Before The Craft, before the advent of Hot Topic, before the girl in the Siouxsie and the Banshees T-shirt from Wet Hot American Summer — there was Mary Shelley. The original goth teen has remained a fixture of high school literature curricula on the virtue of her masterpiece Frankenstein, surely the most important text in the English language ever composed as part of a drunken dare. But she lived a rich life beyond the page as well, romancing the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley before marrying him at age 18, and essentially living more freely than women were expected to at the time. Shelley was morbid but funny, lovely but intense, a staunch character begging for the biopic treatment.

And that’s just what she’ll get, courtesy of two bold young women in their own right. Elle Fanning will portray the canonized writer in a new drama titled Mary Shelley, formerly the artier-sounding A Storm in the Stars. Directed by Haifaa al-Mansour (notable as Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, and the talent behind the outstanding Wadjda, another film about a girl refusing to play by society’s rules), the film tracks Shelley’s courtship with Percy and her ascent to literary celebrity, with supporting performances from Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams and Diary of a Teenage Girl’s Bel Powley.

Today brings the first official look at the upcoming film, currently angling to find a distributor in the marketplace at the Berlinale Film Festival. In it, a fetching-looking Shelley stares into space while writing in her notebook, perhaps searching for inspiration from the graveyard around her. Sharp-eyed readers will recognize the name on the grave she’s leaning against, too — it’s Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Shelley’s mother and the noted writer of proto-feminist text A Vindication of the Rights of Women.


Fanning, meanwhile, has kind of been on fire lately. She pulled a hat trick in 2016 with The Neon Demon, 20th Century Women and Live By Night, and she just made a splash in the trailer for Sofia Coppola’s upcoming feature The Beguiled. Looks like she won’t be slowing down any time soon.

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