'Vanity Fair's Olivia Cooke Had No Idea The ITV Series Was Based On A Classic Novel
When it comes to film and television, the 21st century sure has seen a lot of it. From original stories to remakes, sequels to prequels, it's easy for the cast to either forget or have no knowledge of where the stories presented in script outlines originally came from. That was the case for Vanity Fair's Olivia Cooke, who recently admitted that she didn't know the upcoming ITV series was actually based on William Thackeray's 1848 novel.
Cooke, who recently starred in Steven Speilberg's sci-fi epic Ready Player One told the Evening Standard that she "didn't know it was a novel and then I read the script and found out... and then read the novel!" If I'm being truthful here, I had no idea either, and that's not a problem — it's a learning curve. For Olivia, it let her dive deeper into the character of Becky Sharp, and it's intrigued me enough to pick up the book.
Set in the early 1800s during the Napoleonic Wars, screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes' Vanity Fair follows Becky Sharp (portrayed by Cooke) as she climbs the social ladder from poverty to "the heights of English society," simultaneously "breaking hearts and losing fortunes as she goes." You could say that Thackeray's novel was made for television, as it was "published in serial form" and utilised "memorable cliffhangers," as described by The Guardian.
There are certainly going to be plenty of cliffhangers, as ITV have commissioned Vanity Fair as a seven-parter, which is sure to be full of drama thanks to the antics of Becky. Described as an "anti-heroine" by Cooke, Becky is "conniving" and "mischievous", and "she's really naughty, she is pining for status and celebrity which is not exactly a nice trait.
"I liked that she's constantly playing with this idea of what a woman at the time should be. She's not pure and she's not honest." A rebel girl going against the norm in the early 19th century? Yes please.
This isn't the first time Vanity Fair has been adapted, either. It comes as no surprise really, seeing as the original novel is well over 150 years old. The one you'll probably recognise most was the 2004 film directed by Mira Nair, which starred Reese Witherspoon and Natasha Little. Little also starred in a TV adaptation of Vanity Fair for the BBC in the late '90s.
And there's a reason it's been continuously adapted throughout the years, as according to Cooke, it "speaks to the youth of whatever time.
"It could be made 50 years from now and there will still be this human trait of striving for wealth and notoriety and these are all really relatable traits we all have deep inside us," Cook explained to The Evening Standard.
And she's right. As is with a lot of classic novels, they may be set in a different time with a setting that you're not familiar with, but that doesn't matter. What does matter are the fictional characters that will forever be relatable due to, well, being human beings.
Vanity Fair will premiere Sunday 2 September at 9 p.m. on ITV, it will continue on Monday 3 and will then return to the Sunday slot.