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Great Expectations (2012 film)

Great Expectations
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mike Newell
Produced by David Faigenblum
Elizabeth Karlsen
Emanuel Michael
Stephen Woolley
Screenplay by David Nicholls
Based on Great Expectations 
by Charles Dickens
Starring Jeremy Irvine
Robbie Coltrane
Holliday Grainger
Helena Bonham Carter
Ralph Fiennes
Music by Richard Hartley
Cinematography John Mathieson
Edited by Tariq Anwar
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release dates
  • 11 September 2012 (2012-09-11) (Toronto)
  • 30 November 2012 (2012-11-30) (United Kingdom)
Running time
128 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $6.2 million[2]

Great Expectations is a 2012 British film adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel of the same name. The film was directed by Mike Newell, with the adapted screenplay by David Nicholls, and stars Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonham Carter, Holliday Grainger, Ralph Fiennes and Robbie Coltrane. It was distributed by Lionsgate.

Newell adapted the screenplay after being asked to work on it by producers Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley, with whom he had worked on And When Did You Last See Your Father?. Helena Bonham Carter was asked to appear as Miss Havisham by Newell, and accepted the role after some initial apprehension, while Irvine was initially intimidated by the thought of appearing on screen as Pip.

The premiere of the film closed the BFI London Film Festival in 2012, although it had already been previewed earlier in the year at the Toronto Film Festival. It was released in the UK on 30 November 2012.


Further information: Plot of the novel


  • Jeremy Irvine as Pip, an orphan and the protagonist of the film. Irvine gained the role of Pip, having previously starred in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of War Horse, which Irvine described as his big break, having previously appeared in minor roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company.[3] He found the role intimidating, but said that he "wanted to make my character Pip stronger and more driven than how he's been played in adaptations before".[4]
    • Toby Irvine, the younger brother of Jeremy Irvine, as young Pip[5]
  • Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham, wealthy spinster who has taken up a life of seclusion following the loss of her love and Pip suspects is his benefactor. Bonham Carter was concerned about playing the role of Miss Havisham and questioned Mike Newell when he phoned her to talk about taking the part. She was worried about the typical appearance of the character, describing her as a pensioner in a bridesmaids dress. Newell assured her that she was the right age,[6] as the character in the book is in her forties,[3] and she accepted the role.[7]
  • Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, a criminal who changes Pip's life. Fiennes hadn't read a great deal of Dickens' work prior to gaining the role. Following the filming of Great Expectations, he moved onto another Dickens-related role, both directing and playing the author himself in The Invisible Woman.[8]
  • Robbie Coltrane as Mr. Jaggers, a lawyer responsible for handling Pip's money. Great Expectations was Coltrane's first Dickens-related role. He had been offered the role of Mr. Micawber in an adaptation of David Copperfield some years previously, but was unable to take it. Coltrane described Jaggers as a "heartless bastard", and was pleased to be able to deliver the line to Pip about "great expectations", which took several takes to perfect.[9]
File:Holliday Grainger at the premiere of Great Expectations, Toronto Film Festival 2012.jpg
Holliday Grainger at the preview of Great Expectations at the Toronto Film Festival
  • Jason Flemyng as Joe Gargery, Pip's brother-in-law and legal guardian.[10] Flemyng was pleased to be able to appear in a film which he could take his children to see, and thought it'd be great for the Christmas period.[11]
  • Holliday Grainger as Estella; Newell encouraged Grainger to bring sensuality to her role.[12] Grainger has said in interviews that the role was the one which she has coveted more than any other.[13] She had first read the book at the age of 15, and found that it took a second reading to understand the character. Grainger had previously worked with Bonham Carter in Magnificent 7, a 2005 BBC drama.[14]
  • Ewen Bremner as Wemmick
  • Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Joe
  • David Walliams as Uncle Pumblechook, Joe Gargery's uncle, and provides a route for Pip to be in touch with Miss Havisham.[10] Walliams brought his mother along to the film's premiere.[15]
  • Tamzin Outhwaite as Molly
  • Daniel Weyman as Arthur Havisham
  • Jessie Cave as Biddy
    • Bebe Cave as young Biddy
    • Edward Fleming as Charles Pocket
  • Olly Alexander as Herbert Pocket
  • Ben Lloyd-Hughes as Bentley Drummle



The film is the seventh version of Charles Dickens' novel of the same name.[3] David Nicholls was asked to develop the screenplay after he had worked on the 2007 film And When Did You Last See Your Father?, and while he was working on an adaptation for television of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles for the BBC. He had worked with producers Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley on the 2007 film, and they approached him to work on Great Expectations. During the development of the film, Nicholls published the novel One Day, which was subsequently adapted into a film in 2011. Nicholls described in interviews that he saw Dickens' work as his childhood defining novel, having first read the book when he was fourteen and it having since remained his favourite. He also praised the 1946 version, directed by David Lean.[16]

Mike Newell was looking to develop Dickens' Dombey and Son for the screen, but after it didn't go ahead, he was told about Nicholls' script. The two worked together on further developing the screenplay and finding the funding for the film.[3] Nicholls thought there was a problem with choosing the ending for the film, as Dickens wrote both a downbeat ending and a more positive version. He described their solution as, "What we’ve tried to do is to make it work as a love story without sentimentalising the book",[3] having criticised the ending of the David Lean version of the film.[12]


The former headquarters of Gillette on the A4 road was used as the main filming location. The interior was transformed into a Victorian era street scene.[3]

The production also shot many scenes in Kent including St Thomas a Becket Church in Fairfield, Swale Nature Reserve Shellness, Oare and Elmley Marshes, Stangate Creek, The Historic Dockyard in Chatham and Thames and Medway Canal. [17]


A preview of the film took place at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012.[18] The world premiere of Great Expectations took place at the Odeon Leicester Square on 21 October 2012, which closed the 2012 BFI London Film Festival. Both Helena Bonham Carter and her husband, Tim Burton, were inducted into the British Film Institute Fellowship at the event.[4] In the UK, advance screenings were scheduled for 26 November 2012, with the nationwide release date of 30 November as a 12A rated release.[19]


  1. ^ "GREAT EXPECTATIONS (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f Preston, John (30 October 2012). "Behind the scenes on 'Great Expectations'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Jeremy Irvine 'intimidated by Great Expectations'". 22 October 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Christopoulos, Alexandra (12 September 2012). "Brother duo play old and young Pip in 'Great Expectations' remake". Digital Journal. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  6. ^ "Great Expectations premiere closes BFI London Film Festival 2012". The Daily Telegraph. 22 October 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "Bonham Carter rejected Great Expectations role". Belfast Telegraph. 22 October 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Kellaway, Kate (18 November 2012). "Ralph Fiennes: 'I get angry easily, but I repress it'". The Observer. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  9. ^ Black, Claire (18 November 2012). "Why Robbie Coltrane has great expectations for his first Dickens role". The Scotsman. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  10. ^ a b O'Hara, Helen (8 December 2011). "David Walliams In Great Expectations". Empire Online. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "Jason Flemyng Happy Kids Will See Great Expectations". Female First. 27 October 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Papamichael, Stella (22 October 2012). "Mike Newell: Put aside your preconceptions of Great Expectations". Radio Times. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  13. ^ "A big ask: Holliday Grainger". Time Out. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  14. ^ Petty, Moira (18 November 2012). "Exclusive: It's the Holliday season". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  15. ^ "David takes his favourite girls to see his Dickens debut". Hello!. 22 October 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  16. ^ Nicholls, David (16 November 2012). "David Nicholls: Adapting Great Expectations for the screen". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  17. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Great Expectations Film Focus". 
  18. ^ Robey, Tim (14 September 2012). "Great Expectations, Toronto Film Festival, film review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  19. ^ "Great Expectations". Retrieved 18 November 2012. 

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