To celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Piano, we’ve pulled 20 of our favorite stills, clips and facts for you to indulge in before watching Jane Campion’s masterpiece again or for the first time.
1. In 1993, Jane Campion became the first woman to win the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
2. At age 11, Anna Paquin is the second youngest Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winner in history.
3. Paquin tells NPR that even though she won an Oscar for her performance, she was only allowed to watch the first 20 minutes of the film. “I didn’t even get a full version of the script. There was a cut and paste in a scrapbook that I had… Because I was nine and that wouldn’t have been appropriate.”
4. Holly Hunter played most of the piano sequences herself.
5. Campion recently admitted she wanted a bleaker ending – she wanted Ada to drown. Read more here.
6. Holly Hunter said she is glad Campion opted for the existing ending. “Me, I love that it’s a reverie for Ada, not a nightmare or something that haunts her. It soothes her.”
7. Holly Hunter won the Oscar for Best Actress.
8. Sigourney Weaver was Campion’s first choice for Ada.
9. Holly Hunter had to fight to be considered for the role because Campion thought of Ada as a tall, exotic European beauty. Later at Cannes she said, “In Holly’s audition tape, her gaze was just stupendous.”
10. In 1994, Jane Campion was only the second woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director.
11. Campion won the Oscar for Best Screenplay. In 1992, she talks about writing The Piano, at the time called The Piano Lesson, in Interview magazine.
The film is inspired by Gothic Romantic writing, partially takes place in the delicate and exotic bush, which can be very claustrophobic and frightening. It touches on the forced assimilation of the Maori people, and tries to explore the relationship between fetishism and love. The Piano Lesson is very sophisticated, easily the most adult or complex material I’ve attempted. It’s the first film I’ve written that has a proper story, and it was a big struggle for me to write. It meant I had to admit the power of narrative. And there is definitely room to play, visually—in fact, there’s a big call for it.
12. George Baines’ facial tattoos are called Tā moko, one of the customs he has adopted from the Māori people.
13. Harvey Keitel on The Piano from an interview with The New York Times.
The Piano exists on many levels. It’s a complex text. One of the levels most apparent to me is that Jane has done what I have often seen men do — i.e., a woman gathering herself up, taking responsibility for herself and her sexual needs and her spiritual needs, and taking action to fulfill herself. That has usually been the domain of the man. Jane has gained access to that domain. It’s a man’s world. I see it that way. And it’s to our detriment that it is so. Jane has struck out in a way that has helped me to come closer to an understanding of myself and woman.
14. Jane Campion on The Piano’s subdued eroticism in an interview with Roger Ebert.
“I was trying to re-examine what erotic is. To see if you can create it in a half-centimeter square flesh. Of course, what amazed me when we were researching the costumes was something I hadn’t really clicked on: Victorian women wore crotchless underwear, so that under these very elaborate and formidable gowns, their bottoms were completely bare (so they could go to the bathroom easily). And the men knew that!”
16. The composer Michael Nyman wrote the main theme in a house full of builders in France, on a synthesizer resting on a Black & Decker workbench, because there was no piano or table. More on the music of The Piano in this Guardian article.
17. Actor Sam Neill talked to The Guardian about working on the film.
“It was very hard to do that movie, chopping off your wife’s finger in a rainstorm in the mud. Could have a bad effect on you. Holly Hunter was such a firebrand. She fought back like buggery. After three takes I was absolutely exhausted.”
18. Since Holly Hunter didn’t know sign language and sign language didn’t exist in 1850 when the film is set, Hunter worked with an interpreter to invent a form of sign language that looked good in her hands and that she felt she could master. Read more here.
20. In the film’s production notes, Campion discusses the Victorian and Gothic influence.
I feel a kinship between the kind of romance Emily Brontë portrayed in `Wuthering Heights’ and this film. Hers is not the notion of romance that we’ve come to use; it’s very harsh and extreme, a Gothic exploration of the romantic impulse.
- Still missing their piano, Ada and Flora convince a reluctant George to take them back the beach where they first landed. In this scene: Ada (Holly Hunter), Flora (Anna Paquin), George (Harvey Keitel)
- Tensions run high at the play as George and Ada continue their passive-aggressive back-and-forth. In this scene: Ada (Holly Hunter), Stewart (Sam Neill), Flora (Anna Paquin), George (Harvey Keitel)
- Feeling guilty, George calls off his arrangement with Ada and returns her piano to her. In this scene: Ada (Holly Hunter), Stewart (Sam Neill), Flora (Anna Paquin), George (Harvey Keitel)
- As tensions between them grow, Ada and George take their affectionate agreement to the next level. In this scene: Ada (Holly Hunter), George (Harvey Keitel), Flora (Anna Paquin)
- Enthralled with Ada, George pushes the boundaries of their agreement. In this scene: Ada (Holly Hunter), George (Harvey Keitel), Stewart (Sam Neill), Flora (Anna Paquin)
- On a rainy day, Stewart and Ada take a wedding photograph. In this scene: Ada (Holly Hunter), Stewart (Sam Neill), Flora (Anna Paquin)