Friday, August 27, 2010

Alden Bell's "The Reapers Are the Angels"

Alden Bell is a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord, whose first novel, Hummingbirds, was released in Fall 2009. He teaches at a New York City prep school and is an adjunct professor at The New School.

He lives in New York City with his wife, the Edgar Award-winning mystery writer, Megan Abbott.

Here he shares some ideas for the director and principal cast of an adaptation of his new novel, The Reapers Are the Angels:
The Reapers Are the Angels has a lot to do with American landscapes. So it’s worth noting that, for me, the cinematography would be as essential an element as the actors. The earth itself is a major character—and much of the story could be told simply through still shots of the post-apocalyptic devastation of the American South. Terrence Malick, for example, tells the most significant parts of his stories through visual images that make dialogue seem almost redundant. While Reapers is definitely driven by an action-heavy plot, I always love the contrast between moments of movement or violence and the moments of quiet stillness in between.

Let’s start with the director. Because I see Reapers as more of a Southern Gothic than a zombie novel, my ideal director for the film would be David Gordon Green—a masterful Malick-inspired filmmaker responsible for such achingly lovely movies as All the Real Girls and George Washington. I understand that one of his future projects will be a remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, which I’m dying to see because I think Green knows exactly how to balance lyrical beauty with morbid strangeness.

Temple, our heroine, is a tough, pragmatic, zombie-killing fifteen year old girl. It’s easy to picture Mia Wasikowska in the role, especially after her stunning performance in That Evening Sun. The actress for this role would have to be someone who has both an innocence and a kind of worn ruggedness, and I think both come naturally to her. Of course, after I saw Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone recently, it was hard for me not to picture her as Temple. And there’s still another part of me—a foolish, wild part of me—that would love to see what Miley Cyrus could do with the role.

The role of Moses Todd, the great bear-like man who both chases Temple across the landscape and acts as perverse father figure, is the most difficult for me to imagine on screen. Have you seen enough seasons of Survivor to recognize the bearded, gravel-voiced contestant named Rupert Boneham? I know he’s not an actor, but that’s who comes to mind when I think of Moses Todd. And it’s certainly not an obvious choice, but I can also picture Liev Schreiber in the role. Not just because he’s frequently the best part of every movie he’s in, but also because he is always walking that tenuous line between the comforting familiar and the horrifyingly strange. You never know whether to run toward him or away from him—and that’s a quality that I had in mind when I wrote Moses Todd.
Learn more about Alden Bell's work Joshua Gaylord's website.

Writers Read: Alden Bell.

The Page 69 Test: The Reapers Are the Angels.

--Marshal Zeringue