Ammonite director defends gay storyline in film about Victorian fossil hunter Mary Anning

Director Francis Lee said he thought it was an 'appropriate' storyline for the forthcoming romantic historical drama

Roisin O'Connor
Tuesday 19 March 2019 09:11 GMT
Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan on the set of new period drama 'Ammonite'
Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan on the set of new period drama 'Ammonite'

The director of a film about Mary Anning, the “unsung hero of fossil discovery”, has defended part of the plot that sees Anning (Kate Winslet) in a relationship with Saoirse Ronan's character.

Francis Lee, who directed the critically acclaimed film God’s Own Country, said he thought it was an “appropriate” storyline for the film Ammonite after seeing “queer history be routinely ‘straightened’ throughout culture”.

“Given a historical figure where there is no evidence whatsoever of a heterosexual relationship, is it not permissible to view that person within another context?” he asked.

The decision has been met by disapproval from some of Anning’’s family. Barbara Anning told The Telegraph: “I believe if Mary Anning was gay she should be portrayed as gay and this should also be by a gay actress.

“But do not believe there is any evidence to back up portraying her as a gay woman... I believe Mary Anning was abused because she was poor, uneducated and a woman. Is that not enough?”

Filming began last week on the Jurassic coast. Lee responded to the “huge speculation about my new film and the ‘controversial’ flames that have been fanned on a slow ‘news’ story day by newspapers and columnists who haven’t read my script or know anything about my film”.

“Would these newspaper writers have felt the need to whip up uninformed quotes from self-proclaimed experts if the character’s sexuality had been assumed to be heterosexual?” he asked.

He told the BBC: “As a working class, queer filmmaker, I continually explore the themes of class, gender, sexuality within my work, treating my truthful characters with utter respect and I hope giving them authentic respectful lives and relationships they deserve.”

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