Anne of Green Gables: A glimpse of the filming of a much-loved story
Production co-starring Martin Sheen has blessing of Lucy Maud Montgomery's descendants
There is a sense of reverence on the set of the new Anne of Green Gables television movie, currently being filmed at a heritage site in Milton, Ont., just northwest of Toronto.
That's the feeling at one of the key locations, described as "perfect" by executive producer Kate Macdonald Butler — right down to the creaking old floors of Matthew and Marilla's house known to fans of previous films and the much-loved 1908 book by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
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"The fact that there's a real house, and a real farm, and a barn and a chicken coop, and a garden — for the actors — makes it all the more real so they can portray the roles," Macdonald Bulter said during a bright sunny day on the farm last Thursday.
The film introduces 13-year old Ella Ballentine as Anne. Plus, there's a share of Hollywood star power provided by Martin Sheen as Anne's adoptive father, Matthew Cuthbert.
And, despite the past production company's legal wranglings with the author's descendants, this adaptation has the blessing of L.M. Montgomery's granddaughter, Macdonald Butler.
She said she was approached several times with some interesting projects, "but [with] this project, they maintain the integrity of the story and they are respectful," referring to the executive producers at Breakthrough Entertainment, who include Joan Lambur, Ira Levy, Peter Williamson and others.
"They are so respectful of my grandmother's work and the novel that I thought it was a really good fit," Macdonald Butler told CBC's Deana Sumanac-Johnson.
Lambur, who works primarily in children's entertainment, described Anne as a hero and has no doubt the beloved character still appeals to people of all ages and eras, even in these days of social media, which is actually raising awareness about Anne on Twitter.
Universal themes for new generation
"For me, I was confident that we were going to be able to achieve reaching this new generation of kids as long as we stayed true to the story, because the story contains all those universal themes she exhibits, characteristics that are aspirational," she said.
Lambur said Sheen is "exceeding all of our hopes." She said he's bringing a powerful performance to the role and "creating a compassionate, kind, loving, simple man."
Ballentine, who will be entering Grade 9 in the fall, said she is part of a "very classic Canadian story" and can relate to Anne's life, thanks to her 100-year-old great-grandmother who has shared stories of her own youth.
"I also think Anne and I have similar qualities, because she's very imaginative and she's very curious about everything. I think I'm the same," the 13-year-old said.
Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, based on the classic Anne series of novels, is being filmed in both Ontario and Prince Edward Island.
It's set to debut on YTV in early 2016.
Sara Botsford, who stars as the stern sister of Matthew, Marilla Cuthbert, tweeted on Friday that the shooting schedule is "almost finished."
See the full report in the video above.