Jane Seymour fans who want to see her play Lady Brett Ashley and wear flapper-era clothes will watch. Leonard Nimoy fans who want to see him wearing something other than his Mr. Spock ears will watch.
And Ernest Hemingway fans who want to see the master brought to television will watch too. And maybe cringe.
Robert J. Joseph, who wrote and produced "The Sun Also Rises" into a TV miniseries, is ready to defend himself from the purists who'll cry, "My God, they've rewritten Hemingway."
"I didn't rewrite Hemingway," he said. "I just put him in a different medium." To prepare for translating Hemingway from novel to miniseries form, Joseph looked at other Hemingway screen renditions, as well as the "Moby Dick" and "Wuthering Heights" novel-film conversions. "You don't rewrite Hemingway," he insisted. "You just put him in a different form. Rewrite Hemingway? No!"
We'll see. At 9 tonight and Monday evening on NBC.
Also starring in the adaptation, set in France and Spain following World War I, are Hart Bochner as Jake Barnes, an American newspaperman who settles in Paris after the war and, in light of debilitating war wounds, makes the mistake of falling in love with Lady Brett. Frustrated in her love for Barnes, Ashley embarks on a destructive series of conquests. Jake's friend Robert Cohn, played by Robert Carradine, is one of them; a Scotsman, Mike Campbell, played by Ian Charleson, is another, and so is a bullfighter, played by Andrea Occhipinti. Add there's Nimoy, playing a larger version of the European count than the one described by Hemingway.
The normally long-haired Seymour wears a closer-cut wig in the film, along with a closetful of '20s style dresses. She has the role played by Ava Gardner in the 1957 feature film version of the work. "I know I found a different Lady Brett than Ava Gardner's," she said, noting that she's turned down previously-played parts she didn't think she could improve upon. And the earlier filmmakers, she added, "didn't have the privilege of going to Spain and France to film." (The '57 version was shot in Mexico City.)
"I don't think that Lady Brett slept with every man she met," said Seymour. "She sees different things in various men. She sees danger in the count, for instance."
Joseph saw interesting dimensions to the count too. "I was in France after the war and met many people like the count -- killers, pimps and fools . . . people who were amusing or feared," he said. "I wanted to deal with the human wreckage of World War I . . . the count is part of what was left. The count has no value in the novella. We use him in a way I think Hemingway would approve."
The character is enlarged and is used to keep the narrative going, Joseph said, a necessary move in dealing with such an impressionistic book. "The impressionistic approach," he added, "would last about a minute- and-a-half on a commercial network."
Nimoy said he had no qualms over how his character was treated in the teleplay. "The character was richly written," he said. "The entire piece was richly written."
There was one problem: "The major concern I had," Nimoy said, "was that the character was required to fascinate the character played by Jane Seymour. I got up every morning and said to myself, 'Okay, you've got to go to work and fascinate Jane Seymour.'"