Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Three Film Wishes

My time pitching in here is coming to an end. Thanks again to Nat for giving me the opportunity, and everyone else for reading. It's been fun. Keep an eye out for me at Oscarwatch. Once I get through a particularly busy work/travel period, I hope to chime in there more frequently.

Since I celebrated my birthday yesterday, I present three film-related birthday wishes for my final post:

1. That Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (Susanna Clarke) can be successfully translated to the screen: This “historical fantasy” about two “real” magicians in early 19th Century Britain is an incredibly dense, brilliant, and witty novel. It's long (nearly 800 pages) and the opening chapters didn't immediately pull me in--I had to put it down on the first attempt, before returning months later. Once I got into it, I tore through the rest in about a week.

The adaptation is in the works. While in the early stages, it sounds promising. It's being made by New Line Cinema--which seems to have cornered the market on major fantasy fiction, between the Tolkien-works and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons and the upcoming Atonement) is writing the adaptation. So far the only casting rumor I’ve heard is Paul Bettany as the younger and more dynamic of the two leads, Jonathan Strange. However, that's based on fan speculation over this photo of him carrying the book! If it turns out he is involved, not sure how I feel about it. As much as I admire his work, I actually picture somebody darker for the part. I think an actor like Clive Owen could be a better fit. However, I may be biased. Lately he just comes to my mind randomly—regardless of whether or not he’s right for a role.

Outside of casting, the biggest concern I have is that it will be a difficult book to transfer to the screen. It's inherently cinematic, but it's also so rich--I fear much will be sacrificed for the translation. Still, a lot of the paring down can come from the lengthy footnotes, which offer interesting and often humorous background information, but aren't essential to the plot. The other issue is whether or not there will be magician fatigue after The Prestige and The Illusionist.

2. That Peter Jackson is ultimately chosen to direct The Hobbit: Yes, I know this is a pretty obvious one for me--and also not very likely at this point, given the publicized rift between New Line head Bob Shaye and Jackson. Earlier this week stirred up the Sam Raimi talk again, with this interview in which he says he's "seriously interested" in the project. Maybe in the end it will be better if someone else directs it, because the expectations will be so incredibly high—at least among those of us who loved The Lord of the Rings. In many ways the trilogy is unique, like lightning in a bottle. Even if you throw the same ingredients in again, who knows how it will turn out. At this point I don’t see us finding out.

3. Clive Owen: Told you he was on my mind. A lot. He's in enough films these days to satisfy me, but I want a personal copy. What? I can’t have him? Alright. I'll settle for Eric Bana. I can be reasonable.

If you had three film-related wishes, what would they be?


Jason Adams said...

I really have trouble imagining Strange making a successful leap to film - I had pretty much the same experience with the book; it doesn't suck you in very quickly, but when it does you can't put it down. But still, I think it lacks the cinematic side; you keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the magicians to have a confrontation, and the book pretty much sidesteps it entirely. Like you, the only way I could see it working is with some serious changes.

And I know Strange himself is older later in the book, but I really always pictured him younger than both Bettany and Owen, though I'm with you on the darker coloring than Bettany angle. But nobody specific's coming to my mind for casting, either.

SusanP said...

I agree re: Strange being younger, which is why I don't think Clive Owen is a perfect fit. Ten years ago, he would have been. Nobody else is coming to mind right now. Perhaps they can get an unknown and go with more famous actor in some of the supporting roles.

I'd also read some fan speculation on Bettany playing the fairy villain, but in that case, not sure he's "light" enough or young enough.

You bring up a good point about the lack of confrontation. I hope Hampton approaches it as more Jane Austen-Brit-comedy-of-manners, versus fantasy. If they can trim correctly and get the tone right, I think it could be very good. IF.

Beau said...

1) Liv Ullmann wins an Oscar.
2) Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, and Richard Linklater continue to explore the spectacular relationship between Jesse and Celine from the 'Before...' series for years to come.
3) Ingmar Bergman makes one final masterpiece before he passes on, so that I may be able to witness his genius in a theater alongside all of the others who've been so blessed with the opportunity to watch his films upon their respective releases, unlike myself.

Anonymous said...

Only 3 movie wishes? Oh dear! What to choose from? ;o)

That Norrel & Strange movie is a bit iffy... it could be oh so good!!! but in the wrong hands a complete disaster, one of those depressing films that make you cry saying "but it could have been so much better if only;;;". I'd see Ian Holm (Bilbo!!!) as Norrell, and Christian Bale would be a fabulous Norrell... except that he just played a magician. Bettany would be a good villain though! :o)

As for wishes, just off the top of my head:

1- that the upcoming new Star Trek movie isn't as terrible as I fear and will actually inspire some fabulous writers to launch another series with excellent story-telling

2- that Joss Whedon launches a new project... SOON!

3- a book I'd like to see made into a movie: La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafón... fabulous opportunity to tell a story within a story!

Anonymous said...

oops! I meant Bale as Strange! sorry!

Anonymous said...

My film wishes:

1. The studios preserve all of their movies and make them available to download if not make them available on DVD.

2. I actually make a living writing about film.

3. Less gratuitous violence in movies, but a lot more
gratuitous nudity.

Anonymous said...

What I loved most about the Jonathan Strange novel was how the two protagonists spend the first half of the book bickering to an extent they don't even notice there's evil being done. I think that's why people have a hard time getting into it, as Clarke only allows the reader to gradually realise that something else is going on. I don't think they could keep that aspect of the novel, though.

SusanP said...

Beau: Totally agree with your second wish--though can they top the ending of the second film?

Cris: Bale is definitely a possibility -- maybe too good looking. It's actually been more than a year since I read the book, but I recall Strange being a bit odd looking--sharp features.
I could see someone like Holm as Norrell--I think that will actually be an easier part to cast.

Peter: I'm with you on #2

Anon: Good point. I think it's time for me to re-read it.

Anonymous said...

1) I'll go with your #2.

2) Serenity 2: Still Flying

3) Bring! Back! Moneypenny!

That's a very geeky wishlist, isn't it? Sorry.

Jason Adams said...

Bale occurred to me too, for Strange - maybe if he whittles himself down to near Machinist-weight he could get some of those angles again... But then I don't want him to do that again, cuz yikes.

Vance said...

Oooh Clive. Can I say? In person, we were all swooning... i'm 6'1" and I had to look up! Plus, the guy is as charming and nice in person as he is cool and mysterious on screen! Though yeah, Eric Bana, he'll do too. haha...

Anonymous said...

1.) Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, and Diane Keaton all team up for one last hurrah.

2.) Nicole Kidman returns for the third part of Lars Von Trier's American trilogy.

3.) Anne Hathaway stars in a film version of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Anonymous said...

Barry Pepper as Jonathan Strange
Ian Holm as Mister Norrell
Anne Hathaway as Arabella Strange
Es el mejor casting