Friday, July 26, 2013

Clare Mulley's "The Spy Who Loved"

Clare Mulley is the award-winning author of two biographies. The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville (2013) is 'scrumptuously researched and expertly rendered... outstanding', according to The Daily Beast, ‘assiduously researched, passionately written and highly atmospheric’ says The Economist, and ‘compulsively readable… thrilling’ in the words of Britain's Telegraph.

Mulley's other biography, The Woman Who Saved the Children is about Eglantyne Jebb (2009), the founder of Save the Children who did not care for individual children, won the British Daily Mail Biographers’ Club prize. All royalties from this book are donated to the charity.

Mulley also contributed to The Arvon Book of Life Writing (2010). She is a regular radio contributor, speaks at leading international literary and history events, and writes and reviews for various papers and journals including The Spectator and History Today. She lives in Essex, England, with her husband and three daughters.

Here Mulley dreamcasts an adaptation of The Spy Who Loved:
The eponymous Spy Who Loved was Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, Britain’s first female special agent of WWII. This Polish, part-Jewish, Countess and pre-war beauty queen would become one of the most successful and highly decorated agents of the war. The book title is not only an oblique reference to James Bond – Christine was an inspiration for Bond’s creator Ian Fleming – but also a reference to Christine’s huge appetite for life, which she loved in its widest sense. She loved danger, adventure and adrenalin. She loved men – she had two husbands and numerous lovers. But most of all she loved freedom; freedom for her country, Poland, and the Allies, and freedom for herself. Who on earth could play such a woman and bring to life not only her magnetism, but her great patriotism, courage, determination, occasional cruelty and deep generosity?

The tempting answer is Rachel Weisz, not just a dark-haired beauty and action actress, but in real life Mrs James Bond, in that she is married to Daniel Craig. Or what about the stunning Eva Green who played Vesper Lynd, the Bond beauty reputedly inspired by Christine, in the 2006 film of Casino Royale? I would have to resist both, great actresses though both may be. The link to Bond is just too close for comfort. Christine’s life and achievements, even her looks, may have inspired Fleming, but she herself was much more Bond that Bond-girl. She demands an actress who will keep her centre stage.

Whether there will be a film of Krystyna’s remarkable life is yet to be seen, but it seems that casting her is already a popular game. In the 1950s a screenplay was written by Bill Stanley Moss, author of Ill Met By Moonlight (about his and Paddy Leigh Fermor’s WWII work as special agents in Crete). Moss knew Krystyna well, and also wrote a series of articles about her for Picture Post, but the film project was finally shelved. Had it not have been, we might have enjoyed watching Sarah Churchill, the actress daughter of British war-time leader Sir Winston Churchill, in the role that she was apparently keen to play. More recently Agnieszka Holland was rumoured to be interested in a biopic of Krystyna, and leading ladies mooted included Kate Winslet and Tilda Swinton. And only this week considered the same thing, with Franka Potente, Noomi Rapace, Anna Chancellor and Sharleen Spiteri all being flagged up.

Personally I would plump for the excellent Agnieszka Grochowska, a charismatic actress who could bring Polish insight as well as the acting skill and great beauty required to really give depth to this extraordinary and complex woman. But whether any actress could capture Krystyna completely I doubt, and perhaps that is how she would have preferred things; to be known, admired, emulated even, but ultimately - still free.
Learn more about the book and author at Clare Mulley's website, and view a short video of the author talking about the book.

--Marshal Zeringue