Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Michael Gregorio's Hanno Stiffennis novels

Michael Gregorio is the pen name of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. She teaches philosophy; he teaches English. They live in Spoleto, Italy. Michael Gregorio was awarded the Umbria del Cuore prize in 2007.

A Visible Darkness, their third novel in the Hanno Stiffennis series was published in hardback by St Martins Press in 2009. Unholy Awakening, the fourth, was issued as an SMP-Minotaur original paperback in 2010. The paperback edition of A Visible Darkness was issued by the same US publisher on 26th April, 2011.

Here the authors share some ideas about bringing their series to the big screen:
People (American friends, as a rule) often ask. “When can we see the film?”

We smile at each other and say, “They’re still thinking about it.”

To be honest, the thought of anyone making a movie featuring a country magistrate who works in early nineteenth century Prussia is so improbable that we decided to let ourselves go and have fun with the casting. Our novels are set in such a remote time (the Napoleonic Wars), and in such a forgotten historical context (Prussia, a country which no longer exists), that Hollywood would not be at all interested in the screenplay (written especially for us by the late Paddy Chayefsky, by the way).

Limited neither by possibility, probability or mortality, and given that our novels are gruesome crime tales, we feel free to range through a number of unlikely possibilities regarding the total improbability of anything ever coming of the project.

Please note, we pity the movie-maker (Federico Fellini? Fritz Lang?) who gets the job.

Prussia was home to the Brothers Grimm and E.T.A. Hoffman, the stamping ground of Immanuel Kant, the philosopher. It had a vast standing army that militarised the entire country until Napoleon turned up and walked all over it to the utter humiliation of all good Prussians.

How do you create a country and a time that no longer exist?

We would go for what we created, rather than what we managed to re-create.

So, our movie world would embrace the realms of serial murder, social satire and cartoon animation as much as serious drama. A bit like Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm 2005 film, really....

Now, that’s a thought. Would Terry be open to offers? They say he has a house in Italy not far from where we live, and he did win a couple of Academy awards...

He has to accept, however, that we want a digital setting based on new Walt Disney drawings and coloured cels similar in style and colour to the ones that Walt used in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A number of Walt’s characters could be brought out of the cupboard, dusted off, and adapted for use. It would save Walt time, and also save the studio all lot of money.

Snow White herself could play our heroine, Edviga, who works as a humble amber gatherer on the Baltic sea-shore, though Snow would have to slim down quite a bit, grow a foot (height-wise, of course) wear a blonde wig, dress up in heavy leather weather-alls and labour in the sea in winter – the Baltic may be blue, but it’s damned cold. Several of the dwarfs could be drafted in as representatives of the Prussian army, too: Snoopy as a private, Droopy as a general. Or vice versa...

Our main characters, Hanno Stiffenniis and his wife, Helena, would work with any decent real life or movie husband and wife team, so let’s say Bogart-Bacall, Grant-Hepburn, Burton-Taylor, Astaire-Rogers – it hardly matters. We are only looking at a template, and we want to offer them long-term commitment, casting them through Books 1 to 4 at ages ranging through 26 to 31. We’ll end up animating (or should we say re-animating) our featured couple, in any case.

Maybe Fred and Ginger if we go for the musical.

Regarding the music, well “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho! It’s off to work we go” would not be appropriate. Maybe a brand new piece by Gustav Mahler (something like the Tenth Symphony but with more brio), or a previously unpublished fantasia-opera pastiche by piano-whiz Franz Liszt...

How does that sound, movie-goers?

We hear the dollars rolling in.
Visit Michael Gregorio's website and blog.

Read Michael Gregorio's Q & A with R.N. Morris at The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: A Visible Darkness.

The Page 69 Test: Unholy Awakening.

--Marshal Zeringue