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Virginia Woolf’s lesbian love affair will take centre stage in a new biopic

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Eva Green will play Virginia Woolf in a new biopic that traces the love story between the legendary British feminist writer and her fellow author, Vita Sackville-West.

Gemma Arterton will play Sackville-West in Vita & Virginia, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The Crown’s Eileen Atkins is adapting the script from her 1992 play of the same name, while British director Chanya Button is set to direct. No release date has yet been set.

GEMMA ARTERTON

Virginia Woolf's lover, the writer Vita Sackville-West, will be played by Gemma Arterton (right).

Woolf and Sackville-West were both members of the bohemian Bloomsbury Set. They met at a dinner party in 1922, began a sexual and romantic affair three years later, and remained close friends until Woolf’s suicide in 1941.


Read more: Virago publishers share the books that made them feminist


Sackville-West was ten years younger than Woolf, and both women had been married for over a decade (Woolf to the English political theorist Leonard Woolf, Sackville-West to the diplomat Harold Nicolson) when they began their affair.

Despite this, both women’s husbands were remarkably accepting of their relationship: Leonard Woolf is reported to have cherished his wife and just wanted her to be happy, while Sackville-West and Nicolson were both bisexual and known to be in what would now be termed an open marriage.


Watch: Life lessons from Jane Austen


The two writers were both avid journal-keepers who exchanged over 500 letters throughout their decades-long relationship, giving their future biographers and filmmakers a rich seam of source material to draw from. One entry in Woolf’s diary from February 1923 indicates that the older woman had an inkling of Sackville-West’s intentions long before they began their affair:

“We had a surprise visit from the Nicolson’s. She [Sackville-West] is a pronounced sapphist, & may, thinks Ethel Sands, have an eye on me, old though I am.”


Read more: Virginia, Frida and Audre: 70 baby names inspired by feminist icons


In a later love letter to Woolf, written in 1926, Sackville-West wrote:

“I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone. I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.”

Virginia Woolf has been immortalised in cinema before, most famously by Nicole Kidman (complete with a fake nose) in The Hours. However, this is the first movie that will explicitly focus on the relationship between Woolf and Sackville-West.

Images: Rex Features, Getty

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