Monday, October 18, 2010

Joanne Rendell's "Out of the Shadows"

Joanne Rendell's novels include The Professors' Wives' Club, Crossing Washington Square, and the recently released Out of the Shadows.

Here she shares some ideas for director and cast of a big screen adaptation of Out of the Shadows:
When I fantasize about Out of the Shadows coming out on the big screen, I can’t help but think of the 2002 movie Possession (Neil LaBute’s screen adaptation of A.S. Byatt’s novel of the same name). My novel tells the story of Clara Fitzgerald, a woman who thinks she is related to the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. On her journey to learn the truth, Clara uncovers startling secrets about the past and her present. The book is told from alternating points of view between Clara and the young Mary Shelley preparing to write Frankenstein. Like Possession, it weaves a historical story into a very contemporary one and tries to tease out the echoes between past and present – and our possible future too.

Because of the similarities with Possession, I’d love to see Gywneth Paltrow playing Clara just as she played the lead in the LaBute movie. Paltrow has a fascinating and paradoxical quality about her: aloof yet vulnerable; feminine and beautiful but also regal and tough. Clara is a similarly paradoxical woman in Out of the Shadows. She’s an accomplished professor, a beautiful and tender woman. But she’s been living too long in the shadow of her very successful fiancé. They have moved from city to city, university to university, following his meteoric rise in the world of genetic research. Somewhere along the way, Clara’s dreams and passions have been lost. Her mother has also just died and this loss has set her adrift. Out of the Shadows charts her journey of self-discovery and finding out where her heart truly belongs.

Alongside Paltrow, I imagine an actor like Billy Crudup playing Clara’s fiancé. Crudup did a great job playing the slick, handsome, but ultimately spiky ex-husband in the recent movie Eat Pray Love. Anthony is a similarly handsome and polished man, but he has a darker side too where his hubris and narcissism reside.

A movie adaptation of Out of the Shadows would need two actors to play Mary Shelley as a young girl and as a teenager. I recently watched the new BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (so wonderful!) and a young actress called Lucy Boynton played the youngest Dashwood sister, Margaret. Boynton exuded a feisty, adventuresome but sweet charm that would fit a young Shelley. As for the teenage Mary, I imagine someone like Anna Paquin, although she is a teenager no longer! Like the headstrong but thoughtful Mary, there is something soulful and smart, passionate and strong about Paquin.

Anna Paquin reminds me of my dream director too. In short, Jane Campion (Paquin was the little girl in the beautiful and tragic movie The Piano, of course). No one does atmospheric historicals or unique dramas about women quite the way Campion does.
Learn more about the book and author at Joanne Rendell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue