Sunday, March 22, 2009

David Hewson's "Dante's Numbers"

David Hewson is the author of the Nic Costa series of novels set primarily in contemporary Rome. A former journalist with the London Times and Sunday Times, his work has been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai ... and Italian.

Here he shares his preference for director and the major roles in a big screen adaptation of the latest Nic Costa novel, Dante's Numbers:
Dante's Numbers is a book that mixes The Divine Comedy with Hitchcock's wonderful classic movie Vertigo on the -- doubtless spurious grounds -- that Dante's obsession with his dead muse Beatrice Portinari resonates with Scottie's morbid love of the mysterious Madeleine Elster. The book is the seventh in the Nic Costa series, the first to be set mostly inside the US, in San Francisco, and very much set in the unreal world of the movies, since it involves an apparent bloody vendetta against the stars and crew of an adaptation of Dante's Inferno.

To be honest I see this exercise more in terms of director than cast. I tried to imitate Hitchcock in some ways by introducing a story that's more than a little outre, with characters - two identical twin San Francisco firemen in particular - to match. If I had the choice there really would only be one director for this piece, and that would be Martin Scorsese, a Hitchcock nut who can emulate the master's visual style to a tee as his wonderful spoof for Freixenet, The Key to Reserva, proved in spades.

The key to this story is, it seems to me, the two worlds it inhabits, that of the movie business and the San Francisco of the 1950s -- the Palace of Fine Arts, the Legion of Honor, the area around the Golden Gate Bridge -- which Hitchcock used to such effect. Scorsese could walk into both with ease.

As to actors? I constantly get bombarded with people wanting to know who would play Nic Costa if I ever go the movie route (and it may happen, who knows?). My current favourite, based on his work in Spider Man and Milk, is James Franco. He looks like the Nic of my imagination, he can act, and he's brave in the choices too. The female lead in the movie would have to be someone who could hold down the slightly sleazy class of Kim Novak, an actor who was rooted in the present day but owed what she was to the classic sirens of the past. Think The Black Dahlia. Yeah, Scarlett Johansson. I think that would work very well indeed.
Learn more about the author and his work at David Hewson's website and blog.

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