The Film

Girl with a Pearl Earring
stars Scarlett Johannson (Griet) and Colin Firth (Vermeer)
For complete cast list, see:

Official site :

Luckily the book landed in the very skilled hands of Olivia Hetreed, who had written for British television but not a full-length feature film. We met briefly a few times, and she had a few questions. But mostly she just got on with it. When she sent me a draft screenplay several months later, it was more out of politeness than wanting advice or criticism. Just as well – it took me a long time to work up the courage to read it all the way through. By the time I did she had probably done two more drafts. (They work fast, these screenwriters!)

It was a strange experience reading someone else’s version of my story. I felt a little sick as I read it, as if from the dizziness of someone else climbing inside my head and looking out through my eyes. Sometimes I was sorry when some scene or character was gone, but mostly I was impressed by how well Olivia had managed to translate a first-person book into a film without a voiceover. (I don’t much like voiceovers – usually they are a sloppy, unimaginative way of presenting someone’s point of view.) I was even envious of some of the visual details Olivia had invented, especially a scene in which Griet plays with the reflection of the bowl she’s polishing and the Vermeer girls chase the spot of light around the courtyard. “Why didn’t I think of that?”I kept thinking as I read.

But a screenplay is not a film. A lot happens in the editing; a lot gets left on the cutting-room floor. Just as I’d had to give up my Girl to Olivia, she had to give up hers to the director, Peter Webber. The final product is his vision more than anyone else’s. We were lucky to have had his eyes.

To read an article I wrote about the experience, see:,6903,1113043,00.html