'Miss Peregrine's' Emma On The Movie's Differences

by Rachel Simon

No movie adaptation of a book is ever going to be a perfect replica, but some big-screen versions go further than others when it comes to making changes from their source material. Tim Burton's just-released film Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children , for instance, stays close to Ransom Riggs' beloved novel in many regards — but also makes some pretty big leaps, introducing a villain and changing the way the movie ends. Yet the biggest variation from book to screen has got to be the character of Emma, who has a largely different personality and story arc than she does in the novel. And while speaking with Bustle to promote Miss Peregrine's in New York, actor Ella Purnell explains why that's exactly what she wanted.

"I made the conscious decision not to read the book until I felt like I knew who film Emma was," the 20-year-old explains. "I wanted to make two completely separate characters, and so that’s what I did."

In the book, Emma is a calm, melancholy character, while Purnell's version is, as she describes it, a "fiery badass." The tragic romance and heartbreak that define Emma in Riggs' novel are still present in the film, but they're secondary to her risk-taking nature and desire to be part of the action. It makes for an intriguing addition to the story, but Purnell recognizes that the drastic changes made to her character will not please fans hoping to see the same version of Emma they loved in the book appearing on-screen. Says the actor, "I felt people’s pain when they found out it was different in this one, I definitely did."

Yet while some fans might grumble about the specific changes made, it's unlikely anyone will take issue with the expansion of Emma's complexity as a character. As played by Purnell, she's a complicated, interesting person, whose decisions and actions don't always have an easy explanation. "We always hear this thing about strong female characters in Hollywood — it’s become its own hashtag now," Purnell says. "But what I liked about Emma is that she’s physically strong and she’s emotionally strong, but she’s a woman. She’s not superwoman, who does karate chops in high heels — that’s ridiculous. That’s so outdated now."

This Emma takes part in the fight against the movie's villain while recovering from heartbreak, maintaining close friendships, and discovering her sense of self — not exactly a caricature of a female character. "To play someone like that, that’s all I wanted at this point in my career," says Purnell. An actor whose on-screen work so far has primarily consisted of supporting parts or "young version of" roles (she's played child or teen versions of Margot Robbie, Angelina Jolie, and Kiera Knightley), Purnell is reaching a turning point with her lead character in Miss Peregrine's. Her upcoming films are an even further step up; the star-studded Churchill features Purnell as the Prime Minister's secretary, while the sci-fi project UFO has her starring alongside (the very fitting) Gillian Anderson. Fan grumbles aside, it looks like playing Emma in Miss Peregrine's is just the start of a long career for Purnell, one filled with roles that're bound to get people talking.

Image: 20th Century Fox