Chris, I don't know how you got roped into writing the screenplay for Atonement, but I imagine this is an incredibly difficult project. One that will prove a mastery of screenwriting, or one that will claim that you are out of your league.
Atonement was awarded book of the year in 2002 by Time Magazine, The Washington Post Book World, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle, Atlantic Monthly, and Seattle Times.
Yet Chris, this book is rich in it's deep characterization, colorful and delightfully detailed writing style, and it's themes and ideas. Normally a story about the independent minds and thoughts of people would be characteristic of a more avant-garde film, maybe something by Michael Gondry, not something with a more classical feel.
I have the slightest ideas how I would ever begin to write an appropriate screenplay that would serve as a proper companion to this book. Yet, apparently what ever you have written has impressed Joe Wright and his producers.
Joe, I am very impressed with the cast that you have gathered for Atonement. Granted, you are recycling some of your cast from Pride & Prejudice a couple years ago (Keira Knightley and Brenda Blethyn), I think you have really assembled a great team. I'm interested in how you direct these characters since this book is such a character driven novel, rather than a novel built on plot.
When you read the book, many of the key moments are glossed over, and only discussed in terms of flash back or as only the events, as Ian McEwan focused much more on who these characters (Cecilia Tallis, Robbie Turner, & Briony Tallis) were. That is a lot of expectations for these characters, especially the triad of women who play Briony (Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, and Vanessa Redgrave).
I imagine that of all the characters, I imagine that Robbie Turner's character (James McAvoy)will really get the fullest part, since so much of his role in the book (and hence the movie) is central to the action that is taking place, not as much the deeper emotional arches.
Chris & Joe, I am excited about this project and if this film is received half as good as the novel was received you two have done an excellent job writing and directing this project. I hope it's great and that this upcoming award season your ambitious project demonstrates creativity, hard work, and fine craftsmanship.
RC of StrangeCulture
(pictured above right is screenwriter Christopher Hampton, the next picture is director Joe Wright with Keira Knightley)