Inside 'Vanity Fair' with Director Mira Nair

Listen: <b>Web Extra</b>: Extended Interview with Mira Nair

Mira Nair and Reese Witherspoon

Director Mira Nair, right, and actress Reese Witherspoon (Becky Sharp) on the set of Vanity Fair. © 2004 Focus Features hide caption

itoggle caption © 2004 Focus Features
Mira Nair and Reese Witherspoon

Director Mira Nair, right, and actress Reese Witherspoon (Becky Sharp) on the set of Vanity Fair. 2004 Focus Features hide caption

itoggle caption 2004 Focus Features

Mira Nair — whose films Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay! explored class conflicts — takes on Victorian-era England in her latest movie, Vanity Fair. She finds interesting parallels between the lead character, Becky Sharp, a poor social climber played by Reese Witherspoon, and William Thackeray, author of the novel, which was first serialized in 1847.

"I thought that Thackeray, in being such a great outsider to his culture, being born and raised in Calcutta and coming to England when he was seven, and writing very much with the view of observing his own society while belonging to it, also created the same role of insider-outsider in Becky Sharp. And I think that's what I identified with in a big way," the director tells NPR's Renee Montagne.

In Thackeray's classic tale, "nothing is what it seems," Nair says. "I love the level of dysfunction that Thackeray gives us in families, and especially in English aristocratic families... He really enjoys the whole dance of the class system." And so does Nair.

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