The title of ‘Bright Star’, Jane Campion’s film about John Keats, was taken from a love poem scrawled in the fly leaf of his copy of the works of Shakespeare. It reads: “Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art – Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night.”
The film, which comes out next week, is about Keats’ relationship with Fanny Brawne, an 18-year-old student of fashion who lived next door to him in Hampstead, North London between 1819 and 1820. Their two year love affair, the inspiration for much of Keats’ poetry, was tragically cut short when he died of tuberculosis in Rome aged just 25.
Campion, who both wrote and directed the film, cast the story through the eyes of the lesser known Fanny, played by Australian actress Abbie Cornish.
She describes Cornish and Ben Wishaw, who played Keats, as having “a particular delicious charisma” which was essential for the success of the film.
“I remember first meeting Ben [Whishaw] outside the audition room. I looked at this young man, this creature, beautiful like a cat, not real almost. When he spoke, he sounded like Keats, not posh, slightly London or Northern,” Campion said.
Wishaw, who starred in the 2006 film ‘Perfume: Story of a Murderer’ and the BBC’s 'Criminal Justice' in 2008, had an equally strong response to the project:
“I didn’t know anything about him [Keats] but something in it hit me. When I went for the audition I had a possessive feeling about it, this is mine, I understand this person,” he said.
Watch an exclusive clip from Bright Star which opens in cinemas on 6th November