have a say in what the title of the film will be and apparently "Ted and Sylvia" and others were vetoed in favour of "Sylvia".

Ottawa, v
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Re: the title of the upcoming film - I rented the Road to Perdition DVD this weekend, which co-stars Daniel Craig. His bio on the DVD Biography section says that he is starring opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in "Bitter Fame (now called 'Sylvia')." 'Sylvia and Ted' is awkward but it suits the film better than 'Bitter Fame' if the film is about the relationship between Hughes and Plath. If the filmmakers are just going to call the movie 'Sylvia', they might as well have called it 'Bitter Fame' which is a more intriguing title.

Detroit, USA
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Apparently, according to People Magazine, Gwyneth Paltrow will be doing publicity related stuff for "Sylvia" in I'm assuming more information will become available then :)

Ottawa, v
Monday, May 26, 2003

If anyone is interested, I found some photos of Amira Casar here. She is quite beautiful and looks to fit the role of Assia based on descriptions of her, although I myself have never seen a photo of Assia.

Sydney Kim
Hanover, NH, USA
Saturday, May 17, 2003

The Internet Movie Database has fleshed out the cast listing for Ted and Sylvia - Assia Wevill is played by Amira Cassar. I'm not familiar with her.

Alison Matthews
Okemos, USA
Thursday, May 15, 2003

I've been keeping watch on the imdb as well and am happy to see what an amazing cast the film has. Apparently, Amira Casar doesn't have a huge part in the film and only appears in a few scenes. I think, physically, she is well-cast as well, Kim :) Thanks to someone who has been very generous towards me...I hope to have some other information on the film soon. Right now, the film is currently in the "sound mixing" stage...and according to what I have been told, it will take about 4 weeks to finish that up.

My friend Sarah from England recently sent me a copy of the Observer (the interview with Daniel Craig that was posted from the Guardian) and I've scanned some pictures of Daniel Craig which can be seen on Marla Trayhern's Daniel Craig site at Here is another link to a picture of Daniel Craig and Gwyneth Paltrow dancing from "Sylvia" (new title)...I scanned that from the Observer as well and can be seen on my website here

Ottawa, v
Thursday, May 15, 2003

The IMDB now has additional cast listings for Ted and Sylvia. Besides Paltrow, Craig and Blythe Danner as Aurelia, and the mysterious Lucy Davenport as the engimatic Doeren, highly respected actor Michael Gambon is Professor Thomas (can't be too large a role), Jared Harris (son of Richard Harris) is Al Alvarez and Eliza Wade is Frieda Hughes. Amira Casar has been cast as Assia Wevill. She is 32, of Kurdish-Russian heritage, is an Irish citizen, was discovered by Helmet Newton and worked as a model for Chanel. She has appeared in many French films, and on stage, speaks several languages. If you type her name into a search engine you can pull up websites devoted to her which contain photos. Physically, I think she appears to be well cast. So overall, with the edition of Gambon, Harris, Danner, etc., the cast seems to be a strong one.

Detroit, USA
Thursday, May 8, 2003

I was walking down 82nd St. in Manhattan, and was given a flyer to see a preview of "Sylvia." What a wonderful surprise opportunity for someone with my devotion to the life and poems of Sylvia Plath. This was to be the first public screening to have taken place. I think Sylvia would be very pleased with this startling coincidence. It was as if Sylvia were speaking to me from the dead.

Well, I am not here to review the movie, although I will answer inquires about it. I have recently been reading "Birthday Letters" and am thrilled to finally get a chance to gain some insight on Ted's frustrations with his pyrotechnic wife. I believe some of this Ted "stream of consciousness" has found a place in the movie.

I often wonder that it seems like the romantic pinnacle to have two poets fall in love. Perhaps in their poetry, the Hughes-Plath relationship still gives credence to this thought.

Carlson Fitch
Tuesday, April 29, 2003

There is an article in today's edition of the Observer online about the actor, Daniel Craig, for those who are interested.

Heidi Maier
Queensland, Sunday, April 27, 2003

On reading your different responses to the prospect of the film Ted and Sylvia, I realise that the film will never fulfil anybody's expectations. It seems that we all have formed our own personal perception of Plath's personality, her relationship to Hughes etc. and no film is ever going to fulfil everybody's expectations. Somebody mentioned the importance of the portrayal of the characters and their relationship as more important than the choice of actor/actress, and I agree with that. Surely, we want a film which depicts the characters well and with a good story line.

I guess I just wanted to say that I believe a lot of people may be disappointed not because of the choice of actress, the story line or what ever, but because of the way we (Sylvia's fans) have been influenced by various biographies about Sylvia as a writer, a wife and a mother. Alongside her own work these other books have helped us create an image of what she was like, what her relationship to Hughes was like and how her struggle to be a successful writer was like, and thus no film is ever going to portray the real Sylvia or the real Ted, as the film and its script probably is based on other people's assumptions about them.

Helle Petersen
Copenhagen, Denmark
Sunday, April 27, 2003

With some crafty websearching I found an article from March 16, 2003 about Christine Jeffs, who directed "Ted and Sylvia" (soon to likely just be called "Sylvia")...she discusses the film as well as her first film, "Rain":

Ottawa, v
Friday, April 18, 2003

What is all this brouhaha about Gwyneth playing Sylvia? I think the real issue should have been that maybe her kids did not want that. The fact of the matter is maybe some of us will understand Sylvia. Perhaps there will be people who've never heard of her that will now see what we all in this forum love about her.

Sylvia was artistic and passionate but a big part of her life was also her mental instability. It controlled her and also gave her a view of the world that normal people would never see. This movie is going to give everyone who either did not know or did not understand Sylvia.

Think about Nicole's turn as Virginia Woolf and Nash in A Beautiful Mind.

It's movies like this that deal with the pain and reality of mental illness. I think it's important for we her fans to let this legacy be told. Now if they would only make a Sexton movie.

Los Angeles, USA
Sunday, March 30, 2003

Here is a link to a page full of pictures of Paltrow as Plath! Enjoy

Ottawa, Canada
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

A small bit from entitled "BBC Sells Sylvia Plath Project to Icon for UK" can be read here: The article says the film is now in post-production :)

Ottawa, Canada
Friday, March 7, 2003

Here is a link to the Harper's and Queen article on the film. Thanks to my friend, Sarah, sending me a copy from Britain I was able to transcribe this article for the benefit of those who could not obtain a copy of the magazine for themselves. Enjoy!

Ottawa, Canada
Tuesday, February 25, 2003

From Entertainment Weekly, 28 February 2003 issue, p. 55:

"Tim Blake Nelson is mulling over an offer to direct a film adaptation of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and considering Julia Stiles (whom he directed in 2001's O) to portray the suicidal poet. But the project won't reach the finish line before Ted and Sylvia, Focus Features' Plath biopic starring Gwyneth Paltrow, which opens this fall. Unlike the morose Bell Jar, assures a Focus spokesman, 'our film is romance, romance, romance.'"

Stacey Greenwell
Lexington, KY, USA
Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Certainly, FH and NH have the right to their feelings and privacy regarding their mother's death....I don't think anyone would ever want to intentionally or maliciously deny them of that. I think the problem has been FH's maliciousness towards, as I said before, anyone who tries to say anything about her mother (good or bad). Obviously when someone becomes a prominent public figure (or icon in Plath's unfortunate case) ...whether it be a literary figure or celebrity ...there will be public interest in that person's life. Plath is not any different then anyone else who "chose" (chosen for her, really) to live in the limelight and then has to deal with the flack that comes with it....the only difference is that Plath doesn't get to experience the fame herself and therefore, her family is burdened with the good and bad results of public acknowledgement.However, every article....every biography or anything that is promoting Plath as a person (including this film) is also, at the same time, promoting her work. Many people came to know and love Plath's work through a secondary source (a brief biographical clip in a newspaper or on the internet etc.) and then went out and purchased The Bell Jar or the Collected Poems. This film will act as one giant secondary source and a whole new "audience" will be turned on to Plath's genius (and Hughes). If anything the lack of Plath's poetry in the film will intrigue people enough to want to go out and purchase one of her great work....I think this would be the best result of this film.

Ottawa, Canada
Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Kim, while reading your post I suddenly realized (surprising even myself) that I am actually glad that the poetry is not going to be appropriated for use in the movie. Having lived with Plath's poems for so long, and having such a strong impression of them and such strong feelings about them, I wouldn't want to see them used in such a way as to diminish them or cheapen them or distort them in any way. Her poems are so personal and so emotionally charged that one would have to be very careful how they were handled. A clumsy use of them could make them come off as too heavy-handed, or too hysterical, too over-the-top and distract people from appreciating their beauty and their seriousness. I can imagine that the emotional tenor of the film, with its focus on the relationship, will probably be intense enough that using the very powerful poems as well (and you know that they would likely use the most infamous ones, like "Daddy") would be like hitting people over the head with these strong emotions. All in all, it may have been the prudent choice NOT to use the poems.

Jim Long
Honolulu, USA
Tuesday, February 25, 2003

I realize that this film discussion forum is supposed to be a light hearted romp, discussing Paltrow's suitability for the 'role' of Plath, etc. But I feel I must reply to Shannon's comment regarding Frieda Hughes, which says in part: "I know her mother left her and her brother by committing suicide but that was so long ago." I think it is essential to know and understand that the death of a parent - or a parental figure - at an early age is a life long, emotionally detrimental jail sentence. Just because Frieda and Nick were very young when their mother committed suicide, and just because it happened 40 years ago, does not mean that it is something they can just "get over."

The devastation of a parents death when you are a child lasts a lifetime, and it's repercussions are endless. Although my own parents are still alive, my mother's father and mother were like parents to me - my mother, father and I lived with them in their home for a year, beginning when I was a year old. My grandmother' death - from natural causes (although it was preventable) when I was 2 1/2 and my grandfather's death 9 months later - have had a deep effect on me, and on all my relationships, with men in particular, even though I am 37 years old at present.

Imagine the emotional impact of a parent committing suicide - effectively a 'willing' abandonment when you are young. Then imagine years later that same parent being appropriated by accademics, scholars and the general public, so that you felt your connnection diminshed in many ways. Look at Plath's own life long and ambivalent struggle with her relationship to her father who died when she was 8 years old. Frieda and Nick Hughes are absolutely entitled to with-hold permission for their parents poetry to be featured in this film or any other.

Will the film be poorer for the lack of Hughes and Plath's poetry? Quite possibly, though it is difficult to judge without seeing the finished work. But is that really what matters? To us, this is just a film, about a woman whose work and whose persona we love and admire, but to her children it is something very different. Please imagine your own mother, father or other loved ones being portrayed on the screen and what that might mean and evoke. Would you not feel your own relationship to them somewhat appropriated and diminished? And not for the first time - they have been dealing with their mothers appropriation by biographers and critics - and readers - for many, many years. What is left for them, seeing as they hardly were able to have any time with her themselves?

Yes, I have been critical of the possible hypocrisy of Ted Hughes and the Hughes children vis-a-vis their publication of Plath's journals - i.e. if you want Plath's privacy, publishing her journals hardly seems the way to go - but perhaps they had particular motives for doing so that we cannot know or understand. So, while we as not entirely disinterested readers might bemoan the lack of poetry in this upcoming film, that is not the most important consideration. Plath - and Hughes - might mean many things for each of us, but they are not our family or friends. While I personally might be interested in seeing a film about them, I cannot presume that my wishes or desires should supercede those of her children, who must still, 40 years later, feel deeply the devastation of their mothers death and the method in which it was accomplished.

Detroit, USA
Monday, February 24, 2003

For the love of God, can we please stop criticizing Gwyneth Paltrow's imminent performance as Plath _before_ it's even happened? It is already established that we are all Plath fans - we wouldn't be posting on this forum if that wasn't the case. That is already clear, but it does not give us the right to criticize her being chosen for the role. She is an Academy Award winner, that doesn't count for nothing, it actually means something. BBC's main concern with this film isn't to make it sell, if it were, they'd be hiring even more prominent actors and they'd put a lot more investment into it. But they're not. Even if this film turns out to be mediocre, they had good intentions.

Also, if this film does become popular, what is wrong with it drawing the attention of young people? It will make people want to learn more about Plath, whether it is her work or her life - is this a bad thing? It's elitist to assume that people who will become interested in her life after this film's release won't be "worthy" to follow it, and it's even more snotty to think that people will be following a "fad." After all, even if her life become a hot topic who are we to try and stop it? Sylvia Plath does not belong to us, she does not even belong to herself or her family anymore.

Back to the subject of the movie, even if someone else had been cast as Plath, the majority of Plath fans still would not be satisfied. How do you think Virginia Woolf fans felt when they received word that Nicole Kidman was cast as their beloved? And she did an incredible job, and is nominated for an Oscar, but they are still angry and annoyed.

Yes, we are all fans of Sylvia Plath, yes we all consider her among the greatest writer, yes, she is beloved in our hearts, but that should be enough. If the movie is total bullocks and if she is horribly misrepresented, at least we will know that. Oh well if that happens, she'll still be the same to us.

Sydney Kim
Hanover, NH, USA
Saturday, February 22, 2003

I still have mixed feelings about Paltrow playing Sylvia in the new movie. Sylvia Plath's writings (especially her journals) are almost sacred to me. What an amazing woman Sylvia was...and I'm having trouble understanding: why Gwyneth?

Everyone is saying she looks like her but she really doesn't, does she? Oh yes, they made her hair and clothes look like Sylvia...but I just don't think she looks like her or has the depth to play her.

I'm not sure who would be the right actress to play Sylvia.

I don't know if I even want to see the movie but I'm such a huge Sylvia fan. I know the BBC probably just wanted Sylvia's life to be known and getting a unknown actress wouldn't sell the movie. Believe it or not, there's many people out there that have no idea who Plath is. With this movie, at least people will know about her and maybe even pick up her journals. Let's just hope she doesn't become some sort of "cool fad" that people will follow.

As for Frieda Hughes--that woman is starting to get on my nerves. I know her mother left her and her brother by committing suicide but that was so long ago. It seems (by her comments I've read) that she still hates her mother. Why doesn't she just appreciate her mother's LIFE and the beauty of it, and not linger on her suicide.

Well, that was my 2 cents!

Shannon Petrick
Miami, USA
Thursday, February 20, 2003


In March's issue of Harpers and Queen magazine (British magazine... on sale now) there is an article concerning the film and from the brief synopsis that I seems that it must be quite lengthy and will probably contain some pictures as well. I believe this magazine is available in the US but I'm not sure. I havent been able to find it around here...but maybe I'm just looking the wrong place! :) Enjoy!

P.S: To Cameron, the BBC never said and never intended the film to only focus on the Plath/Hughes relationship. It really was Frieda Hughes who made this the case by not allowing them to quote from either Plath or Hughes poems. From what I've been told, they are devising other ways of showing Plath and Hughes' creative genius. Also, the shriek of the Ariel poems wasnt really of Plath's making (in my humble opinion..). If you take a look at the original way she had Ariel ordered before Hughes changed wasnt meant to be as dark and "suicidal" as it ended up being. Kate Moses used the original format to write Wintering :).

Ottawa, Canada
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

What an indictment it is on the BBC's unfinished adaption of Plath's life that it will centre on the dynamic of the Plath/Hughes relationship and not - rightfully - on the power of the poetry it produced.

Plath's death is important in context to her work and the way she affected it ensures the shriek of the Ariel poems hasn't dissipated 40 years on, but her suicide is no more grim (nor even impressive?)than any of the poetry borne out of the "blue hours" of her life.

Cameron Pegg
Brisbane, Australia
Saturday, February 15, 2003

Joey, of course I haven't read the script or seen a cut, I'd imagine that nobody on this forum has. However, I've seen the photographs, (bright, idyllic shots, all very Old England) and I know that the filmmakers do not have permission to use extracts from either the poetry of Ted Hughes or Sylvia Plath. I honestly cannot imagine how the film is going to explore the relationship between the marriage and the poetry, without falling into the time-honoured cliches of fevered scribbling, etc. If you can suggest how this is to be done in a way that honours the memory of Hughes and Plath, while not diminishing their achievement as poets, then please let me know. My point is that Plath and Hughes, rightly, are revered as poets. Everything else, the love story, the riding round idyllic Cambridge streets, all of that only gets in the way, and shouldn't be focussed on in a film.

You may well be right that my outrage at the film is all in my head, but it's an impression that initial signs have done nothing to dispel, and it makes me gloomy. That's all.

Kate Connolly
Manchester, Britain
Thursday, February 13, 2003

I'm just going to say something else about this, mostly because I'm bored waiting for my class to start but also because it seems to me that there is a lot of "crystal ball" action going on here. I mean, honestly, who knows if this film will be good or not? I could type on here until the cows come home saying that *because* the BBC is making the film it is bound to be a good movie and its the same for those who are very sceptical about the film. I'm sure most of them could post a million times over with new reasons why this film will not be good or will not highlight the good in both Plath and Hughes. Why not just wait until the film is released, go and see it and then judge whether it was well made or not? I mean, who can possibly say with all certainty that Plath wont come off being the victim and Hughes the monster and vice versa or that the film won't seem "empty" without direct quotes from Plath's work? The only people who could say for sure what the film is going to be like is the film makers themselves and its not likely any of them will pop up on here to defend their film.

"Have you read Frieda Hughes' poem? I don't know how anyone can argue with it. The very fact that she and Nicholas are so against it makes a far stronger case against the film than I ever could."

Funny, a lot of people *have* been arguing against what FH was saying in "My Mother" or at least, not totally agreeing with it. The 3 articles I posted are very good counter-arguments to Hughes' claims. The Hughes are against any view on Plath that is not their own or by any action that is not instigated by them. If Frieda Hughes has such an enormous problem with people "fingering" her mother's "mental underwear" as she stated in "Readers" then perhaps she should not have instigated the unabridged edition of Plath's journals for all to read. How much more personal can you get then that? I'm just wondering, Kate, if you have ever read a Plath biography? If so, did not you not realize that most of these have been met with much opposition from the Hugheses? The only one that didnt was "Bitter Fame" by Anne Stevenson and that was because Olwyn Hughes practically wrangled herself into the "ghost writer" position on that one. It seems to me that people will claim "insensitivity" when it suits them but don't mind taking a peek at Plath's journals or cracking open the latest biography or "fictional" account of Plath and Hughes' life together. I'm guessing that you won't be seeing the film afterall?

Anyone can understand FH's unwillingness to want to see the film and who can blame her? I certainly can't but honestly, she *had* a chance to put her ore into the making of the film and have her say about how it was made and she chose not to. You can't have it both way...choosing not to have a say and then bemoaning the film being made in the first place. Just as readers of Plath's work can't delve into her works, journals and biographies and then turn around and claim the film "insensitive" and that it shouldnt be made at all (afterall, its the same a different medium...what is the difference between this film and "Wintering" by Kate Moses or "Sylvia and Ted" by Emma Tennant...all are fictionalizing the Plath/Hughes relationship?).

Ottawa, Canada
Thursday, February 13, 2003

Kate, have you read the script, or seen a cut? If not, how do you know what the movie focuses on? What leads to you believe that the movie will not explore the relationship between the marriage and the poetry? You are getting all outraged about a movie that is in your head, which was my previous point.

Joey Stobart
Lincoln, England
Thursday, February 13, 2003

Here are links to several new articles in response to Frieda Hughes' interview and poem about "Ted and Sylvia"

The first one is "The tug of war over the Sylvia Suicide Doll" from the Globe and Mail:

The second is Plath and her privacy from The Telegraph

The third and last is Disturbing takes on a life in writing

Ottawa, Canada
Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Joey, I hear what you're saying, but really, it may be made with a reputable director, lead actress, and be financed by the BBC, but that's no guarantee of a fantastic film. I bet even Gwyneth Paltrow's produced a few turds in her time. Yes, the film addresses just one aspect of the lives of Hughes and Plath, the doomed love affair. Fine. It's not, however, the most important aspect. They were poets, first and foremost. This is, after all, why we're all so interested in them. I bet there's many comparable tales of romance and loss in people who didn't write, if the filmmakers could be bothered to trawl through the archives in search of them. Nobody would have known who on earth Plath and Hughes were, if it wasn't for their poetry, and that's their legacy, how they should be remembered and commemorated. We don't need some idealised travesty of the events of their lives. (and I think this is what the post about the Trinity staircase is all about) Have you read Frieda Hughes' poem? I don't know how anyone can argue with it. The very fact that she and Nicholas are so against it makes a far stronger case against the film than I ever could.

Kate Connolly
Manchester, Britain
Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I have been a Plath admirer since 1996. I have read her poetry and prose, Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters, several biographies, Letters Home compiled by Aurelia Plath, etc. The Bell Jar is one of the most compelling novels I've ever read because it allows the ordinary person to have a peek at what it must be like to live within the contorted, yet reasoned mind of a person who simply sees what others don't see. She makes little sense but at the same time, she makes a lot of sense. She realizes the futility of trying to show others how she feels, and since she is so distanced from others in every way, it is easy for her to yield to her apathy and to give up on life. I plan on assigning The Bell Jar in a course I teach at San Jose State University in San Jose, CA.

As Ted Hughes said, it is dangerous to get too close to Plath and to her way of thinking, because to understand her depression and her thoughts of suicide, is to come to the brink of insanity itself. One may just tip over the edge. That is the inherent warning.

Ted refused to speak of her or to grant interviews because he knew and understood her genius and her ability to make sense out of the unthinkable. He knew that she was able to define and describe and justify the very depths of depression and to relate and relay that to others in such a way that they would understand the mind of this woman and therefore, may sink into despair as well. Sylvia Plath had a way, an insight, into understanding madness, and that is the genius of her work. She made sense out of things that don't make sense. She could see the sense in what most people see as senseless. She knew how to see beyond what most see, and she understood more than most do. She had one foot in this world and one foot in another.

I especially enjoyed Janet Malcolm's The Silent Women, although I was annoyed with and frustrated by Emma Tennant's Sylvia and Ted. It is a confusing, bizarre oxymoron to write about real people's lives fictiously. Real-life and fiction are incompatible. Choose one or the other. It really is as simple as that.

I am excitedly anticipating the upcoming film, Ted and Sylvia. I was thrilled to learn last fall about the filming and I cannot wait to see it.

The picture of Frieda and Nicholas through this web site was a happy one. It was quite extraordinary to see them as they are today, instead of frozen in time in pictures from the early sixties. I was immediately struck by Frieda's resemblance to her mother and by Nick's resemblance to his father. Even their heights were comparable to their parents'.
I'm sure Ted and Sylvia felt that Frieda and Nick were their greatest accomplishments.

I am writing this on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sylvia Plath's suicide. I know that 40 years ago this night, she wanted to pay for the stamps she borrowed from her neighbor downstairs so that, as she said, " I will be right before God," when she met Him. I'm sure she was met with loving arms.

I enjoy this web site and will certainly check in from time to time. But, I do wonder how it is that some individuals have the inordinate amount of time to write many entries and at such length. That's dedication.

As I write my first novel, I am and will continue to be influenced by Sylvia Plath's work. Her personal life had it's many ups and downs and was a quagmire of emotional distress, but her professional life continues to inspire people even today and will for many, many decades to come.

Morgan Hill, CA USA
Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Hi Joey, Thats an excellent post and its nice to see that someone has a positive attitude about the outcome of this film. I do have something to add and it is this: Perhaps, if the film makers or their publicists took the time to get some new information out there about the film there might be less preconceived ideas being formed. All we know is that Gwyneth Paltrow is the *star* of the film and considering a lot of people don't feel she is an extremely good actress...that aspect alone can put a damper on the idea of a Plath film with Paltrow as the lead.Daniel Craig is not extremely well known (at least in North America) and therefore, no one really can judge one way or another what his portrayal of Hughes will be like (although "Road to Perdition" is being released this month so some people can sample his acting ability). Also, most of the publicity about the film has centered solely around can be seen from the many "tidbits" of information I post when I have access to them and I think that puts some people off as well. Obviously, specific aspects of the film can't be shared as that would render the film pointless...however, if a full cast list was known, so that people could see that there are other, very good and as you say, "non-Hollywood" actors participating in the film, more positive attitudes might be formed. I posted some new information someone kindly gave me concerning Michael Gambon and Jared Harris possibly being a part of the cast but even that was given in a sort of cryptic manner (meaning that it wasnt really said with absolute certainty). I enjoy being able to provide people who are enthusiatic about the making of the film with new information but it seems to me that none is really forthcoming and it makes the anticipation kind of dull out a bit.

I have observed many bad opinions about the making of this film, not only on this board but on a couple of other boards as well (not just Plath boards). So the scepticism is not confined to this board any means. I also think that Frieda Hughes' recent criticism on the film might change how some people feel about it as well. I guess I feel that it is better to have an open-mind and give the film a chance. Perhaps, when it is released I'll find out that I've been over-advocating it a bit (and then everyone can tell me how wrong I was and what an awful film it turned out to be :) ) but hopefully the outcome will be the opposite and it will do Plath and Hughes justice by portraying there lives fairly and as respectfully as possible (after all, it *is* the BBC making this film and I can't say enough about them!).

As far as the script is concerned....I hope it is, as you say, indepth and intelligent. I can't see the BBC (there I go again) picking up anything that wasn't top notch. Lets remember folks that this isn't Emma Tennant writing the script here and if it was I could definitely understand people worrying about the film's quality but obviously the people involved in this are dedicated (so dedicated they would try and hassle Frieda Hughes into having a say in the film). Even if Paltrow as Plath *is* featured on a "trinity staircase" and why would this take away from the film at all? Also, just because this is being marketed as a "love story" doesn't mean that their writings will be we all know, their union informed their writing to some degree (by the way, just because FH has denied the film-makers access to Plath's poetry does not mean that her genius cannot be portray in a creative manner). Thats my final 2 cents! :)

Ottawa, Canada
Saturday, February 8, 2003

I am very entertained by the number of messages to this forum which are attacking the film for what the writer assumes it will contain. EG "It must be a love story, so it can't deal with their writing, so it's got to be rubbish" or "I bet they're going to put her on a Trinity staircase - typical!". All this shows is a failure of imagination on the writer's part. You are attacking the film in your head. That's your head's problem.

Look, this isn't a 'hollywood' movie. The prime financiers are the BBC, with Universal's specialty arm Focus picking up USA domestic. None of the people who are making it, with the exception of Gwyneth P, are remotely 'Hollywood'. You can bet that GP is doing it for a tiny fraction of her normal fee. And those who attack her ability are presumably completely unaware of the amazing reviews she got in London for her stage appearance in John Madden's production of PROOF. I can guarantee you that if the filmmakers didn't have complete faith in her ability to play the part they wouldn't have cast her, star system or no star system.

The script has had one of the best receptions among film-makers of any script of recent years because of it's (I'm told) depth and intelligence. Moreover, anyone who has ever met Christine Jeffs or seen her movie RAIN would know that she is incapable of making a crass moment of cinema.

Most importantly you have to remember that a movie is a movie. They are not real people up on the screen. You can't stick a 35mm camera into the past and film reality and you wouldn't want to. Essentially a biopic of this nature is a dramatization of some aspect of a life or pair of lives. It can't encompass everything. All that you can ask of it is that it gets to the core of some truth, some nugget of understanding, about the people and events it depicts. That's how you should judge this movie when it comes out.

Joey Stobart
Lincoln, England
Friday, February 7, 2003

Here are a few interesting tidbits of information about the film. A lot of us have noticed the extreme lack of casting in this film (just check the Internet Movie Database) but I've found out that British actors Michael Gambon and Jared Harris (Richard Harris' son) have been spotted on the set and I'm guessing that MG will be Professor Thomas and JH will be David Wevill but I can't say for sure. Also, just as extra confirmation...I know for sure that Lucy Davenport is an extremely minor role. Doreen is just supposed to be a room mate of Plath's at Cambridge and only has a few lines (apparently she was based a little bit on Doreen in the Bell Jar). I've been told that Davenport probably entered her own details with IMDB and that is why her role appears to have been cast before any of the others. No word yet on who will portray Assia Wevill or any other information regarding the production.

Ottawa, Canada
Friday, February 7, 2003

I'm generally sceptical of films made from literature or biographies. I do love the medium of film, and think that great stuff can be made with it (and don't get me wrong - there are some novel adaptations and biographical films I admire greatly); but then film as an image-lead medium does have that tendency towards the sensational and the over-simplistic. If you want to make a 'nice' film, you'll pick those grand, amazing shots - and miss the subtlety that is often what makes a story or a life truly beautiful.

The film on Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes to me seems an excellent example. Point one: The mere fact that a film about Plath and/or Hughes has to be a film focussing on their love story. Surely this relationship was important in both their lives, but it certainly was not the only thing. You might just as easily have made a film of the 'Bell Jar' plot, for example. But of course, for Hollywood and the box office, love's the one thing. We've seen it before; just think 'Homo Faber', a metaphysical meditation on fate and the individual - the film Volker Schloendorff made of it is 'good', but it reduces the entire book to Walter's love story with Sabeth, making it essentially a film about doomed love.

Second: I actually used to live at Whitstead, the house where Plath spent her first Cambridge year. So when I heard they were shooting for a film here at Cambridge, I momentarily thought "Wow, I wonder if they'll do shots at Whitstead - how exciting it would be to see my old house on the screen!" But then it immediately occured to me that this was highly unlikely, for Whitstead is a rather plain building, not that photogenic and certainly not the residence your average American (or even Brit) would expect if you told him the film's protagonist was spending a year at Cambridge. I bet you they 'made her' live on some pompous John's or Trinity staircase for the film (which would be doubly inacurate, cause a) women were not yet admitted to these colleges in the 50s and b) graduate students don't live in college but in 'graduate houses' like Whitstead)! This fear was confirmed when I heard they'd been shooting outdoor scenes at King's, and that cows had been sent on the normally untouchable lawns of the backs (and for a start, anyone who knows Cambridge at all knows how ridiculous and out of place that is!). Well, could it really be that this was about the famous moment when Plath recited Chaucer to cows on a walk??? Because that would be a great pity indeed; this scene originally having taken place on the legendary Grantchester Meadows, and the magic atmosphere on the meadows having played a great part in its coming about. But in the logic of film, it would of course make sense to relocate the scene: Rather than the nondescript (if very pretty) Meadows, this way you can get a scenic background of the famous Cambridge 'skyline' into the shot!

Of course you may say that historical accuracy is not everything, and film does of course speak its own language and have its own aesthetic requirements. But to turn Plath's life into a pittoresque English period drama with lots of 'dreaming spires' in it to me reeks of kitsch. I'd much rather read a book, where the prettiness of the visual background matters less than the plot itself.

But you can be sure that I'm going to see this film. Of course I'm dead curious now!

Katharina Hoffmann
Cambridge, UK
Thursday, February 6, 2003

Frieda Hughes attacks BBC for film on Plath , Guardian, Monday, February 3, 2003

It is has been brought to our attention that non UK browsers have to pay to read the Sunday Times online. Stephanie had kindly sent a copy of the article for Forum readers to read.

The Sunday Times
February 02, 2003
Plath's daughter hits at BBC drama
John Elliott and Richard Brooks

THE only daughter of the poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes has turned to poetry to mount a scathing attack on the BBC for an "insensitive" drama about her parents' lives.

Frieda Hughes's poem, called My Mother, accuses the BBC of voyeuristically raking over the death of her mother in the film, Ted and Sylvia, which stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Plath.

Hughes, 42, said she had been repeatedly pestered by BBC executives to help in the making of the film, despite telling them she wished to have no part in it.

"I wrote a letter to them saying `No, I don't want to collaborate', and they kept coming back," she said.

"My feelings were not taken into consideration. I wrote this poem because nobody seemed to take me seriously.

"Why would I want to be involved in moments of my childhood which I never want to return to? I want nothing to do with the film. I will never, never in a million years, go to see it."

As literary executor of her mother's estate Hughes has banned the BBC from using any of Plath's poetry in the film. Her own poem expresses her frustration with people who appear to be obsessed with her mother's suicide. She writes of the film makers: "Now they want to make a film / For anyone lacking the ability / To imagine the body, head in oven, / Orphaning children".

The verse that follows runs:

The peanut eaters, entertained At my mother's death, will go home, Each carrying their memory of her, Lifeless a souvenir.

Maybe they'll buy the video.

In another verse, Hughes predicts with horror that ghoulish viewers will watch the film over and over again to see Paltrow, as her mother, die.

She is no less upset that other people watching the film may take an offhand attitude towards her mother's suicide. She describes how she expects them to pause the video and put the kettle on "While my mother holds her breath on screen / To finish dying after tea".

"My buried mother / Is up-dug for repeat performances," run two lines.

In one metaphor that echoes the rawness of her mother's poetry, she writes that the film makers need Plath's poetry to stitch together their film, which she sees as a grisly doll made from the body parts of her mother. ". . . they think / I should give them my mother's words / To fill the mouth of their monster, / Their Sylvia Suicide Doll", she writes.

BBC executives insisted the film paints a balanced and sensitive picture of the ill-starred relationship between Hughes and Plath and does not focus too closely on Plath's suicide.

David Thompson, head of BBC Films, said: "We are naturally very concerned about the family's feelings, but believe we have approached the film in a responsible and unsensational way. We are making a balanced film which will reflect both stories and celebrate the extraordinary genius they shared."

Hughes who, after her father's death, collected his Whitbread prize for Birthday Letters, was two years old when her mother killed herself in 1963. Plath placed plates of bread and milk outside the room where her children were sleeping, before she put her head in the gas oven and turned it on.

At the time of her death Hughes had left Plath for another woman, Assia Wevill, who also killed herself, along with their child. Extreme feminists demonised Hughes, scratching his name from his wife's headstone in the village of Heptonstall, West Yorkshire.

My Mother 48 lines long will be published in full in the new issue of Tatler. Geordie Greig, the society magazine's editor, who was a friend of Hughes before his death from cancer in 1998, said the poem was aimed at the makers of Ted and Sylvia.

"In a very powerful voice she summarises the pain of a child who is never allowed to get over the agony of losing a mother," said Greig. "The film company has been pursuing Frieda to give her seal of approval. This poem is a very strong and specific message to leave her alone, to let her mother rest in peace."

The poet Al Alvarez, who was a friend of Plath and Ted Hughes, said Hughes's poem had strong echoes of the work of her mother.

"It's pretty good," he said after it was read to him. "There's a lot of quotes and echoes in there from her mother's poems, such as Lady Lazarus, and anyone who knows the poems would see that." Alvarez said he was looking forward to the film, which he expected to be well- made, but fully understood Hughes's objections to it.

Ottawa, Canada
Monday, February 3, 2003

The Sunday Times
February 02, 2003
Plath's daughter hits at BBC drama
John Elliott and Richard Brooks

Rehan Qayoom
London, England
Sunday, February 2, 2003

To Kate: Yes! I've definitely felt uncomfortable revealing that I read Plath's poetry. I think there is almost a stigma attached to it and people can only see the "suicide" aspects of her poems and not some of the other wonderful poems she wrote about motherhood and so on. I love Charlotte Bronte's "Villette" but I dont think I would admit that to anyone who is familiar with the storyline...its not exactly uplifting in some ways. It would be interesting to have someone write a book or a lengthy paper on this topic. Believe me, if my mother could burn all the Plath books I have she certainly would. I read Plath for everything but the suicide aspect of it. I can relate to her feelings of depression and so on but I didnt flock to it because of that. She was a wonderfully talented writer and her poems are so honest and beautifully written....I think that is more important then the logistics of her suicide. Unfortunately though, Plath is and always will be associated with the darker aspects of life and I can't see that changing.

Ottawa, Canada
Tuesday, January 28, 2003

But honestly, who on earth has never heard of Sylvia Plath? She's one of the most famous women poets. And I think that there are a lot of people who, never having read her poetry, dismiss her as a self-obsessed, dull, self-pitying, slightly tragic harpy. I'd like to think this film is going to change that, and the multitude will rush out, buy copies of the Collected Poems, and go "Oh!" but I just don't think it's likely. Especially when they can't use any poetry in the film!

It's nice to know that you're slightly sceptical about it. And another thing- I, for one, get incredibly annoyed by the fact that as a female English Literature student who loves Plath's poetry, I get stereotyped as a typical, bleeding-heart, self-obsessed, silly little girl who thinks that all her poems are actually written about me and my problems. I'm sometimes reluctant to admit that I love reading Plath, for fear that I'll be ridiculed. Same with the Brontes. Has anyone else experienced this? Oh, I could write a whole dissertation about this...

Kate Connolly
Manchester, Britain
Sunday, February 2, 2003

Kate, Kate, Kate, You know, this cloud might turn out to have a silver lining after all: the film just might result in many people who otherwise might never have heard of Plath actually becoming curious enough to seek out Sylvia and Ted's work and/or bios in order to find out the whole story. If it does have this result, then I would consider it a worthy venture, even if the movie itself is a tawdry soap opera.

Jim Long
Honolulu, USA
Thursday, January 30, 2003

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