Mary Arline (queen_of_kithia) wrote,
Mary Arline

The Right Hands

As mentioned briefly before, I started thinking last week that, in the right hands, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time could be made into an awesome movie, one of the great cinematic sci-fi/fantasy epics. But whose are the right hands? I have some opinions on that too.

To answer this question, I think that it's important to address the potentially controversial issue of Ms. L'Engle's Christianity. I would like to share something that she wrote in one of her nonfiction books about the relationship between her faith and her writing:
Moralism and moral values are by no means the same thing, but with the slurring of language the two have come pretty close [...] My point of view about life [is] going to show under the story, because that's inevitable, but I never consciously write about moral precepts, and I do not like moralism, which is another form of do-it-yourself-ism. [...] People who think themselves capable of setting up rigid moral standards are playing dictator, like the occasional prideful people who attempt to get Winnie-the-Pooh taken out of the library because they think it's immoral
--The Irrational Season

Any filmmakers who attempt to adapt A Wrinkle in Time will inevitably have their own points of view about life show under their interpretation. All that I would ask is that they show respect and understanding for Ms. L'Engle's point of view and not directly contradict it. It wouldn't be necessary to maintain the (few) Bible quotations that Ms. L'Engle included in the book, but it would be necessary to maintain the theme of the strength and saving grace of self-sacrificial love.

This is delicate material. It can't just be a fun, magical romp; there has to be some elements of genuine darkness. Ms. L'Engle knew that the world (the universe) is a dangerous place, especially for children, and she incorporated that danger into her stories. On the other hand, it also can't be all darkness and cynicism and nihilism; there has to the hope for redemption. The filmmakers have to strike a balance (or find a happy medium--haha) between the light and dark moods, but each mood must have sufficient and equal depth.

Apparently there's currently a script in development. I don't know anything about the screenwriter, so I don't know what to make of that. Apparently he wrote the screenplay for Bridge to Terebithia, which I haven't seen (I've read the book). I've heard lukewarm things about it, which makes me a little nervous, but its IMDb score is fairly high, and that makes me feel better. Apparently the producer was involved in the first two Chronicles of Narnia movies, and I really liked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe so that's encouraging. It's being produced for/with Disney, and that makes me nervous. Part of me wishes that it would be produced as an animated feature so that it would be under the onus of John Lasseter, whom I trust completely. There's really no reason why it couldn't be animated; it could possibly even serve the story better, but for no good reason that I can articulate, I'd really like to see it live action.

Since there's apparently already a screenwriter in place, I'm going to start dreamcasting with directors. Most of these directors are also screenwriters, and if they wanted to do some rewrites on it, I probably wouldn't object if it were up to me (which, for dreamcasting purposes, I'm imagining that it would be).

My first choice for director would be Frank Darabont, because he's pretty much my first choice for everything. He has a wonderful talent for tailoring a work of literature to fit the screen, for remaining faithful to the source material without being slavishly devoted to it. He admires the films of Frank Capra and the books of Stephen King; he has a good understanding of the balance between horror and hope.

I think that Guillermo del Toro might be a very good fit for the material. I felt that in Pan's Labyrinth he really struck a beautiful balance between light and darkness, romanticism and realism. Also, his films tend to have overtly religious elements to them, so he probably would be comfortable with the spirituality of the source material. By the same token, he's apparently had issues (as Madeleine L'Engle had) with orthodoxy, so I don't think that he would try to make it moralistic.

I'd be interested to see what Christopher Nolan would do with the material. My concern with him would be that he might try to go too dark; however, even though his films are usually very dark, at the same time there usually seems to be at least the possibility (if not the promise) of redemption. With his Batman films he dealt successfully with very delicate material that, when not handled properly, tends to come across as very silly (as evidenced by previous film adaptations) and I think that A Wrinkle in Time has the same potential to get silly if not handled correctly. Actually, I have to admit that A Wrinkle in Time is not the Madeleine L'Engle book that I would be most excited to have Nolan adapt; that would be one of its sequels, A Wind in the Door, the "third act" of which takes place inside a mitochondrion, where there is no light. After seeing what Nolan did with Inception, I would love to see how he rose to the challenge of adapting a scene with no visual component (Obviously for the movie there would have to be a visual component, and I'd be very interested to see how Nolan would interpret that visually).

I think that Steven Spielberg would be a very good choice; he understands childhood and adolescence, and he understands science fiction, and his body of work speaks to his tremendous range and depth. He might have to spend a lot of his saved-up credibility on a project like this, but I think that his investment would give him a good return. Peter Jackson would probably be a good choice; I respect the way that he took very slow-moving and dense material in The Lord of the Rings and made it fast-paced and exciting without compromising its integrity (I don't consider A Wrinkle in Time slow-moving by any means, but there are some parts where it gets pretty dense.

I mentioned that I liked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so Andrew Adamson might be a good choice. He also directed the first two Shrek movies, which I loved. I really liked what David Yates did with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, so I might consider him. The only other Harry Potter director I would possibly consider would be Alfonso Cuaron; not because of Harry Potter but because of Children of Men. I would put him on the "maybe" list, along with Gore Verbinski...and Tim Burton (I really liked what Burton did with Alice and Wonderland, but then that source material wasn't precious to me).

It bothers me that I don't have any female directors on this list, but that's because I don't know many. Off the top of my head, I can only think of five, and of those five, I can only name two (what's the name of the woman who won the Oscar for The Hurt Locker? Katherine something? I think it starts with a K). The two that I can name off the top of my head are Julie Taymor and Catherine Hardwicke. I'd be disinclined to let Catherine Hardwicke anywhere near the project, partly because I wouldn't want to encourage the inevitable Twilight comparisons, but also because, from what (admittedly little) I've seen of her work, she doesn't seem to have a good understanding of innocence. I don't actually know that much about Julie Taymor, but she's visionary and she's versatile, so I might consider her.

At this point, I'm ready to talk about actors, but I'm finding that I have a very hard time dreamcasting this because (a) the three protagonists are children/adolescents, and most of the young actors that I know are hardly children anymore, or else won't be children for much longer; (b) every name that I think of suggests another name of another talented actor, and in my mind I have a long list of very different but very talented actors, and I can see that they each might bring something different to the various roles, and really it's almost overwhelming to me; (c) there are some actors that I think are great and could bring a lot to the project, but I would want to save them in case they also adapt the sequels. For example, I love Anne Hathaway and was considering her in some of the following roles, but I'd much rather see her as Oholibamah in Many Waters. Nonetheless, I've tried to put together some short lists.

I said that most of the young actors that I know are hardly children anymore, yet there is a time-honored Hollywood tradition of casting actors in their 20s or even 30s as teenagers, with a fair degree of success. For my purposes, I think I would cap the actor pool for the teenaged characters at 25. It's an arbitrary age, but it's not too much of a stretch for me to picture actors in their early 20s playing teenagers.

For instance, I can easily see 23-year-old Ellen Page playing Meg, bringing the same feistiness masking vulnerability that she brought to the titular eponymous role of Juno. Other possibilities (closer to the right age, in descending order) are Molly Quinn (TV's Alexis Castle), Ivana Baquero (Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth), Hailee Steinfeld (recent Academy Award nominee for True Grit) and the ubiquitous and always delighful Abigail Breslin (although I have to admit that I'm not so sure she would be a good fit for the role because as much as I love Abigail Breslin and as much as I love the character of Meg, I wouldn't necessarily describe Meg as delightful).

Calvin O'Keefe is described in the book as having red hair and blue eyes, so (physically) Rupert Grint might be a good match. But since he's been playing another iconic character from (children's) literature for so many years now, it's difficult at the moment for me to picture him as anyone other than Ron Weasley, and that goes for the other young Harry Potter actors as well. That's a reflection on my imaginative limitations, by the way, not a reflection on their acting abilities, which are prodigious. Actually, now that I think about it, it might be interesting to try Tom Felton in the role of Calvin since it's so different from his previous role as Draco Malfoy. (I hate to think of it in these terms, but it also might be good from an economic standpoint because the Teen Girl Squad seems to love him). The thing is, if they were to cast an early-20s actress as Meg, they would almost have to cast an early-20s actor for Calvin. One possibility I find appealing is Kevin McHale (from "Glee"). Another possibility is Freddie Highmore, whom I'm depressed to learn is 19 years old.

One advantage of casting a (comparatively) older actress as Meg is that you could conceivably then tweak the story to have an older Charles Wallace. In the book, Charles Wallace is supposed to be five years old. I don't really know of any five-year-old actors, although I'm sure there are some out there who could probably do an admirable job. Right now, at this very moment, my first choice to play Charles Wallace would be Nolan Gould (from "Modern Family") because he's adorable and sweet and, like Charles Wallace, he's literally a genius. But he's also twelve years old, so it would have to be right this moment and it would mean that they couldn't have Hailee Steinfeld or Abigail Breslin as Meg because they're too close together in ages. Now that I think about it, it might be better to wait a few years and cast him as the 15-year-old Charles Wallace in A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Now that would be AWESOME!!!!

I have a looooooooong list of actors I could see in the role of Mr. Murry, Meg and Charles Wallace's father. A long and varied list. I said before that every name I think of suggests the name of another actor; it works across roles too, because thinking of Nolan Gould for Charles Wallace made me think of Ty Burrell for Mr. Murry. It also works for directors, because thinking of Christopher Nolan made me think of Leonardo DiCaprio for Mr. Murry. Incongruous? Maybe. I do genuinely believe that each of those actors could bring something special and unique to the role, but right now I'm thinking of going another way entirely. Right now, my first choice to play Mr. Murry would be Jack Davenport because, frankly, I just haven't seen enough of him since the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and since the part of Remus Lupin is no longer available, I'd like him to have this one. Other possibilities at the forefront of my mind: Jon Hamm and Nathan Fillion (of course, I like to keep Nathan Fillion at the forefront of my mind at all times, heh heh heh).

You can probably tell that I've been watching a lot more TV than movies over the past year because a lot of these actors that I'm thinking of are known more for doing TV than movies. I don't actually have a lot of actresses in mind for the part of Mrs. Murry. It's a difficult part: she's a microbiologist, so she has to be very smart, she's a mother of four, so she has to be very nurturing, and she also has to be very beautiful. Thinking of Nathan Fillion and Molly Quinn for some of the other parts made me think of Stana Katic, who has all three qualities and is a brilliant actress and tough cookie. My primary concern with her is, if you went with someone like Ellen Page for Meg, Stana Katic might come across as too young to play her mother. Kate Winslet is another possibility; I can't easily picture her in the role, but she has all those qualities and it would be such a relief to see her once again in a movie that wasn't severely depressing.

There's also a possibility to work some multiculturalism in here. A major theme running through all of Madeleine L'Engle's books is the interconnectivity of all humanity (all life, really). I've already suggested Ivana Baquero, who is Spanish (but reportedly speaks English) for the role of Meg; why not a Latina actress in the role of Mrs. Murry? Perhaps Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz? Perhaps Sofia Vergara? I have to admit that I have trouble picturing that because I know her primarily as a comedic actress. But so what? If I remember correctly, half the actors in Pan's Labyrinth were known more as comedic actors, yet they all handled their more dramatic roles beautifully.

The only major roles remaining are the three Mrs. Ws--Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which--and here the sky's the limit. They're described with some specificity in the books, but the forms they had chosen were purely arbitrary, so there's a possibility of getting really crazy and creative here. I have a mental list of actresses I can picture in these roles, but it's far too long to list here. The various combinations are infinitely intriguing.
Tags: books, films, ideas
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