The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) concerns the love affair between a Victorian gentleman and a woman who has been jilted by a French officer, scandalizing the "polite society" of Lyme Regis. It is based on the novel of the same title by John Fowles and adapted by playwright Harold Pinter. Instead of trying to create a literal translation of the novel's alternate endings, Pinter's screenplay adopted a more cinematic approach by revealing a story within a story - showing the lives of the actors who portray Fowles' characters. The characters' story ends one way, the actors' another.
A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her leave him after a short, but passionate affair. Anna and Mike, who play the characters of Sarah and Charles, go, during the shooting of the film, through a relationship that runs parallel to that of their characters.
Harold Pinter (screenplay)
John Fowles (novel)
Meryl Streep Sarah / Anna
Jeremy Irons Charles Henry Smithson / Mike
Hilton McRae Sam
David Warner Murphy
Penelope Wilton Sonia
Leo McKern Dr. Grogan
Emily Morgan Mary
Charlotte Mitchell Mrs. Tranter
Lynsey Baxter Ernestina
Peter Vaughan Mr. Freeman
Liz Smith Mrs. Fairley
Patience Collier Mrs. Poulteney
- Meryl Streep won a Golden Globe for Best Actress.
- The film was nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Actress in a Leading Role for Meryl Streep, Best Costume Design and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
- It was nominated for 8 Baftas including Best Actor for Jeremy Irons, Best Film, and Best Screenplay for Harold Pinter.