Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Samuel Park's "This Burns My Heart"

Samuel Park is an Assistant Professor of English at Columbia College Chicago. He is a graduate of Stanford and the University of Southern California, where he earned his doctorate in English. He is the author of the novella Shakespeare's Sonnets and the writer-director of the short film of the same name, which was an official selection of numerous domestic and international film festivals.

Here he shares some cast preferences for an adaptation of his new novel, This Burns My Heart:
A bookseller once told me that she found This Burns My Heart to be very cinematic, and I think that’s probably true. When I wrote it, I was inspired not only by literature, but by films based on great novels, like Doctor Zhivago. I try to describe the setting in such a way that the reader can picture the action unfolding in front of her, as if it were all happening right then and there. So if I were to cast a movie version of This Burns My Heart, I’d pick the following actors:

Michelle Yeoh as the heroine Soo-Ja—

Yeoh projects a dignity and fire that would fit my main character Soo-Ja. In both Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha, Yeoh was cast as the wiser mentor-figure, women ruled by equal parts wisdom and passion. Early in This Burns My Heart, Soo-Ja makes an unfortunate choice with disastrous consequences. But rather than running away from her destiny, Soo-Ja takes it on and forges ahead bravely. Yeoh would give the character gravitas—the kind of inner strength one develops when you fearlessly stride forward, instead of timidly looking back.

Chow-Yun Fat as the hero Yul—

I describe Yul in the novel as a man who has mastered his youthful impulses, a stoic and kind-hearted former soldier who reminds the heroine of soil—firm and reliable. Chow always oozes decency in his performances, and I especially loved his work opposite Jodie Foster in Anna and the King. As the King of Siam, Chow is the essence of high moral character—a man incapable of being hurtful or mean. That’s the key to portraying Yul, the object of my main character’s secret longing.

Gong Li as the villainous Eun-Mee—

As selfish as her name suggests, Eun-Mee causes Soo-Ja no end of grief. Like most strong villains, Eun-Mee actually has a charming side to her and drives much of the narrative. One of the world’s great actresses, Gong was wonderful in Zhang Yimou’s films, in particular, and got to show her campy side in Memoirs of a Geisha, playing the devilish Hatsumomo. While Eun-Mee is not quite as bad as Hatsumomo, she is certainly full of tricks up her sleeve, and Gong would capture not only the character’s badness, but also the internal pain and hurt driving her behavior.
Learn more about the book and author at Samuel Park's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: This Burns My Heart.

Writers Read: Samuel Park.

--Marshal Zeringue