Monday, September 14, 2009

Brian Keaney's "The Hollow People"

Brian Keaney is a UK-based writer of fiction for children and young adults. He has written 16 novels and a number of plays . His latest books are: (in the UK) Nathaniel Wolfe and the Bodysnatchers published by Orchard Books; (in the US) The Cracked Mirror published by Alfred A Knopf.

Here he shares some thinking about the major cast and director for a cinematic adaptation of The Hollow People, the first book in The Promises of Dr. Sigmundus series:
The Hollow People is set in a nightmare society where people have handed over their minds to the state. It’s a world in which everything and everyone is controlled. Even dreaming is a crime. But Dante, the teenage boy at the centre of the story refuses to submit. That makes him unique. So whoever plays him must be able to convey a character who is not afraid to be different, no matter what it costs. The actor who immediately springs to mind is Robert Pattinson, who recently starred in Twilight. He has the right kind of look – like someone who doesn’t care if the whole world is against him; he’s still going to be himself.

For Beatrice, the girl from a good family who throws it all away to befriend Dante, I would like to see Ivana Baquero, the star of the outstanding Spanish language film, Pan’s Labyrinth. Playing a character who is both scared stiff and terrifically brave, she really convinces me.

The other really important character in the book is Ezekiel Semiramis, a man who terrifies the authorities, because he has harnessed a mysterious energy called Odyllic Force that gives him the power to step outside time. Whoever plays Ezekiel needs tremendous personal power. What about Viggo Mortensen, best known for playing Aragorn in The Lord Of The Rings? He has the ability to look right through the camera, so that you feel he’s looking directly at you. Alternatively Johnny Depp. He’s a wonderfully versatile actor and he has that delightful unpredictability that the character of Ezekiel demands.

Ezekiel is the leader of a band of outlaws called the Púca. Two of them, in particular, play an important part in the story. There’s Albigen, Ezekiel’s right hand man and the Púca’s fiercest fighter. I’d like to see him played by Jake Gyllenhaal who was compelling in Donnie Darko as a boy who refuses to conform. Then there’s red-haired Maeve whose parents were outlaws and who has known no other life but resistance to authority. Rachel Hurd-Wood who was so good in An American Haunting would be perfect for the part. Her natural hair colour is red and she’s got exactly the right mixture of feistiness and fragility.

Finally there’s the evil Dr Sigmundus, a dictator who sacrifices his own identity for the sake of power. No one does an archetypal villain better than Alan Rickman. I loved his portrayal of Hans Gruber in Die Hard and, of course, he’s terrific as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies. But perhaps he’s been overused. So maybe someone else. Dennis Hopper was completely terrifying in Blue Velvet but that was a long time ago. Perhaps Christopher Walken who was so impressive as a sadistic gangster in Last Man Standing.

That only leaves the director. I’d like to see what Guillermo del Toro, who directed Pan’s Labyrinth would make of it. Or Terry Gilliam whose movie, Twelve Monkeys is one of my all-time favourites. But I think the man whose phone call I would most like to receive would have to be Steven Spielberg. He’s the consummate story teller and I think he’d do a great job. So if by any chance you’re reading this, Steven, the rights are still available.
Read an excerpt from The Hollow People and view a video of Brian Keaney discussing the book.

Learn more about the author and his work at Brian Keaney's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue