Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

August 28, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 8:52 am

The Harrowing Tale of an Extra in Jane Eyre 2006

“Should that horse be doing that?” This is quickly followed by: “Shut the gate. Quick!” We detect panic.That lippy Lippizaner obviously hadn’t given up!

Thanks to Alison for pointing me towards this amusing story of an extra in the BBC’s new production of Jane Eyre. Not much happens but it is told with great humor. Here are a few exerpts:

After several date and time changes, I trundled up to the film base for my costume fitting. We tried two dresses; the first looked lovely but was declared “too young”. Thank you. The second, a sober black silk crinoline, had been recently used at a funeral and was deemed suitable for an old bag like me.

I cheered up a bit when told that the shawl chosen was used in the BBC’s award-winning Bleak House and worn by Ada, the main character.


Your abundance of hair, so prized for period television, is wrenched back in a knot and hidden under the bonnet. This is the sum total of “make up”. You, your age, and your naked face, are on display for all to see. It’s a cruel business! Surveying my bulk in the mirror, I remark to Saffi, the wardrobe assistant, that this is one fashion that won’t come back.


My fellow passenger looks better than me. I discover she is more than 20 years my junior – and has mascara on. I point this out to her and she flutters her lovely lashes in a slightly sheepish, ‘I’ve been caught out’, way. I can’t flutter mine because they are almost non-existent.

But she’s nice and I laugh at her audacity. The make-up woman notices later on set but lets it go. You can’t have two ugly women in a carriage can you? As it turns out, we are to be atop the carriage, which I discover from the coachman, is an authentic mail coach. We have four beautiful grey horses; a Lippizaner and three Andalusians. The Lippi is, by nature and historically, a dancing horse from Vienna. He lives up to his reputation and is an obvious show-off. He likes to go his own way – tricky when pulling a coach with three uppity Spaniards.

Hilariously, we are invited to “hop up” on to the carriage. Hopping up isn’t really an option when attired in crinoline and petticoat but with the willing and chivalrous help of two frock- coated and top-hatted gentlemen (my, they look devilishly handsome), we make it. It’s very high up there and decidedly unsafe with prancing ponies vying for leadership.

The only real worry we have now is whether Lippi might pull us into the pond on the left or the one on the right as we traverse the narrow track between. I consider my escape as we rattle over potholes feeling the lack of suspension with each one. How high, I wonder, can I hoick my dress and will all the crew laugh at me as I try to leap clear in woolly tights and funny boots? Would the corset let me leap anyway? I decide on a better course of action and start to pray. The man next to me mutters that he’s glad he’s insured and that his wife and children would be all right.


I turn to look at him. He is stony faced and pale, perfect for a Victorian. In the event, they change the horses around and the nippy Lippi is put behind another, more sensible horse. By the sixth take we are, indeed, hopping up and down on the carriage like, well, women in crinolines – very ungainly.


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