Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Susanne Alleyn's "The Cavalier of the Apocalypse"

Susanne Alleyn was born in Munich, Germany, and grew up in western Massachusetts and New York City, earning a bachelor's of fine arts in theater from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She has been researching and writing about the French Revolution since her teens and is currently working on her fourth Aristide Ravel historical mystery.

Although The Cavalier of the Apocalypse is the newest installment in the series and each novel may be read as a stand-alone, it is a prequel to Game of Patience and A Treasury of Regrets, and readers new to the series will ideally read it first.

Here Alleyn shares her thoughts on the cast of a film (or BBC television) adaptation of The Cavalier of the Apocalypse:
Oh goody! I’ve been indulging myself with fantasy casting ever since I began writing the Aristide Ravel historical mysteries back in 2002. So, the dream cast of the movie (or, more likely, the classy BBC TV adaptation--they do costume stuff so well) of the latest novel in the series, The Cavalier of the Apocalypse:

My absolute, only choice for 18th-century Parisian sleuth Aristide Ravel is Adrien Brody. I’d never actually heard of him until I was halfway through writing Game of Patience, the first published novel in the series. I’d finally found a DVD of The Affair of the Necklace, which is the (mostly) true story of an elaborate scam that made headlines in 1785 and didn’t help the reputation of the French royals as history lurched its way toward the Revolution. (The mystery in The Cavalier of the Apocalypse, by the way, happens to have a good deal to do with the historical Diamond Necklace Affair.) Halfway through the movie, Brody turns up (in 18th-century costume, of course) as a sleazy but dashing adventurer. I nearly shouted “That’s Aristide!” And then, “Who is this guy?”

A few months later, of course, Adrien Brody became much more famous with The Pianist and his subsequent Academy Award. But he has always been my first choice for playing Ravel. Tall, lanky, dark, with one of those wonderful aquiline noses that are so ubiquitous among the French, and with a distinctly European look to him, he is, physically, exactly right, and he could also carry off Ravel’s somberness, sensitivity, sharp intelligence, and occasional dry wit impeccably.

OK, if Adrien Brody weren’t available, I could live with Johnny Depp in the role, though he’s a little too beautiful for Ravel. But sometimes we have to make sacrifices...

Ravel’s employer/mentor/sidekick, Inspector Brasseur? Hmm. I keep seeing Robbie Coltrane in the part, though he’d have to drop about 20 years if he were cast--Brasseur’s about 37 in Cavalier. Or maybe Brian Dennehy (same caveat applies). Someone big, solidly built, forceful but essentially good-humored, and deceptively stolid-looking.

I hadn’t had any casting ideas about Olivier Derville, Ravel’s old school friend who both helps and hinders him during the case, until someone mentioned Paul Bettany. Bingo! Not conventionally handsome, but undoubtedly good-looking, lean and rangy, and able to carry off Derville’s style, polish, and shrewdness, with a hint of arrogance.
Orlando Bloom is looking more and more like a good choice for what I think should be a dual role: the elusive Marquis de Beaupréau and also Beaupréau’s devoted servant, Moreau. Beaupréau and Moreau are unacknowledged half-brothers (the late marquis played around), and strongly resemble each other. Moreau (the much larger role) is rather like Bloom’s role in Pirates of the Caribbean: he’s sincere, instantly likeable, a little naïve. Beaupréau, on the other hand, is a perfect 18th-century French aristocrat--debonair, polished, completely self-assured, a bit high-handed--with one twist: he’s a passionate liberal and is working for a revolution. An actor could have a lot of fun contrasting the two characters.

Sophie and Eugénie, the dead man’s sister and widow, could be played, respectively, by the French actresses Audrey Tautou (adorable, lively, with a hint of mischief) and Julie Delpy (pallid, fragile, ethereal), if each were ten years younger. Sigh. But no doubt there are plenty of up-and-coming young French actors who could fill these roles!

Got to go email a friend who might have some connections at the BBC...
Read the first chapters of The Cavalier of the Apocalypse, and learn more about the book and author at Susanne Alleyn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue