‘Vanity Fair’ trivia: 25 things you didn’t know about ITV’s new mini-series

ITV’s new Vanity Fair mini-series was the must-see period drama of 2018.

The seven-part adaptation from the makers of Poldark and Victoria has drawn wonderful reviews, making William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic story “just as relevant as it was in 1848.”

Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, Vanity Fair follows Becky Sharp (Bates Motel star Olivia Cooke) as she attempts to claw her way out of poverty and scale the heights of English Society.

Vanity Fair is now available to watch in the USA exclusively on Amazon Prime.

Here are some fascinating facts about the series:


1. Although she shot to fame playing an American character in the Canadian-made Psycho prequel series Bates Motel, actress Olivia Cooke is in fact from Oldham in England and has a Manchester accent.

2. Budapest in Hungary doubled for the Belgian capital Brussells in the series as it had “the perfect period architecture“.

3. Budapest was also used for scenes set in Pumpernickel, Germany.

4. Ironically, Olivia Cooke has little vanity of her own. She joked: “I used to care more about my appearance, but after being in [2014 movie] The Quiet Ones and seeing how grotesque I can be, I don’t have any dignity anymore.”

5. The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens scenes were filmed at Syon House – which happens to be on the Heathrow flight path. Charlie Rowe (George) revealed: “There were planes flying over us every 50 seconds!”

6. 400 extras and stunt men, 50 horses, and cameras on drones were used to film the Battle of Waterloo, with up to three units shooting each day.

7. The cast were filming on the fairground carousel featured in the opening titles for several hours: “There was a point after a little bit too much spinning where we were all delirious,” recalled Claudia Jessie (Amelia).

8. The locations for the Osborne and Sedley houses were both in London’s Fitzroy Square.

9. Martin Clunes (Sir Pitt) owns Clydesdale horses so did his own riding scenes: “I hadn’t driven my boys for over two years so before we filmed those scenes I got them in front of the cart again.”

10. Tom Bateman (Rawdon) worried that Doc Martin star Martin Clunes would be grumpy, but found him to be “like a bouncy puppy and great fun.”

11. Olivia Cooke unintentionally lost weight during the six-month shoot: “The corset is so stifling. You are strapped in first thing in the morning and then you are on set for 13, 14 hours. It restricts your appetite as well. I lost so much weight!”

12. William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel was originally published as a 19-volume monthly serial between 1847 and 1848, with the subtitle Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society.

13. Claudia Jessie gifted co-star Olivia Cooke a writing set when filming wrapped: “And I said to her, ‘So that you and I can continue this story together. Just like Becky and Amelia would write to each other.’ Olivia lives in America. So it’s going to be so exciting to receive letters from America. And she’ll get one from little old Birmingham.”

14. When the story was published as a single volume in 1848, Thackeray changed the subtitle to A Novel without a Hero.

15. Olivia Cooke hadn’t heard of the book before she auditioned: “I didn’t know it was a novel and then I read the script and found out … and then read the novel!”

Vanity Fair

16. Two hundred men trained in a boot camp before playing Napoleonic soldiers.

17. The Waterloo battle scenes were filmed on the same farm in Mapledurham in Reading where Michael Caine shot World War II movie The Eagle Has Landed in the 1970s.

18. Olivia Cook can’t actually speak French! She said: “I had a couple of lessons. I think I fudged my way through it!”

19. 2001: A Space Odyssey director Stanley Kubrick once planned to direct a Vanity Fair adaptation, but decided the 800-page novel was too big to fit into a three-hour movie.

20. The story was filmed completely out of order, starting with Episode 4 then jumping to Episode 7!

21. The book’s title comes from John Bunyan’s 1678 book, Pilgrim’s Progress

22. Olivia Cooke watched Reese Witherspoon’s 2004 version of Vanity Fair during filming: “I thought it was great. But I was relieved because we have both played her differently.”

23. Martin Clunes had already worked with the dog that played Gorer before on an episode of Doc Martin.

24. There have been 5 previous TV adaptations of Vanity Fair and six movies, including four silent films.

25. Charlie Rowe has admitted that George’s sideburns were fake: “I can grow them but our director didn’t think mine were proficient enough! I’d spend over an hour in make-up every morning getting these fake sideburns put on, a couple of hairs at a time.”


Vanity Fair is available to buy now on DVD in the UK and on digital download.

Vanity Fair is available to watch in the USA exclusively on Amazon Prime.