After her 2012 breakout hit Wadjda, the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, director Haifaa Al-Mansour surprised everyone with her follow-up, a British-set costume drama, which premiered last week at the Toronto Film Festival. Titled Mary Shelley, it stars Elle Fanning as the 19th century author who penned horror classic Frankenstein at the tender age of 18.
When she came to the Deadline studio, however, Al-Mansour claimed that the material really wasn’t so much of a stretch. “When I read the script,” she recalled, “I really felt it was an amazing coming-of-age story about a young girl who’s trying to find her voice in a very conservative world. England at the time expected women to act in a certain way. And for me, coming from the Middle East, I really sympathized and related to her struggle to find her own voice. So I sent it to Elle, who I’ve been tracking since she was a little kid. It was amazing to work with her and to see her come and embody Mary Shelley.”
Fanning said her curiosity was immediately piqued by the project. “I’d heard of the name,” she said. “I knew she wrote Frankenstein, but I didn’t know her story at all. I feel like you’re taught about the Geneva portion [of her life], and Lord Byron, and how she came to write Frankenstein through this game that they played to write the best ghost story. But it so wasn’t that – there’s such a long journey of so many experiences, and tragedies too, that she went through in her life. I know that everyone was younger back then when they got married and did things, but still to have experienced that much life was [surprising to me].”
To find out more, watch the video above.
Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii Love, Watford Group, Philosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.