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What links The Essex Serpent to a brave De Niro impression and a Taylor Swift T-shirt?

The Guardian logo The Guardian 14/05/2022 Larry Ryan

The only way is …

Back in 2016, Sarah Perry’s second novel, The Essex Serpent, went from well-received to word-of-mouth bestseller to award winner. Now, the Victorian gothic tale about a mysterious creature haunting Essex (no, not Eddie Hearn) has ascended to the highest possible plane: the lavish TV adaptation. The six-part series launched on Apple TV+ on 13 May.

Cora the explorer

Leaving behind her expansive Homeland mind maps, Claire Danes plays Cora, a widow who departs Victorian London for a village near the Blackwater estuary, only to get dragged into local intrigue involving a terrifying folktale coming to life. Tom Hiddleston stars as Will, the man trying to keep the beast at bay.

Loki guy

Hiddleston has always bounced confidently between prestige TV, indie film and Marvel blockbusters but – before he started dancing and singing in numerous public settings, or decided to do an average impression of Robert De Niro to his face! – he appeared in Jim Jarmusch’s strange, beguiling, existential vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive.


Gallery: The 50 most iconic fictional characters (Espresso)

Queen of the Croisette

In 1986, Jarmusch released his third film, Down By Law, a strange, beguiling existential jailbreak movie. One Claire Denis worked on it as an assistant director – the Frenchwoman would go on to be a master director in her own right, with the likes of Chocolat and Beau Travail. The Cannes film festival opens on Tuesday and Denis’ latest, The Stars at Noon, is among those vying for the Palme d’Or.

… whose third film was worked on by Claire Denis, director of The Stars at Noon … Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock © Provided by The Guardian … whose third film was worked on by Claire Denis, director of The Stars at Noon … Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Swift half

The Stars at Noon features Joe Alwyn, who also appears in BBC Three’s Conversations With Friends, starting on 15 May. Alwyn is also Taylor Swift’s “London boy”; it was love. But long before that, Swift was in an odd showmance with Tom Hiddleston; he has the T-shirt to show for it, but now will be seen in The Essex Serpent’s Victorian garb.

Pairing notes

Watch Essex Serpent director Clio Barnard came to prominence with her experimental film The Arbor about troubled Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar, author of such classic modern dramas as Rita, Sue and Bob Too.

Eat Not far from the Blackwater estuary is the much-loved fish shack The Company Shed in West Mersea. BYOB; delight in the seafood platters.

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