Very few works of literature can boast a feature film adaptation tally of seven. Little Women, however, can, and come January 2020 there will be another one to shout about.
Louisa May Alcott’s loosely autobiographical coming of age story, first published in 1868 and set in the aftermath of the American Civil War, is getting the cinematic treatment for the eighth time, but with a starrier cast than ever before.
The story follows the lives of the March sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy — who must face poverty and social pressures as they navigate the turbulent road from childhood to womanhood. Love, loss, dreams and responsibility lie in wait for the sibling quartet: themes that, despite its 19th-century setting, transcend any sense of time and place.
Following up her solo directorial debut Lady Bird, the multi-talented Greta Gerwig is helming the adaptation. Taking up both directorial and screenplay duties, the prospect of such a prominent young film-maker making her mark on such beloved source material is a truly exciting one.
Equally alluring is the talent of those set to appear in front of the camera. Here is a round-up of the all-star ensemble you can expect to see in the film.
Saoirse Ronan is Jo March
Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig made a triumphant pairing in 2017’s Lady Bird, the Oscar-nominated, 2002-set story of a rebellious teenager from Sacramento who desires to escape her average life.
In Little Women, Ronan plays the novel’s principal character, Jo: a driven, stubborn tomboy with a disregard for convention and a flair for writing. She is also imbued with a fierce loyalty (and quite the temper), fuelled by a deep-rooted desire to keep the bonds of sisterhood strong.
Gerwig’s take will likely honour Jo’s central importance to the story, the foundations upon which Alcott built her narrative, with Ronan’s ever-impressive screen presence more than a worthy fit.
Emma Watson is Meg March
It’s only fitting that Harry Potter star Emma Watson be cast as Meg in Little Women. A mature, responsible young adult at the point the story begins, the eldest of the March sisters also embodies the same tenacity and resolve that defined Hermione Granger.
Meg differs in almost every conceivable way to Jo, but is no less a pivotal figure in Little Women’s exploration of the march towards adulthood.
Florence Pugh is Amy March
The last few years have been quite the rollercoaster for Florence Pugh. She delivered a star-making turn in the darkly gripping period gem Lady Macbeth, and this year portrayed a WWE wrestler from Norfolk in Stephen Merchant’s hilarious Fighting With My Family.
Just recently, she took the lead role in Ari Aster’s creepy, Scandi-set horror Midsommar, and has already carved out one of the most impressively eclectic filmographies of any British actor working today.
Pugh plays Amy, the youngest of the March siblings. A passionate, ambitious, hard-working woman with an interest in art, Amy quickly understands what she wants, and indeed how to get it.
Eliza Scanlen is Beth March
Little Women will mark the feature film debut of the relatively unknown Eliza Scanlen. An Australian actor, the 20-year-old is best known for her roles on the small screen — namely, in popular Aussie soap Home and Away and HBO series Sharp Objects.
Here, she plays Beth: the kind, gentle, quietly intelligent member of the March quartet. A home bird at heart with a passion for music and a particularly close relationship with older sister Jo, Beth is the story’s tender soul – the innocence in a world of injustice.
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Timothée Chalamet is Theodore 'Laurie' Laurence
Another Lady Bird star reuniting with both Ronan and Gerwig is the Oscar-nominated Timothée Chalamet. He plays ‘boy next door’ Theodore Laurence, Jo’s neighbour and best friend whom she knows as 'Laurie'. The character is is born into a wealthy family but becomes like a surrogate son and brother to the Marches.
At just 23 years old, Chalamet is already a certified A-lister, having delivered stunning performances not just in Lady Bird but also the Oscar-winning romantic drama Call Me By Your Name.
Laura Dern is Marmee March
Let’s be honest, deep down we all kinda wish Laura Dern was our mum. The two-time Academy Award-nominated actor is usually a warm presence (David Lynch movies like Wild at Heart aside), as the likes of Jurassic Park and Wild prove, so it’s perhaps no surprise then that in Gerwig’s Little Women, she stars as Margaret 'Marmee' March.
A role model for her four girls, Marmee is the moral compass guiding Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy along their pathway to adulthood. Engaging in charitable work while simultaneously maintaining the household in her husband’s absence, Marmee is the 19th century equivalent of a superhero.
Meryl Streep is Aunt March
Names don’t get much bigger than Meryl Streep. Here, the 21-time Oscar-nominated darling of Hollywood plays Aunt March: a temperamental, judgemental, crotchety widow. Beneath the stern exterior, however, is a lonely soul who only wants what’s best for her four nieces.
No stranger to a period drama, of course, Streep anchors Little Women with her reliable, evergreen brand of star power in a film already stuffed with multi-generational talent.
Bob Odenkirk is Mr March
With roles in Breaking Bad, its popular spin-off series Better Call Saul, Fargo and Steven Spielberg’s The Post, Bob Odenkirk — despite a career spanning the best part of 30 years — is only just getting the recognition he deserves.
A wonderfully talented and quirky screen presence, he stars as Mr March in Gerwig’s film, the somewhat distant father who serves as a chaplain in the Union Army while the American Civil War is in full swing.
Little Women is released on 24th January 2020, so tweet us @Cineworld if you think this will be the definitive adaptation of the novel.
George Nash is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.