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Possession is a 2002 motion picture written and directed by Neil LaBute, based on the novel of the same name by A. S. Byatt. The film tells the story of two scholars, Roland Michell (played by Aaron Eckhart) and Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), who investigate the affair of fictional Victorian era poet Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam), described in letters between him and another fictional poet, Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle).
Early drafts of the film's screenplay were written by playwright David Henry Hwang in the nineties, but the project languished in pre-production for years (with directors like Sydney Pollack and Gillian Armstrong working on the film and eventually giving up) before LaBute came aboard. LaBute made drastic changes to the story, partially based on notes that Byatt had made on earlier drafts of the screenplay.
LaBute recalled, "What she basically said was, 'This is Roland on the page; you must make him different in a film!' She got that Roland needed more drive. Just seeing those notes kind of gave me the keys to the kingdom. And so in the film, Roland keeps making these wild, imaginative leaps about the poets' lives, and Maud's both charmed and appalled." LaBute changed Roland's nationality from British to American, in what he denied was "shameless pandering to the audience....in part, it was [just] more comfortable for me to write Roland that way."
- Ralph Fiennes was approached for the role that eventually went to Jeremy Northam.
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