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  M.   December 03, 2009

Success of the Twilight saga books and films inspire new productions of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

The Brontës are back in fashion – with a bit of help from Bella Swan. New films of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre will shoot next spring, and a script about the teenage fantasies of the four Brontë siblings is in the works.

The film-makers are piggybacking off the success of the Twilight saga, which has sparked a renewed enthusiasm among financiers for gothic romance; the Brontës in particular. Wuthering Heights is one of Twilight heroine Bella Swan’s favourite books, frequently referenced in the third episode Eclipse, whose storyline is inspired by Emily Brontë’s only novel.

The producers of the latest Brontë projects are targeting the Twilight audience with younger casts than previous versions and scripts that emphasise the sensational gothic elements alongside a contemporary psychological realism.

Wuthering Heights, directed by Peter Webber, will star 22-year-old Ed Westwick, a British actor best known from the American teen TV series Gossip Girl, as an unusually youthful Heathcliff. Gemma Arterton, 23, will play Cathy.

“The Twilight factor is extremely helpful to Wuthering Heights,” agrees producer Robert Bernstein. “It’s clearly in the zeitgeist. Why is anybody’s guess, but people are absolutely obsessed with this doomed, romantic love that can only be achieved beyond death, or in the case of Twilight, by becoming a vampire.”

In Eclipse, Bella quotes Cathy on Heathcliff to describe her feelings for her vampire lover Edward: “If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” It is this forbidden, obsessive romance between Heathcliff and Cathy that Webber’s film will focus on.

Sales of Wuthering Heights shot up in France when it was marketed alongside Eclipse in bookshops. In the UK, Harper Collins republished it with a cover imitating the Twilight design, including an endorsement from “Bella & Edward”. Head of sales Kate Manning says the gimmick has given teenage girls “a renewed interest in Brontë”.

Wuthering Heights will shoot next May in Scotland and Ireland – leaving the Yorkshire moors to take advantage of finance.