Greg Wise has visited Lancaster University in preparation for his role as the Victorian art critic and writer John Ruskin, in a film scripted by his wife Emma Thompson.
The feature film Effie centres on Ruskin’s ill-fated marriage to Effie Gray, who will be played by the Hollywood actress Dakota Fanning.
After the loveless marriage, Effie fell in love with Ruskin’s protégé, the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais.
Greg Wise looked through Ruskin’s drawings and papers from the Whitehouse Collection housed in the Ruskin Library, which is the largest single collection of material about one of the Victorian era’s most influential thinkers.
He said: "It is very kind to let a scruffy actor touch these things but it has helped immensely. Seeing Ruskin’s own work has enabled me to see what he did, the style and phrasing and drawing. I feel I understand him better now."
The Ruskin Library is supplying images of books and drawings to be recreated for use in the film, which will be shot in Scotland, London and Venice and is due to be premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.
Derek Jacobi and Julie Walters are Ruskin’s parents while the screenplay is by Emma Thompson who also plays Lady Eastlake. Edward Fox will play her husband Sir Charles Eastlake.
Professor Stephen Wildman, Director of the Library, said: "It shows that Ruskin is still of great interest today, and this film, following two recent biographies of Effie, will renew the attention his extraordinary life and work deserve.
"Greg and Emma are doing their best to make the settings as accurate as is practical, and the great range of material we have helps to make that possible."
The next exhibition at the Ruskin Library is Ruskin’s Flora (opening 10 October), botanical drawings by Ruskin which have been identified and catalogued by Professor David Ingram of the Lancaster Environment Centre.