Monday, March 02, 2009

Never Let Me Go: The Book, The Film, and Dream Casting

The Book
I recently got my hands on Never Let Me Go by British author Kazuo Ishiguro. The 2005 acclaimed novel is written by the author of potentially my favorite book of all-time The Remains of the Day.

Never Let Me Go is such a unique book, as it tells the story of three people, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy through three phases of their life, as children, adolescents, and adults. The story begins with the feel that these three kids are at a very prestigious boarding school, but it doesn't take long to realize that something is different.(Minor spoiler alert) Early on you discover that these three kids, as well as there classmates are unique because they have been cloned for the purpose of organ donations. Thus creating a sci-fi element, within the context of a late twentieth century world.

The story is provocative, creative, extremely well written, and a recommended read.

The Film
As I read the book, I could easily picture a film adaptation, particularly a film adaptation directed by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, The Soloist). And in fact, I didn't even care if he cast Keira Knightley to play the part of the eldest Kathy H, the main character, because frankly, I think she could pull it off quite well.

So, as I thought about writing a list of a dream cast for this film I discovered that just last evening it was announced in Variety that a film adaptation picked up by Fox Searchlight was in the works, and surprise surprise it was to star Keira Knightley in the lead.

Unfortunately the director is not Joe Wright, but the music video director Mark Romanek, who's only film-credit to his name is the eerie Robin William's picture One Hour Photo.

Now Romanek has done some very unique and famous music videos including Fiona Apple's "Criminal," Nine Inch Nail's "Closer," Johnny Cash's "Hurt," and Coldplay's "Speed of Sound."

Yet when I picture the feel of this film, I want it to feel more like Atonement and less like 2001: A Space Odyssey. I want the focus to be on the people and their relationships, not on the sci-fi dynamics. I want subtly not loud artistry.

Yet, I have hope with the casting of Keira Knightley that he might be looking to Joe Wright for inspiration. In fact, the other two actors named that are attached with this project are Andrew Garfield (Lions for Lambs) and Carey Mulligan (who played Keira's younger sister Kitty in Pride & Prejudice).

Dream Casting
I certainly don't doubt that Knightley, Garfield and Mulligan are up for the parts they've been cast (presumable the adult Ruth and the adult Tommy), but...

if I were casting these adult leads, I might consider Emily Blunt for the part of Kathy H,

There's these three really incredible parts of the role of Miss Emily and Miss Lucy, two teacher at the school, and Madame, this essential, and bizarre french women who collects the art work of the students.

These roles are nondescript enough that Miss Emily and Miss Lucy could go to someone like Maggie Smith or Kristin Scott Thomas or Julie Christie.

Some how I just cannot help but picture Judi Dench or Imelda Staunton playing the part of Madame, although neither are French, I feel like these actress could really succeed in this role.

As far as the younger kids, this could take some skills in casting, but depending on the leads, a consideration for Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, or Georgie Henley seem like dream considerations.

As for Tommy, perhaps Andrew Garfield is a good casting decision, but I'd love to have Cillian Murphy cast in the role.

And almost as important to the success of this film is the crew who will create the feel for this film that has such potential to capture some incredible cinematic scenes in bold ways, and a beautiful score by Dario Marianelli or Alexandre Desplat could certainly help as well.

Here's hoping to a great film, with well suited casting - even if the best cast is a cast of some what unknowns. This film has such great potential, and do hope it is a great success. Of course the support of Fox Searchlight can't hurt.


Sam Brooks said...

I read this book the year before last and loved how it subtly underplayed pretty much everything. There were no big statements of "THIS IS ABOUT THIS"; just very calm and relaxed shifts in tone and mood.

I think the horror of Keira Knightley being in a movie of this pedigree, at least for me, is simply because the woman just looks very awkward in stills, but she comes alive onscreen. (The Duchess, Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and the underseen The Edge of Love)

The last Ishiguro adaptation turned out well, but that was during Merchant-Ivory in their prime, so.. I don't know. Definitely one to atch.

Sam Brooks said...

Sorry to double comment, but two thoughts came to me immediately after I posted:

1) I hope it's a gaffe on Variety's part by calling it a 'sci-fi' thriller. Which are not the words that come to mind when I think of this novel in the slightest.

2) Isabelle Huppert as Madame?

superdave524 said...

Interesting to read about the thought process of turning a book into a movie. As a civilian, when I hear dream cast, I generally thing of this. Guess I'll always be a civilian.

superdave524 said...

...and I was wondering: if actress Keira Knightly married actor Tim Daley, would she change her name? Or hyphenate it?

Michael Parsons said...

This sounds like a very exciting project and I really cannot wait to see what the cast can do. I must now read the book...adding to amazon wish list now!

RC said...

@ Brooke...couldn't agree more that this should not be termed a "sci-fi thriller" and if it is going to marketed as such, I think the project certainly won't have the appeal that this film could.

i love the idea of Isabelle as Madame.

@ Superdave, Keira Knighley-Daley why not...although certainly a little schitzo, she might have to choose.

@ Michael, this is a highly recommended read. Get your hands on it! Kazuo Ishiguro has an incredibly accessible and interesting command of the language.

Lorna said...

What a great post. I had avoided Never Let Me Go, even though I love Ishiguro because the organ donation breeding thing made me a bit queasy, but now, I have to go get it. I personally think Keira Knightley is undervalued---maybe because she's so achingly beautiful, but from Bend it like Beckham on, I've been a fan.

crackers and cheese said...

Thanks for the book recommedation :) I picked it up at half-price, and passed it along to my boyfriend after reading it. Fortunately, I told him not to read any reviews of it, so he was able to go into not knowing about the clone-organ donor thing, though he had a feeling early on with the mention of "donors" and none of the kids having last names. It's not a sci-fi book, it's about relationships and dreams and it's existential and philosophical, and I sure hope the film isn't marketed as a sci-fi film. I look forward to seeing the adaptation.

I've never seen Andrew Garfield in anything, but I find this picture very Tommy-esque, so I think he'll fit the part very well. It's interesting that none of the physical characters of the three main character were ever-described, or did I miss a detail?

PS - My word verification was "mocker," the first time I've seen an actual word in one of these things!