Thursday, March 8, 2007

Kage Baker's "The Anvil of the World"

Kage Baker is the author of many science fiction and fantasy novels and stories.

Here she develops some casting ideas for the film version of her 2003 fantasy novel, The Anvil of the World:
I wrote The Anvil of the World as a reaction against the heavy-handed serious fantasy of imitators of Tolkien. I thought it might be interesting to feature a principal hero who is a middle-aged nobody rather than an adolescent prince-disguised-as-farmboy or an adolescent girl-who-wants-to-be-a-warrior. The book is something of a triptych, following a varied cast of characters through three adventures: on a caravan across a sparsely-settled continent, in a hotel in a great city where a murder takes place at festival time, and up a river to rescue a damsel in distress as the country hovers on the brink of war.

Smith, the fairly heroic middle-aged nobody who turns out to be pretty good at killing people, I always saw as Robbie Coltrane; though if the director (Terry Gilliam, please) were going for a less comedic angle, Russell Crowe would be a good choice. John Goodman would also work.

Lord Ermenwyr, the decadent half-demon princeling, could be played perfectly by Jason Isaacs in the makeup he wore to play Captain Hook, though he'd need to shed twenty years somehow. But he has the eyes for the character, and the ability to play a comedic role. His demoness Nursie? Angelica Huston, I think, with a deadly elegance and wit. His sorceress sister, The Ruby Incomparable, the damsel in distress in question?.... Catherine Zeta-Jones, no question. Beautiful, and statuesque enough with some CGI assistance.

We'd have to reach back in time to cast the cook Mrs. Smith: either Marie Dressler or Jennifer Patterson (of Two Fat Ladies fame). Both possessed a gravitas and wit that would work. Possibly an older Elsa Lanchester too.... All of them had that quality of a lady-with-an-unexpectedly-interesting-past.

A very young Elsa Lanchester could also have played the brainless ingenue, little Burnbright, and of modern actresses ... Emma Thompson, at age 13. Both actresses could handle the character's transition from street urchin to desperately romantic adolescent, and made it funny. The young doctor Willowspear, the object of her affections, might be played by Orlando Bloom, who is surprisingly good when being comedic and moreover has the earnestness necessary.

Lord Ermenwyr's mother, the Saint of the World, could be played by any older actress with breathtaking beauty but a certain steely quality. Cate Blanchett, years from now? Glenn Close or Sian Phillips, equally. And for her demon-lord husband, the Master of the Mountain, AKA Mr. Silverpoint, AKA Daddy ... nobody but Sean Connery.

In a world where a demon-lord can order cocktails and a live sheep delivered to his hotel room, or make an impulse purchase of a steam-powered "slaveless galley", or fight a wizardly battle in the equivalent of a tuxedo ... it seems like a good idea to work with actors who can do more than swing a sword.
Read more about Kage Baker's work, including "The Empress of Mars" (novella, 2003), which won a Sturgeon Award and was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

--Marshal Zeringue