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Hysteria a ‘stimulating’ story By Richard Crouse May 18, 2012 Metro Canada

hysteria posterHugh Dancy, right, plays Mortimer Granville, a handsome doctor in 1880s England who cures women of ‘hysteria.’

Actor Hugh Dancy says the pitch for his new movie, Hysteria, was remarkably simple.

“All I got was essentially the tagline,” he says, “The Invention of the Vibrator.”

“I had some awareness of the premise,” he says, “so it wasn’t a complete revelation to me, but what I liked was the tone the movie struck between broad comedy and something much sweeter.”

He plays Mortimer Granville, a young, handsome doctor in 1880’s England, whose specialty is treating women with a medical condition known as hysteria.

Called the “plague of our times,” the now-discredited condition was a catchall to encompass all manner of female infirmities, including insomnia, nervousness, sexual desire, shortness of breath and even “a tendency to cause trouble.”

The condition was treated with… ahem… manual stimulation performed by doctors like Granville, until patients achieved “paroxysm.” “They thought they were shifting the uterus,” he says.

“That basic fact, which is the source of all the comedy and the fun thing in the movie,” Dancy says, “is the one thing that was absolutely accurate.”

Dancy, who has been married to actress Claire Danes since 2009, downplays the shooting of the awkward scenes, even though the doctor’s ‘magic-finger’ treatments provide some of the movie’s most memorable moments.

“We had some very accomplished and very game actresses come in and hoist themselves up onto an operating table and then we shot what you see in the movie.”

But the story doesn’t completely centre around the unorthodox medical treatment. As the actor says, it’s a “witches’ brew” of ideas, including romantic comedy, some social commentary on women’s rights and a history on the tool that revolutionized sexuality. “Any one of them on their own would make for a far less interesting movie,” says the actor, who will next be heard in the animated Dorothy of Oz, co-starring Lea Michele and Patrick Stewart.

“Obviously there are plenty of interesting movies to be made around the subject of women’s rights, but if the bits of this movie that address that had been extrapolated into a whole movie, I don’t think it would have added up to much.”

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