Early Jane Austen Story “Lady Susan” Coming to the Big Screen


It would take a site with more patience than Bibliodaze to count how many film & TV adaptations have been made of Jane Austen’s work. Suffice to say her work has proven timeless for creative minds (as well as conveniently being part of the public domain), leading to everything from a Bollywood Pride & Prejudice to Mansfield Park with mummies. While Lizzie and Darcy’s love story continues to be the most popular choice for adaptation, little has been done with her lesser known works. Fortunately, cult film-maker Whit Stillman (The Last Days of Disco & Damsels in Distress) is hoping to change that with an adaptation of her story Lady Susan.

The story is an early work of Austen’s that she never submitted for publication and wasn’t published until over 50 years after her death. It centres on the eponymous widow seeking two men – one for herself and one for her daughter. So far, Sienna Miller and former Stillman cast member Chloe Sevigny have signed onto the project, which will be filmed in Ireland after the project received €250,000 from the Irish Film Board.

Stillman’s work favours stories of bourgeois upper middle class figures as well as the comedy of manners trope, with comparisons made to Woody Allen (only without all that smug and evil baggage). The man himself compared Lady Susan to the works of Oscar Wilde in terms of its wit and freshness, so the combination of project and director will undoubtedly yield something a little different from the usual period drama fare.

This isn’t the first attempt that has been made to adapt the tale for a different medium. The story has been adapted for the stage and playwright Lucy Prebble (Secret Diary of a Call Girl, ENRON) has been rumoured to be adapting the story for the BBC, although this was originally reported many years ago and has never come to fruition.

Lady Susan is available for free on Project Gutenberg.


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