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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 02:37 GMT 03:37 UK
Paltrow to play Plath on screen
The relationship is seen as a tragic literary love story
Gwyneth Paltrow is to star in a BBC Films co-production about the tragic love affair between poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

The film would be the first cinematic portrayal of their relationship, which ended with Plath's suicide in 1963.

Hughes - who was poet laureate - and Plath, also author of the Bell Jar, are two of the most read and studied post-war poets.

David Thompson, head of BBC Films, told the Daily Telegraph that the production would steer clear of what he called "Hollywood schmaltz".

'Strong points'

"It won't be glossed up for cheap entertainment. Everybody is concerned to do this in a very responsible way that illuminates their lives.

"The story has a terribly sad ending but I think we can show that the marriage had many strong points and that the film can, in a way, be life enhancing," he told the paper.

Paltrow is an Oscar winner for Shakespeare in Love and is currently in the London West End production of Proof.

Mr Thompson described her as being "perfect" for the part, adding: "She has the right sort of fragility and vulnerability."

Plath and Hughes met at Cambridge University and married in 1956.

Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow deemed perfect for part
In 1998 Hughes published a collection of poems, called The Birthday Letters, which give his version of what has come to be regarded as one of the most tragic literary love stories of the century.

Many feminists and admirers of Plath hold Hughes responsible for his wife's suicide, accusing him of abandoning her for another woman at a time when she was emotionally unstable.

Among a set of unpublished letters written by the late poet laureate Ted Hughes and acquired by the British Library is one blaming anti-depressants for Sylvia Plath's suicide.

Anti-depressants blamed

The collection of over 140 letters and other documents was written to Keith Sagar, a literary critic, biographer and friend of Hughes over a period of nearly 30 years.

In one note, written in 1981, the poet recounts what happened before Hughes' estranged wife Plath died.

In an extract from the letter, Hughes tells Sagar that anti-depressants were to blame for her suicide.

Hughes wrote that "the key factor" that prompted Plath to gas herself at the age of 30 in 1963, was that she had mistakenly swallowed anti-depressants that gave her suicidal feelings.

'Sought reconciliation'

Plath, an American poet whom he married in 1956, had taken anti-depressants before to similar adverse effect.

Hughes wrote that a doctor had prescribed the unnamed drug for her without knowing what effect they would have.

"She was aware of its effects which lasted about three hours ... just enough time," an extract from Hughes' letter reads.

In another letter Hughes said that he had wanted a reconciliation with Plath following the estrangement just before her death.

See also:

29 Oct 98 | UK
28 Jul 00 | UK
29 Oct 98 | Entertainment
09 May 02 | Entertainment
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