Yesterday we announced on the JD Robb Facebook page that Amber Entertainment has optioned the In Death books. And the comment section exploded. Reactions ranged from excitement and delight to abject despair and even anger–with every possible emotion that falls between. Casting suggestions (and demands) flew like grapeshot.
I’m going to take this opportunity to address some of those concerns, suggestions, demands.
First the option is for a feature film, and is in the very early stages of development. I’ve met face-to-face with the producer, twice. She has not only read the books, she gets them–and the characters. I’ve turned down option offers before, for this series and for my other work because I didn’t feel it was a good fit. This feels like one.
Will it be? No absolute guarantee, but I have to trust my instincts.
No, no and again no, I will not write the screenplay. I have no idea how to write a screenplay, and have no desire to learn. I like writing books. I will, however, have input. I’ve already seen a very rough outline of the script, and when I saw something that felt off-character, I pointed it out–and my input was respected.
Will the movie be an exact reproduction of the book? Again, no. It can’t possibly be. It’s based on the novel, translated from the novel to the screen, interpreted by a director, a cinematographer, a screenwriter, and far from least of all, by actors. Both the producer and I agree the film must, absolutely must, remain true to the core of the book and the characters. But yes, some things will be left out, some things will change in order to make the shift from page to screen. Those who demand any movie be a pure copy of the book are going to be disappointed.
Movies are a different form of storytelling, but adaptations can and do work, and often beautifully. Yesterday, I answered a comment, one (of several) that claimed all adaptations fail, with two examples of excellent ones–and did this straight off the top of my head and after a glass of wine. I could name more, dozens more, but then this post would go on forever.
I could also name dozens that failed–at least for me.
Did those failed adaptations ruin the book for me? Absolutely not. The book remained exactly the same, and I only had to pick it up, read it again to be pulled back into a story I loved.
I value so much the investment readers have in this series. The depth of that investment often staggers me. And I understand some concern. Believe me, I have a pretty big investment in the series myself, and want it done right, want it done well. I’m realistic enough to know not every scene will make it to the screen. It can’t.
The investment, the concerns, I understand. The anger from some is a little astonishing. Let me reassure all. No one will drag you from your homes or places of business and force you to watch the movie, if indeed it happens. Watching a movie, like reading a book is a choice. It may very well be, as a reader, you prefer your own image of the books and characters, and don’t want another vision to mix with that. No problem at all.
To those who demand: Why, oh why, is she doing this! She doesn’t need the money! I ask: Why, oh why, do I write the books? They matter to me, and I’m thrilled the characters and stories I created have this chance to appear on screen, in theaters, to reach an audience who already loves them, or has never read a single book in the series. I write for money–it’s my job. But if money was the driving force for me, I’d never have put the first word on a page.
On to casting–which is far down the road as I haven’t yet seen a finished script. The contrast in readers’ wishes and hopes and visions (and the brisk dismissal from other readers of those visions) illustrate just how diverse those readers’ images of the characters are. Some of the suggestions leap to actors a decade–often more–too old. A wonderful actor can certainly shave some years off, but a decade or more? I don’t think so.
However, the popular insistence that any actors cast be, basically, physical clones of Eve, Roarke and the gang isn’t going to make top of my priority list. Do I want, and hope for, a cast that reflects and embodies those characters? I really, really do. But you know, I’m not going to turn thumbs down on an incredible actor for Eve because the actor doesn’t have a dent in her chin, or one for Roarke if he isn’t quite as tall as I’ve written. My priority will be, again, that good fit–and talent. I want the characters interpreted well, I want them respected, and my fondest hope is that they just rock it out.
I’m not in charge of casting–I wouldn’t know where to begin. But again, I’ll have input. Actors act, and a really good actor becomes the role. Gregory Peck became Atticus Finch, Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lector. For me Tom Cruise became Lestat, Michelle Williams Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer Lawrence became Katniss (and Mystique!) That’s what I’m looking for when the time comes–actors who can make me believe–as their creator–they’re the characters.
And even with what I consider gorgeous performances, when I pick up the book the movie was based on, I’m back into it, and into my own vision of the characters. The movie is a movie. The book is a book. Two ways of telling a story.
Whatever happens–if indeed it happens–I can promise you everyone involved wants this to work and work well, everyone involved understands the readers’ investment and emotional attachment and will do everything possible to respect the work itself, and that investment.
I love books. I love movies. It will be an incredible thrill for me, as a writer, to see characters I love, pulled from books I’ve written given a chance to kick some butt on the big screen.