Saturday, February 21, 2009

Linda L. Richards' "Death Was the Other Woman"

Linda L. Richards is the editor and co-founder of January Magazine and a regular contributor to The Rap Sheet. Her latest books are the Kitty Pangborn novels, Death Was the Other Woman and Death Was in the Picture.

Here she shares some thoughts about the cast for a big screen adaptation of the novels:
I was asked to participate in “My Book the Movie” when the first Kitty Pangborn novel came out in 2008. I didn’t. I couldn’t. When I thought about the book, no film faces popped up. That’s just how it is for me. The characters that people my books are never – never – inspired by real people. Without exception. I never have anyone real in mind when I write those characters. They come out of my imagination: individuals fully formed.

Also, I know enough about the making and casting of films to understand that A) my casting choices will have little or anything to do with who ultimately plays those roles should there be a film version and B) there is no role – that is to say, I can’t imagine the role – that could be played by only one actor. Such is the nuance of that particular art that different actors bring different things to different roles. And so, for instance, if you’ve read the first Kitty Pangborn novel, Death Was in the Picture, imagine Charlize Theron in the Kitty role. Now imagine Halle Berry. Or Kate Hudson in the role. Now Jennifer Hudson. Now Katie Holmes. None of those five women would, in my mind, be entirely wrong for the role (and just what is “wrong,” anyway?) but, obviously, it becomes an entirely different role with each of those women: they’d bring different things to playing Kitty Pangborn and none of those things would be wrong; none of them would be incorrect.

That said, not long after Death Was the Other Woman was released in 2008, I was at a play that was produced and partly performed by my son Michael Karl Richards, who is a working actor based mostly in Vancouver. It was actually a series of plays known as The Good Doctor written originally by Anton Chekov and re-imagined for the stage by Paul Simon.

I know, cool right?

So, obviously, my son was brilliant in several roles, but that’s not the point of this particular exercise. One of the plays was actually a monolog performed by a young actress I’d met before on several social occasions. I’d never seen her act before. And she knocked my socks off. And though she was playing a heartbroken Russian woman, almost from the first moment, she took my breath away.

“Ohmigawd,” I whispered to my partner before very long. “She’s Kitty. I mean, she is Kitty.” It was like the character had gotten up and out of my book and strolled onto the stage.

Adrianna Spence is an actor you probably have not heard of, but she’s immensely talented and, to my mind, she could handle all aspects of the Kitty character, including the physical. Spence is young, lovely in an incredibly cute way, her coloring is just what I had in mind when I wrote Kitty: the sort of pert redhead who entrances men with a proclivity for that particular combination.

I think many, many actors – men of a certain age – could do a fantastic job with Dex, the damaged World War I veteran who is Kitty’s shamus boss. It actually would be the kind of role a lot of people would enjoy playing, I think. Dex is critically damaged; fatally flawed. Actors like dealing with the sort of challenge and nuance that sort of role brings.

So I’ll give you two names. Either would do wonderfully as Dex. Russell Crowe seems to inhabit and embody the necessary damage and danger Dex brings. I think also Robert Downey Jr. would do a great job. He’s a wonderful actor and he really walks that walk. And both of them would look killer in a high-crowned fedora.

But again, I have a great deal of respect for the acting profession and understand that a dozen competent people would bring a score of different things to those roles. I’d love to see any of them have a run at it. What fun to see your waking dreams brought to life.
Learn more about the author and her work at Linda L. Richards' website.

View the Death Was in the Picture trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Death Was the Other Woman.

The Page 69 Test: Death Was in the Picture.

--Marshal Zeringue