Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West romance set for big screen

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Long-gestating adaptation of stage play Vita and Virginia by Eileen Atkins will be directed by Chanya Button

Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West romance set for big screen
An affair to remember … Virginia Woolf, left and Vita Sackville West, the English writer who was the model for Woolf’s Orlando. Composite: AP/Getty Images

Vita and Virginia, Eileen Atkins’s fictionalisation of the friendship and affair of writers Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, is finally heading to the big screen.

No casting has yet been announced, but the director is Chanya Button, whose female buddy comedy Burn Burn Burn was a hit at last autumn’s London film festival.

The movie is an adaptation of Atkins’ play of the same name, which premiered in 1992, three years after she toured the world in a stage adaptation of Woolf’s collected lectures. The actor adapted her own script for the screen in 2000, shortly before she was cast in a minor role in Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s novel The Hours, which she was not wholly impressed by.

In 2007, Atkins said:

It’s not that the portrait of her is wrong, but it’s only her depression. It came as a real thrill to me that I made people go back and read it and see how witty she was. When I first got the script, I threw it from one end of my apartment to the other. I thought, right, OK, you’ve had your temper. It’s going to be done anyway, so grit your teeth, take the day’s filming, have a day with Meryl Streep and fuck everybody. And that’s what I did. It’s over and it was a success and that’s fine. But I just wish somebody would do my script.

The relationship between the two Bloomsbury luminaries began in 1922 and lasted around a decade, although they remained friends until Woolf’s death in 1941. The novelist dedicated 1928’s Orlando to Sackville-West; Vita’s son, Nigel Nicholson, called it “the longest and most charming love-letter in literature”.

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