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We go behind the scenes of the fact-based drama, A Destiny of Her Own, starring Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell and Jacqueline Bisset, who talk about the characters being so contemporary, despite the 16th century Venetian setting.

A Destiny of Her Own began its journey to the screen when a copy of Margaret Rosenthal’s biography of the legendary courtesan Veronica Franco was submitted to Marshall Herskovitz, Edward Zwick and Sarah Caplan via their production company, Bedford Falls.

"The power of woman’s sexuality"

Says Caplan, "The character of Veronica Franco is very unusual for her era. In many ways she is a very contemporary figure, someone who combines her intellect, her emotions and her physical attributes to create a unique destiny for herself."

"The film attempts to look at something that has been pushed down in our culture, the power of woman’s sexuality," explains Herskovitz. "In the 1500s, to be courtesan was the only way for a woman to be a complete person. These were the only women who were allowed to be educated, the only women who could become artists, the only women who could own property. It’s a complete flip on how we see things today."

Catherine McCormack was cast as Veronica following her charismatic performance as the ill-fated wife of Mel Gibson’s William Wallace in the Oscar-winning Best Picture Braveheart.

"Catherine just seemed to have some magical quality that hit all those notes"

"Veronica is a very difficult character to play because she is such a complex human being and so young," explains Herskovitz. "She is funny, she is wise, she is sexual, she is poetic. To find all this in one person is terribly difficult; I think we saw more than 120 actresses for the role. Catherine just seemed to have some magical quality that hit all those notes. She is intelligent, she is incredibly beautiful and she is able to project that kind of sensuality."

McCormack was immediately drawn to her character, saying "I loved her spirit, her strength, the way she was able to come out fighting and was able to speak for herself and other women."

Rufus Sewell was cast as Marco Venier, the charming young nobleman whose assumptions about the roles of men and women are turned upside down by his infatuation with Veronica- an infatuation that later matures into love.

"Marcus is someone who gets away with things," says Sewell. "He is a ‘roaring boy’, but he finds out that there is more to himself than he thought through his relationship with Veronica. He has never met someone like her: she has guts, daring and beauty. Her personality completely towers over everyone else and yet she is also very vulnerable." Paolo Franco, a former courtesan instructing her daughter in the skills of her profession, is played by Jacqueline Bisset. "Jackie is one of a handful of people who is an icon of beauty, but is also extremely intelligent," says Herskovitz. "She has these incisive eyes and a charismatic presence. Of course it was a great gift that she and Catherine look so much alike."

"I see it as a very modern story" Jacqueline Bisset

For Jacqueline Bisset, it was the script that attracted her to the role of Paolo. "I see it as a very modern story; it was not long ago that most Western women felt that they didn’t have a lot of alternatives when it came to financial security. If they couldn’t marry well and if they didn’t want to do a very limited number of rather menial jobs, they were at risk of starving. This story points out that this problem has existed for centuries and that it has always been left to the strong and resourceful woman to control her own fate. I liked the fact that my character was able to present that option to her daughter, rather than succumbing to the hypocrisy and passivity that would have ruined her life.

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See Paul Fischer's interview with RUFUS SEWELL

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