LARGE crowds have been gathering in Lyme Regis town centre this week, keen to catch a glimpse of Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet as she starts filming for ‘Ammonite’.
The period drama will see Winslet – known for her roles in films such as ‘Titanic’, ‘The Reader’ and ‘The Holiday’ – play Lyme’s famous fossil hunter Mary Anning.
It will follow her fictional relationship with young woman Frances Bell, played by Saoirse Ronan (‘Lady Bird’, ‘On Chesil Beach’, ‘Mary Queen of Scots’), who is sent to Lyme from London because of her ill health.
With the Bell Cliff area of Broad Street having been transformed into an 1840s street scene, filming began on Monday and both Winslet and Ronan have been spotted shooting scenes alongside actress Fiona Shaw (‘Harry Potter’, ‘Killing Eve’, ‘Mrs Wilson’).
Several local residents have also been seen in costume having been selected to work as extras.
Photos from the set were featured in the national press this week, with most articles focussing on director Francis Lee’s decision to portray Mary Anning as a gay woman, which has also split opinion on local social media pages.
Businesses in the Bell Cliff area have been closed for filming and stop/go traffic management is currently in place in Broad Street, which has caused some delays.
The filming is set to continue throughout March, with Lyme and Charmouth’s beaches and Coombe Street also to appear in ‘Ammonite’, which is expected to be a box office hit.
County councillor Daryl Turner has confirmed that Coombe Street will be closed to vehicles on March 27 and 29, and to vehicles and pedestrians on March 28, although access will be allowed for those who live or work in the street.
It is hoped the release of the film will create a tourism boom for Lyme Regis, similar to that seen after the release of ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, filmed in Lyme in the 1980s.
At that time, the town received £8,000 in compensation for the disruption, the equivalent of £34,400 today.
Town clerk John Wright previously reported he was in negotiations with the film company to agree on a compensation sum for the filming of ‘Ammonite’ but a figure has not yet been revealed.
Some have suggested that any money the town receives should be donated to a charity such as the Rotary Club of Lyme Regis, while others have suggested it should go towards the Mary Anning Rocks campaign, which is hoping to raise funds to erect a statue of the paleontologist in the town.