HOLLYWOOD stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan will star in a new film following Lyme Regis fossil hunter Mary Anning’s fictional relationship with another woman.
The actresses will star as lovers in the film ‘Ammonite’, written and directed by Francis Lee, who made a splash last year with his debut ‘God’s Own Country’, another romance between a young sheep farmer and a Romanian migrant worker.
The film was nominated for Outstanding British Film at this year’s BAFTAs.
‘Ammonite’ will be set in a UK coastal town in the 1840s, following the fictional romance between palaeontologist Mary Anning and a wealthy London woman who she works for as a nursemaid.
The film has been developed by See-Saw Films, the British Film Institute and BBC Films. ‘Widows and Lion’ producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, alongside ‘Lady Macbeth’ producer Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, will acts as producers on the project.
Production is set to start in March and there are hopes that it will be part-recorded in Mary’s hometown of Lyme Regis.
The announcement of the film follows calls for increased recognition of Anning’s contribution to the world of science.
The fossil hunter is renowned for her discoveries around Lyme Regis, including the first whole ichthyosaur skeleton, and was named as one of the Royal Society’s ten most influential British women in science in 2010.
However, her accomplishments went largely unrecognised during her lifetime, because she was a woman.
The Mary Anning Rocks campaign was launched earlier this year, with hopes of raising funds to erect a statue of the fossil hunter in Lyme Regis, and efforts have also been made to see Mary Anning’s portrait included on the new £50 note.
However, news of the film ‘Ammonite’ was met with mixed reaction locally, with some objecting on social media to the palaeontologist being portrayed as gay, while others praised the concept.
‘Ammonite’ is a separate production to feature film ‘Mary Anning and the Dinosaur Hunters’ starring Jenny Agutter. Some filming for this production has already taken place in Lyme Regis and the town council contributed £5,000 towards the cost of the film.
The last blockbuster film to be made in the town was ‘The French Leiutenant’s Woman’, released in 1981 starring Meryl Streep. Parts of the town were transformed for filming, with residents taking on the roles of extras.
The production, based on the John Fowles novel of the same name, had a lasting legacy in boosting tourism in the town.