Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cast This! The Curse of Chalion

Over a month ago I announced the first book club/movie game. So many things to keep track of if you read this blog --my apologies. I'm not trying to control YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. I'm just ... social.

<-- Our first selection was The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. It's a historical fantasy novel that trades more on palace intrigues than sorcery (though there's some of that, too) and is very loosely based on 15th century Spain. The story is about a man "Cazaril" who was a young page for the royal House of Chalion. He returns decades later having escaped life as a slave, broken and aged far beyond his thirty-some years. The treacherous men who pushed him toward that surprise ignoble fate --intended to be the death of him -- are now intermingled with the royal family in positions of power. He rejoins Chalion as tutor to the princess and he just might prove to be the savior of the royal family. They're under political duress and a magical curse. When it rains it pours, you know.

The life of Queen Isabella of Spain (portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in the
movie 1492and by Rachel Weisz -sort of- in The Fountain) served as
some of the inspiration for the plot and characters of The Curse of Chalion

It's a complicated story. There are abundant political maneuvers, multiple characters with both unfamiliar names and separate titles (I was confused at first, I admit), and a new concept of religion to understand: There's not a Holy Trinity in this world but a Holy Family; Observant types are part of the either the Order of The Mother, The Father, The Daughter, The Son or the Bastard. I loved the religious angle in this book. It was well portrayed and a fascinating five pronged departure from the Judeo-Christian world we're more familiar with. The plot and characters took longer to sink in but it got there for me. But --joy of joys-- The Curse of Chalion has a beginning, middle and end. Imagine that. I grow weary of fantasy novels that are always trying to sell the next book to me. Franchise be gone! (This is part of a series but never mind: it stands alone.)

Cast This! I'm always bitching at Hollywood's casting directors for their lack of imagination but it's harder than I thought to think outside the box. From the moment I started reading I couldn't get Viggo Mortensen out of my head as "Cazaril", the main character. Is this because Cazaril wears a beard that everyone wants him to shave off --a la Viggo lately? Is this because the actor portrays the noble heroic soul so well? Or because he'll always be Aragorn... and thus fits neatly in the mind's imagination as a fantasy figure. I couldn't think outside this box but I'd love to hear who fellow Chalion readers thought of. Cazaril is only 35 (15 years younger than Viggo) but he looks older. He's a good soul but also human. He lusts after a much younger woman and makes some desperate not entirely reputable decisions. He's frail physically (given his slave years) but a true warrior when it comes to determination and sly heroics. Ideas please. Which actor can carry a movie and pull all of this off? Paddy Considine. I love him. He's such a great actor and this role doesn't really need the overt heroics of a "movie star." Matthew McFayden (34)?

Casting is a tough job. You completely alter the movie on every imaginary projecting step of your way.

the royal family
"Iselle" (teen) the princess and Cazaril's student: amber hair, heavy-lidded eyes, acts without thinking. Beautiful, crafty and headstrong... like all fictional princesses.

"Teidez" (teen) the prince: curly amber hair, restless, easily manipulated, unpredictable and a touch violent. Can Jamie Bell still play a teenager? He should be in everything. Or wait... I know: Max Pirkis (19). That kid who was so excellent in Master and Commander (2003) and later popped up on Rome. He can do the "entitled" thing.
"Orico" (30s) their king and step-brother: aged beyond his years, sickly, wide, pale and puffy and possibly drugged or possessed? I want to say Steven Waddington but that's probably because I saw him being a bad monarch in Edward II (1991). This is how typecasting works, people. It's where your mind goes immediately. To the familiar.
"Sara" (30s) Orico's wife. Pretty but fading, silent and miserable. Rumors of sexual abuse run through the court.

"Ista" (30s) Iselle and Teidez' mother: possibly insane. Light haired with "a face of the most profound grief" Spends most of her days praying, sleeping or spouting gibberish. I thought of Mary Louise Parker (43) for both the Sara and Ista roles. She does internal chaos so superbly and both women would only seize their scenes if the actress was good at conveying the inner life. Vera Farmiga? Any other ideas people?

"The Provincara" (elderly) the matriarch of the House of Chalion: steely and firm, good natured but impatient. Protective of her brood and disdainful of politics. This is the type of role Hollywood immediately shoves Judi Dench into for biting wit. But to prevent it from becoming too stock in casting, why not surprise with someone warmer than you'd expect like, say, Emma Thompson (49) or more mysterious like Miranda Richardson (50)... or am I going too young here ?

supporting characters
"Lady Beatriz" (20s) Iselle's best friend and Cazaril's love interest: dimpled brunette, smart, patient and quietly self-sacrificing. Looks wise Alexis Bledel (26) could fit the bill... but does she read too naive or immature onscreen? Can she do period pieces convincingly? Anne Hathaway? But she's too big of a star for this relatively small role. The Prestige's Rebecca Hall (26)? She played Bale's wife in that one... and played her well.
"Bergon" (20s) the prince of another royal family: stocky but fit, masculine, smart, exuberant but disciplined. I'm thinking Charlie Cox. I've wanted to see him again since Stardust. Dominic Cooper?
"Umegat" (age undetermined) a mystical and mysterious servant to Orico. Tall, stooped, graying hair. This is the type you see Paul Bettany getting: odd but crucial part.
"Palli" (30s), Cazaril's confidante. Dark haired, very handsome, a strong soldier and humble religious type. Because I was thinking of Aragorn-Viggo-Cazaril I found myself pulling for Legolas-Bloom-Palli but that is 2 times too much Lord of the Rings in the house. All of that hot Viggorli stuff has settled too deep into my marrow. This is the type of role that they'd probably shove Rupert Friend into now. But maybe he reads a little sinister for it. Hmmm...

Alexis Bledel, Ty Burrell, Rebecca Hall, Charlie Cox

the villains
"Dondo dy Jironal" (40s) a rising political power: black hair, stocky, a true glutton in temperament: wine, women, flashing of wealth.
"March dy Jironal" (40s-50s) His brother, tall, tense and formidable. He's the gray-haired general of the military order.
I'd love to see what someone like Ty Burrell could do in a larger part. He keeps getting these befuddled intellectual good guy roles (Fur, The Incredible Hulk) but his face is interesting and kind of severe. I was just thinking about him today... but can he do sinister or scary?

This is tough. I beg for your help in this imaginary ordeal. Together we could save this imaginary movie from ruin. Do something important with your life. ;) Did you even read the book or do you always need moving pictures?

August's "Cast This!" Selection:
Then We Came To The End
by Jonathan Ferris. It's supposed to be very funny, brilliant, and I figured it might be good for this type of book club since it's a huge ensemble piece and contemporary too. We'll discuss on Thursday, August 21st. Get reading! Are you joining us?


Sam Brooks said...

I immediately think of Alex Pettyfer for the role of Teidez, which should surprise nobody. Guess what I have on the brain?

Perhaps Glenn Close for The Provincara, too. No other actress comes to mind when I think of 'steely and firm' better than she.

Literature Crazy said...

Sorry that I missed this month, but I gave the book club a shout-out on my blog, and will definitely be in the mix next month.

Thanks for your work on Film Experience.

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel - You put me to shame - great casting choices. Here are my ideas, although they aren't as wide-ranging as yours...

Cazaril - Viggo is the obvious choice. But if I *had* to pick someone else, how about Christian Bale? He's got the range and maturity, and looks just as hot with a beard as without...

Iselle - I thought this would be the perfect place to cast Amanda Seyfried and then have...

Ista - Michelle Pfeiffer. In the follow-up (not sequel!) "Paladin of Souls", Ista is the main character, so this needs to be an amazing actress even though it's a small part. Besides, you always said you wanted to see those two play mother-daughter...

Sara - Maybe Toni Collette? I just saw "Japanese Story" and was once again blown away by her range.

Orico - Tom Hollander - he does creepy/sympathetic like nobody else I've seen.

Teidez - Max Pirkis is an awesome choice.

Umegat - In my imagination he was not white, but when it came to casting I ended up thinking of Enrico Colantoni (otherwise known as Veronica Mars' dad). He has a world-weary quality, but there's a strong emotional current underneath too.

The Provincara - I love the idea of Emma Thompson as a surprise choice, but if we were going to try to go closer to actual age what about Imelda Staunton?

Lady Betriz - This is really tough. I want to love this person since she's Cazaril's love interest. Alexis Bledel feels too cold to me, but I don't have any better suggestions...

Bergon - I have been drooling over James D'Arcy ever since Master & Commander came out and want to see him in period costume again. Yum.

Palli - Are we tired of seeing Paul Bettany in loyal sidekick roles yet? (I know, I know, too much Master & Commander...)

March dy Jironal and Dondo dy Jironal - It'd be fun to see Sean Bean and Alan Rickman be co-bad-guys.


brooke --i had to look up ALEX PETTYFER (oops) but yes, good choice. and yum. And @ 18 is the right age (since actors usually skew older than their characters --especially with teen roles)

heathers --thanks. hope you'll pipe in next month.

emily --i figured i had to do every role but i left a few blank. Next time I'll leave it more open to others. I think Bale is a great choice. I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me. Also we know he can physically alter his body without much fuss so that helps with a character who goes through so much physically.

the Iselle and Ista choices I love of course. For some reason I was picturing Ista as younger than Pfeiffer but "a face of profound grief" --La Pfeiffer "I am sorrow" can do it.

re: umegat. I should've thought more ethnic there but I was a little confused by Bujold's description of him.

re: Beatriz. You're right about Bledel. I don't like it either but she's the only person that came to mind really other than Hall... who would probably be much better the more i think about it. Have you seen her in The Prestige?

Anonymous said... a start...I think Alexis Bledel is way too contemporary and not a good enough actor to pull it off. Rebecca Hall is a fine actress, and put Johannson to shame in The Prestige! Speaking of The Prestige, any good villian role for Bowie? Remember Jareth in Labyrinth?

Jamie Bell IS the best, and a sweetheart to boot, but probably doesn't want to play another teen.

What about Rachel Hurd Wood for Iselle? She is just turning 18. I don't see Amanda Seyfried having the chops for this either.

Mary Louise Parker is a Goddess of sorts, but I find her too contemporary for this type of material. Love the suggestion of Vera Farmiga better.

Whenever I need a casting suggestion list...I go to IMDb Starmeter and scroll down through the top 500 or so. You can also look specifically at under 25's as well. There are some bullshit actors making the tops of these lists, but a lot of good ones you may not have on the tip of your tongue!

Sam Brooks said...

I got an even better idea for The Provincara, and as much as I love Glenn Close, I feel that a resident favourite and forgotten Supporting Actress Oscar-winner might be more suitable.

Mary Steenburgen. She needs to get some quality work again. It's so sad that Joan of Arcadia was cancelled.


brooke what a great idea.

did anybody else read this book?


and did you like it? It took me awhile longer to get into it than I usually give myself --unlike movies where i have to finish what i start, i can set a book aside if i'm not hooked in 50 pages. but i liked it once it sank in. The plotting was good. Loved the last act chess moves.

Anonymous said...

Re: Umegat. I don't know why I didn't think of Bollywood actors for this (my husband is Indian so I see lots of them, whether I want to or not) - maybe Amitabh Bachchan (who is much older than his imdb picture would lead you to believe) or even Amir Khan - he's younger than Umegat but also a quality actor.

I did see "The Prestige" and liked Rebecca Hall - she'd be good as Betriz.

This casting thing is fun but tough - I kept finding myself going down my list of favorite actors and trying to shove them into roles whether they fit or not...

Anonymous said...


As I said initially, I think this book is quite the thing and, if you can find the time in the next year or so, it will be twice as good (or more) when you re-read it. There is simply too much to absorb the first time through and you get a much better sense of Bujold's wonderful command of the language and attention to detail on a second reading.

To the task - I think I may have approached this incorrectly. There were so many characters, I felt that it would be better to organize them by the first chapter in which they appear. The list is presented with that in mind:

Chapter 1
Castillar Lupe dy Cazaril - Christian Bale
Captain of the Guard, Daughter’s Order - Paul Adelstein
Farmer on the Road - Sam Anderson
Bath Master - William Finchner
Laundress - Catherine O’Hara
Bath Master’s Son - Felix von Simson

Chapter 2
Gate Guard - Wentworth Miller
Iselle - Evan Rachel Wood
Betriz - Olivia Thirlby
Teidez - Rupert Grint
Nan de Vrit - Brenda Blethyn
Ser dy Ferrej - Ray Winstone
Dowager Provincara - Judi Dench
Lady dy Hueltar - Celia Weston

Chapter 3
Ista - Julianne Moore
Vrese, a Judge - James Woods
Ser dy Sanda - Michael Hogan
Bertim, the Huntsman - Terry O’Quinn

Chapter 5
March dy Palliar - Jason Carter

Chapter 7
Zangre warder - Billy Connolly
Roya Orico - Jorge Garcia
Umegat - Morgan Freeman
Royina Sara - Mary-Louise Parker
March dy Jironal - Billy Bob Thornton
Lord Dondo dy Jironal - Alec Baldwin
Ibran envoy - Jonathan Pryce

Chapter 9
Lord dy Rinal - Tom Felton
Ser dy Maroc - Ashton Kutcher

Chapter 11
A constable - John Goodman
A farmer - Tim Blake Nelson
Teidez’s new secretary - Christopher Lee
Captain of Teidez’s guard - Everett McGill

Chapter 13
Daris, a groom - Ben Kingsley

Chapter 16
Dedicat Rojeras - Ed Begley, Jr.
Ser dy Joal, a bravo - Dennis Quaid
Urrac - T. J. Thyne

Chapter 17
Ferda dy Gura - Nicholas Brendon
Foix dy Gura - Adam Baldwin
Ser dy Yarrin - Martin Sheen
Archdivine Mendenal - Ian McKellan
Acolyte Clara - Jane Leeves
Temple physician - Jane Lynch

Chapter 19
Mule trader - Mark Sheppard
The Fox’s secretary - Hugh Laurie
The Fox - John Hurt
Bergon - Daniel Radcliffe
Chancellor of Ibra - Richard Schiff
Ibran Admiral - Daniel Davis

Chapter 23
Ser dy Tagille - Matthew Fox
Ser dy Cembuer - Josh Holloway
March dy Sould - Scott Glenn
(false) Castillar dy Zavar - M. C. Gainley

Chapter 24
Innkeeper - Bruce McGill
March dy Huesta - Kenneth Branagh
Provincar dy Baocia - Sam Neill
Archdivine of Taryoon - Ricardo Montalban

Chapter 25
Lady dy Baocia - Mary McDonnell
Paginine, a Judge - Edward James Olmos

Chapter 29
Divine Bonneret - David Boreanaz
Delinquent Dedicat - Scarlett Johansson

I hope this formats correctly. And thank the Mother I don't have to pay the salary on this bunch.

Went with Christian Bale because I have a problem with Viggo's ability to sell the bemused "crap, what next?" aspect and lighthearted humor that suffuses Cazaril. Sean Connery could have done it. George Clooney, maybe?

Emma Thompson would have been the perfect Ista for both books and maybe still, but she would have to young up.

Iselle and Beatriz are the most frustrating choices. Buffy and Faith would have been perfect seven years ago. Had to settle, and Betriz will still need a dye job (I changed my mind on her in writing at least three times).

Yep. Umegat has to be ethnic. His stablemate (sorry) as well, and about the same elderly experienced range.

Jason Carter as Palli is way too old, but I just like him too much here-this character is almost identical to the one he played on "Babylon 5". many names, and my post is already longer than the book. Folks, let me know which ones are truly wrong, so I can argue...uh, discuss them with you.


wow you really went all out there?! Olivia Thirlby (Juno, Snow Angels) is actually a good choice for Betriz if she can pull off the period aspects of it. I didn't think of her at all but I can see it.

oh and love John Hurt as The Fox (though it's also an extended cameo)

You even put STARS in tiny cameos. You're crazy. ;)

The budget is now $250 million dollars. $120 million for the normal epic period piece reasons and $130 for the salaries with Name actors in every speaking role. Hee

Anonymous said...

Wish I could claim credit for Thirlby, but that one was from the missus...she took pity on me after the tenth or so time I whined "Who the hell is playing Betriz?" and suggested her.

Actually, lots of the suggestions are better than mine. I like Alan Rickman as the elder Dy Jironal, and Sean Bean would do for Dondo (though I still believe no one sweats hedonism out his pores quite like Alec Baldwin). I haven't seen Max Perkis but almost anyone would be better than my placeholder choice of Rupert Grint (Oz could have teamed up with Buffy and Faith, but Seth Green also got seven years older...)

Goin' out this weekend to buy "Then We Came To The End". I hope the response next month is more robust than what we have seen so far.

Anonymous said...

I prefer Hugh Laurie for Cazaril - the book never claims that Cazaril is handsome, and he can do both pain and laughter.

I considered Eliza Dushku for Faith - still not sure if that would work, but I think she'd look right and I like the idea of Judi Dench for the Provincara.


wait Eliza for which role -- Beatriz?

Anonymous said...

My references to Buffy and Faith had Sarah Michelle Gellar as Iselle and Eliza Dushku as Betriz.

Just got the new this a literary version of "The Office"?


i don't know much about the book other than that it's a contemporary workplace comedy and the critics and audiences are raving.

hi, i sound like a blurb whore.

but anyway... yes. and it's supposedly written in multiple first person which might be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Cazaril- Viggo Mortenson and Christian Bale were obvious choices, and I like both very much. However, the Hugh Laurie idea intriques me, and I like it better and better the more I think about it.

Iselle-- Hayden Panettiere (sp?)

Teidez-- McCauley Culkin (younged up) does headstrong craziness oh so well. Actually, he's a somewhat minor character, in that he's offed partway through.

Ista- Julie Christie. She did a wonderful job with Alzheimer's in Away From Her. You'd have to seriously young her up, but I think you could, especially in the setting.

Betriz- Olivia Thirlby (Juno's mouthy friend). Hubby Carl credited me with this... thanks, dear. An inspired choice for this central role, I think.

Ser de Ferrej (Betriz's father and a long-time trusted cortier)- Ben Kingsley. While he's certainly old enough to be her GRANDfather, I think you could sell the had-her-late-in life-from-a-second-wife(now deceased)-thing. Also plays into how he waits on her and is very protective of her.

Provincara (wise matriarch)- My preference is for the obvious Judi Dench for this weighty role, but Helen Mirren would be fine, too. I like the Glenn Close idea, but I think the Provincara needs a little more age and heft. This is a central character.

Palli(ar)- Peter Krause. I agree with hubby Carl, Jason Carter is who I THINK of, but the JC of 10-15years ago. [sigh]

Umegeat (the mysterious)- Tony Shalhoub, aged up considerably. As much as love Morgan Freeman, he's not nearly odd enough, and not "ethnic" enough for this pivotal and most interesting of the roles.

dy Jiornal brothers- I love the idea of Alan Rickman as one of the dJ brothers-- he's such a perfectly delicious villain! Is there someway he could play both?

Bergon- I like hubby's idea of Dan Radcliffe (Harry Potter) as Iselle's love interest and the future Roya of Chalion. And wouldn't he and Hayden Panettiere (sp?) make the cutest couple? After all, that is how it ends...

Anonymous said...

On the subject of budget...wasn't the cast of "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" entirely made up of high-profile stars, and almost all of them in cameos? Could such a thing ever be brought off again just because everyone wanted to work with such a great cast and have their names attached to the project, with everyone working at a discount?

Anonymous said...

There's a temptation to add Maggie Smith to the list for the Provincara, but actually I think Annette Crosbie would be a far better choice and would knock the socks off even Judi Dench in this particular role - JD could maybe play her companion...

How about Javier Bardem as Cazaril?

And I like Sean Bean for Dondo, but how about Kevin Spacey for his older brother? (Rickman seems a bit obvious).

Bujold fan

Anonymous said...

Had to check IMDB on Crosbie - I have only seen her in "Calendar Girls" and I only remember Mirren and Walters in it. I figure anyone who gets the O.B.E. from the Queen has probably got the chops for the role, though. I saw dy Hueltar as thinner of build than Dench, but that was just an impression.

As Nathaniel pointed out, the novel definitely has Spanish roots and this also shows up in many of the names chosen, so it would be a nice touch to have a lead whose native tongue is Spanish. I suspect others may have had the same problem that I did with Bardem in that he does not have the "rode hard and put away wet" physical characteristics that either Mortensen or Bale can readily bring to the role. I do believe he has a better sense of exasperated, bemused fun than either of the other two, though, so it could just be a make-up issue to give him the look.

It's probably just me, but I always see Spacey as Verbal Kint and not Keyser Soze. Nathaniel is right...we always go to the familiar. Certainly a good choice for acting ability, and I am sure that he could pull it off. My impression from the book was that the March was taller than that, though.

Glad to see some of Bujold's other fans stop by on occasion.


well Mortensen speaks Spanish fluently too so i'm still stuck on him.

But if we're going Spanish speaking I have to put Eduardo Noriega in the mix somewhere just because he's so nice to look upon

i like Bujold fan throwing in a new name for the Provincara but I wish I was more familiar with Annette Crosbie

Anonymous said...

One can only hope that while respectable book clubs out there are reading this, you are not capitalizing on their intellect and wit, though you haven't attended for months.

I'm just sayin'...

Albeit, nice idea going on.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm coming to this late, but it was fun reading, thanks!

I have to say the idea of Hugh Laurie as Cazaril is fantastic. I love these books, and love Laurie for his depth and finesse. A remark above about Caz made me think also, what about Richard Dean Anderson? He could definitely pull off the bemusement and the humor.

Betriz is a hard cast, but I think one could go older than the character's age for her, because in this 'timeframe' most folks were much further into maturity by their late teens than we are now. I like Bledel but think she's really too young. Playing off Laurie, how about someone like Jessica Alba? She has the right coloring and I think she could play the humour of the role.

For the Provincara, what about Olympia Dukakis?

And for Ista, I love Pfeiffer, but Ista should be far less thin and less beautiful than Michelle can pull off. Ista is a fascinating character, especially as developed in the following book in which she is the protagonist. I think Emma Thompson might be a good choice there. Diane Lane might be interesting too, though not sure she could go blonde. Or play totally against type: Sarah Jessica Parker! Yikes, did I type that out loud? Or even farther off, and going back to SG-1, how about Claudia Black?

Ok, I could go on but I won't.

This was fun!


Unknown said...

I was looking for a play-by for Palli for an RP online when I stumbled across this.
He's a really difficult one, I have this image in my head and I can't seem to find someone that quite fits it.

Robert Downey Jr (with the goatee) comes close for me, and just a little bit Ben Affleck - in Shakespeare in love.

I always imagine someone slightly dashing, someone you expect to be playing a musketeer or something.

On the same site my friend plays Cazaril, her play-by is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, it's sort of growing on me, but I LOVE the suggestion of Hugh Laurie

John Campbell Rees said...

When I was reading, Curse of Chalion, it was one of the few books that I could not cast for a visual adaptation, the characters seemed to jump out of the pages fully formed, without the need of actorial avatars. The only exception being my overpowering image of the Provincara being played against type by the comedy actress June Whitfield.