Director of new Kate Winslet film Ammonite defends lesbian plot line

Director of new Kate Winslet film Ammonite defends lesbian plot line despite there being ‘no evidence’ fossil hunter Mary Anning had a same-sex relationship

  • Francis Lee, director of Ammonite, said he wanted to give Mary Anning love
  • He said her work was overlooked by men and her relationship needed equality
  • Ammonite will be released next month and stars Kate Winslet as Anning
  • Anning was a fossil-finder and palaeontologist in Dorset in the early 1800s

The director of a film about 19th Century palaeontologist Mary Anning has defended his decision to give her a same-sex relationship.

Francis Lee, the director of Ammonite, said he wanted to give Anning something ‘to elevate her’ because her work was overlooked by men.

Ammonite, which will be released next month, stars Kate Winslet as Anning and Saoirse Ronan as her friend Charlotte Murchison.

Ammonite, which will be released next month, stars Kate Winslet (left) as Mary Anning and Saoirse Ronan as her friend Charlotte Murchison

Mary Anning (pictured) brought Charlotte Murchison on her trips along the coast in the hope the outdoor activity would help Murchison’s illness

He told Deadline magazine: ‘I wanted to give her a relationship that felt worthy of her, that felt equal. In this society where men overlooked and reappropriated her work, I didn’t feel that that could be with a man.’ 

Francis Lee (pictured), the director of Ammonite

Anning was the daughter of a cabinet-maker, had little formal education, never married and died aged 47 in 1847.

But her finds along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset changed history. 

There is no evidence Anning and Murchison were intimate, and distant relatives blasted the lesbian storyline when news of the film broke in 2019.

Barbara Anning said: ‘Do the film-makers have to resort to using unconfirmed aspects to make an already remarkable story sensational?’

Mr Lee admitted there was ‘no documentation to suggest’ Anning had sexual relationship with either men or women.  

The director gained success from his debut film God’s Own Country, which told the story of a gay relationship between a Yorkshire sheep farmer and a migrant worker.  

Kate Winslet as Anning and Saoirse Ronan as Murchison during one of the film’s scenes

There is no evidence Anning and Murchison were intimate, and distant relatives blasted the lesbian storyline when news of the film broke in 2019. Pictured, a scene from the film

Mary Anning and Charlotte Murchison: What is known about their relationship? 

Charlotte Murchison was a renowned geologist and accompanied her husband on a trip to the Jurassic Coast in 1825.

During her time in Lyme Regis, Murchison met and befriended palaeontologist Mary Anning. 

The fossil-hunter brought Murchison on her searches along the coast in the hope the outdoor activity would help Murchison’s illness.

She nearly died of malaria during a trip to Rome early in her marriage to husband Roderick Impey Murchison and suffered from ill health for the rest of her life, dying aged 80.

Charlotte Murchison (pictured) was a renowned geologist and accompanied her husband on a trip to the Jurassic Coast in 1825

Anning never married and there are no records of whether she had a romantic or sexual relationship with women. Pictured, Winslet and Ronan in a scene from Ammonite

Anning stayed with Murchison on her only trip to London in 1829. 

And a letter from 1833 informing her friend of her dog Tray’s death in a landslide proves they corresponded. 

Anning never married and there are no records of whether she had a romantic or sexual relationship with women. 

Lee and others have used creative licence to suggest Anning was a lesbian, but she may equally have been asexual or uninterested in romance.

‘I do not believe there is any evidence to back up portraying her as a gay woman,’ Barbara Anning, one of her family members, told The Telegraph in 2019.  

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