Mike Newell Talks Great Expectations

'I wanted to rediscover my soul'

With the Olympics on and the Queen doing a jubilee, it's easy to forget that there's another British landmark taking place in 2012. It's the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Dickens, the great storyteller of Victorian England. Mike Newell's new take on Great Expectations will give cinemagoers a chance to join the party.

"It has a different tone [to previous adaptations]," Newell tells Empire, fresh from post-production. "It's partly a thriller, but it's partly about treachery and letting people down that you shouldn’t let down."

Great Expectations was last brought to the cinema screen by Alfonso Cuarón - coincidentally another Harry Potter alum - although Newell's version will offer a more, well, Dickensian setting than the Mexican's contemporary take. "I’m very keen on the way the film is," says Newell, "It’s about two abused children: you watch them grow up and see how badly they have been distorted. What you don’t know is if they’re going to survive it."

The two wee'uns are, of course, Pip (Jeremy Irvine) and the cool, beautiful Estella (Holliday Grainger). Newell's cast also boasts the talents of his old Potter mucker Helena Bonham Carter, almost born to play the cobwebby Miss Havisham, and Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, a big-screen role made terrifying by Finlay Currie in the great David Lean version.

So what drew Newell, a director famously catholic in his choice of films, to the great literary work? “I did it because I wanted to rediscover my soul," he laughs. Did he feel like he lost it making Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time? "A little bit."

Great Expectations is out in the autumn. Watch this space for more.