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"Girl With a Pearl Earring" Brings Painting to LifeGirl With A Pearl Earring poster

By Glenn Bossik
November 20, 2003

"Girl With a Pearl Earring," an upcoming film, is the story of Master Painter Johannes Vermeer's (Colin Firth) relationship with his maid, Griet (Scarlett Johansson), and the conflict this relationship creates for both of them.

Olivia Hetreed adapted the story into a screenplay from the novel by Tracy Chevalier.

Just as Vermeer worked with Griet in the story to capture the maid's spirit on canvas, so too did Olivia Hetreed work with Tracy Chevalier to capture the spirit of the novel about Vermeer's relationship with Griet on film.

Hetreed says, "For me Tracy [Chevalier] is the ideal author; sharing research, positive about the transformation wrought on her work and yet able to step back and allow me a free hand."

Chevalier transformed the world of Vermeer's real-life painting, Girl With a Pearl

Photography by Japp Buitendijk
Earring, into a novel that captured the essence of the relationship between Vermeer and the woman model who served as the subject of the painting.

Producer Andy Paterson says, "…I loved the way Tracy had taken the few known facts about Vermeer and created a perfect story about the girl who inspired the painting."

Scarlett Johansson, the actress who plays the girl as Griet in the film, comments on the the actual painting by saying that the girl in the painting "…is strange and intriguing.  I felt she was just about to do something [on canvas] which would tell us more about her and her life."

Author Tracy Chevalier used the painting as the inspiration for her novel about Vermeer and Griet.

"…I thought, `What did Vermeer do to her to make her look like that [in the painting], happy and sad at the same time?'" says Chevalier.  "Within three days I had the whole story worked out.  It was effortless; I could see…it all in her face."

The facial expression of the girl in the painting might be explained by the experiences of the character, Griet, in the fictional story, "Girl With a Pearl Earring."

"The repressed romantic obsession that builds between Griet and Vermeer [in the

Griet and Vermeer
Photography by Japp Buitendijk
story] inspires him to paint her," says Director Peter Webber. "…but the perfection of that painting will lead to her downfall."

So, perhaps Vermeer did indeed have a love-relationship with the woman model of his painting.

Producer Andy Paterson feels that Author Tracy Chevalier was factually accurate about Vermeer's life.

"The story Tracy created perfectly fits the few known facts of Vermeer's world," says Paterson. "His family and financial woes, his dependence on a patron, a fascination with the camera obscura."

Tracy Chevalier's story is true to the life of Vermeer. And, Chevalier has found that the film will be true to the story depicted in her novel.

She says that
"[Screenwriter] Olivia [Hetreed] understood…[the novel] so well and was able to develop themes further than I had taken them."

When the film, "Girl With a Pearl Earring"(, debuts in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on December 12, 2003, Vermeer's legendary painting and the mystery behind it will be brought to life on screen.

Peter Webber
Producers: Andy Paterson and Anand Tucker
Screenplay by: Olivia Hetreed
Based on the Novel by: Tracy Chevalier
Co-Producer: Jimmy de Brabant
Executive Producers: Francois Ivernel, Cameron McCraken, Duncan Reid, Tom Ortenberg, Peter Block, Daria Jovicic, Philip Erdoes, and Nick Drake
Director of Photography: Eduardo Serra
Production Designer: Ben Van Os
Editor: Kate Evans
Make-Up & Hair Designer: Jenny Shircore
Costume Designer: Dien Van Straalen
Casting Director: Leo Davis
Music Composed by: Alexandre Desplat

Johannes Vermeer: Colin Firth
Griet: Scarlett Johansson
Van Ruijven: Tom Wilkinson
Pieter: Cillian Murphy
Cornelia: Alakina Mann
Catharina: Essie Davis
Maria Thins: Judy Parfitt


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