Here Henderson highlights the main considerations in casting the leads for adaptations of the series.
I love the question of “how would you cast a movie?” of the Alex books because—well, this is how I think of these books while I write them. I see a movie in my head.Learn more about Jason Henderson and his work at Alex Van Helsing: The Blog.
Here’s the first five sentences of Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead:
Alex Van Helsing accelerated the gunmetal-gray Kawasaki Ninja and watched the trees along the road around Lake Geneva melt into a twilight blur. Just a few miles to Glenarvon Academy, just a few more minutes, and no one would be the wiser.So, what have we learned?
Training had gone on longer than Alex had expected. What was supposed to be a late Saturday afternoon exercise with Sangster, his—what should he call Sangster?—his mentor had turned into a half-day ordeal. Sangster, who everyone else knew as Glenarvon’s literature teacher, had let Alex join him and a team of active agents in a mock incursion into a vampire stronghold.
We know that Alex is a young vampire-hunting spy who rides a motorcycle, and that he has a mentor, also a literature teacher, named Sangster. So these are the roles I would worry about the most.
Sangster? That’s easy. Mr. Sangster, Alex’s insanely fit, machine-gun-wielding, enigmatic literature teacher, is patterned after Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible 2. In fact, the first time we learn Sangster’s secret, it’s in a scene where Sangster rides the Triumph that Cruise rode in MI:2. So, over a decade after MI:2, Cruise is still your go-to guy for Mr. Sangster.
But Alex Van Helsing. That’s tougher. Alex is 14 years old, so he doesn’t use a firearm—he favors a vampire-destroying composite plastic crossbow-- and rather than the larger Triumph Speed Triple that Sangster favors, Alex rides a sleek Kawasaki Ninja. Alex is described as dark-haired and fit enough to climb mountains and jump out of airplanes, and he’s not described as being ridiculously tall. In movie terms, by the way “14” doesn’t translate to anything we need to worry about. He could be a 16 year old, an 18 year old. The point is: high school. How old is Jonny Quest? Who knows?
I go to a lot of schools and people take one look at these covers and say: Justin Bieber. But I have no idea if the Canadian megastar is the type to fight vampires while riding a motorcycle, so we should probably puzzle over this some more.
Look at Alex on the covers above and below.
Nah, it’s impossible. Alex is Alex. When Harry Potter was first cast, we had no idea who Daniel Radcliffe was, and now he is Harry. So maybe a complete unknown is the way to go. Tell you one thing—the young actor would have to have gravitas, the ability to seem older than his years and also crack a joke. He has to be 14 going on 30.
Can I go back into the past? Remember how Parker Stevenson on The Hardy Boys always seemed so stoic, even when trying to re-start a private plane that was about to crash into the earth? No? Well, anyway, we need someone like that.
In my mind, I see these characters. They are. Casting is much harder.
Writers Read: Jason Henderson.