Grace Corry talks to Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, the producer of Lady Macbeth.
Set in rural England, 1865, Katherine (Florence Pugh) is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age, whose family are cold and unforgiving. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a young worker on her husband’s estate, a force is unleashed inside her, so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
What was it about this project that appealed to you?
It really started with Nikolai Leskov’s novella and Catrina, the protagonist in the book – she was just such an intriguing, complex female protagonist that I really wanted to explore her story. Plus there was the chance to work with William Oldroyd, the director, and Alice Birch, the writer, who adapted the book.
Both have had a remarkable couple of years, particularly in the theatre. How did the relationship come about between the 3 of you?
Somebody recommended I watch a short film called Best, which was the Winner of Best Short Film Competition at Sundance London in 2013. I watched it and fell in love with it. I thought it was incredibly original, brilliantly executed and so clever. I wanted to meet him and when we met we got on like a house on fire. During that meeting he told me had just met Alice and that she had an idea to adapt this Russian novella. She hadn’t written anything yet but we both loved the novella and decided to join forces and started developing the project together and adapting it and setting it in 1865 rural England rather than the Russian setting of the novella.
What was the thinking behind that?
Isolation is such a huge theme in the book and we felt the time and the setting in Northumberland in rural England would reflect that theme. We did look at contemporising it but we just felt we wanted to protect the period element of the story and we were drawn to British period dramas and wanted to do something a little bit different with that. We felt this sort of story would be a way of doing that.
For a period drama you had a fairly small budget – how much of a challenge was that as a producer.
It was definitely a challenge making a period film on such a small budget but we figured it out and because of the way we made the film in terms of us being a team of equal partners in it together, which it made it easier in ways. Yes, it was a challenge – but it was fun figuring it out!
Lady Macbeth is in cinemas now