Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mark Lawrence's "Prince of Thorns"

Mark Lawrence's day job is as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say "this isn't rocket science ... oh wait, it actually is."

The Prince of Thorns, his first published novel, is the beginning of a projected trilogy following the fortunes of Honorous Jorg Ancrath.

Here Lawrence shares some suggestions for casting the lead of an adaptation of the book as well as an idea for the director:
Prince of Thorns is about one person. Jorg Ancrath is clever, amoral, prone to extravagant violence, and to cutting his way towards an efficient if bloody solution to the problems before him. Above all this he carries with him a childhood more horrific than his present.

Any film of Prince of Thorns would stand or fall on two things, first it would stand on the skill and passion of the actor portraying Jorg. Second, it would depend upon a director of sufficient insight to understand that despite the brutality this is not a shallow hack and slash book. It would require a director brave enough to give the public the film of that deeper book, rather than just the murder and mayhem the studio might believe the public wants.

Ironically, given that I’ve been asked to talk about a film adaptation, the book that directly inspired Prince of Thorns is best known because of the controversial film based upon it. Prince of Thorns was inspired by Burgess’ book A Clockwork Orange. Stanley Kubrick’s film of the book was banned in the UK for most of my adult life. I think Kubrick and McDowell might well have pulled off a good and ban-worthy version of Prince of Thorns and Jorg.

Given Jorg’s age (14 for much of the book, 10 for much of the flashback sections) a young actor is clearly required. However, young actors haven’t had much time to make an impression on me and their names rarely stick. As such I suggest since this is an exercise in imagination (I doubt one in ten thousand fantasy books is made into a film) that we merely imagine which older actor now known to us would have made a good Jorg in their younger days. Three names suggest themselves to me. Firstly Jack Nicholson for his intensity and raw crazy. Secondly Johnny Depp for his combination of depth and humour, the potential in him for threat, and the fact he has the right kind of looks. Thirdly the late lamented Heath Ledger who demonstrated many of Jack Nicholson’s talents when out-doing him in the role of the Joker, and who could also bring to the part a kind of goodness and loss that is buried very deeply in our ‘hero’.

What I would want from any of these three, and what I’m sure they could have delivered at an appropriate age, would be the ability to command each scene and just plain scare the hell out of me by letting me know they were capable of doing absolutely anything without requiring provocation. More than that though, they would need somehow to make me feel the pain they denied, to make me laugh out loud, and to make me end up rooting for them despite the evident blackness of their souls.

There are of course many lesser roles amongst Jorg’s band of brothers who run bloody riot with him. Prime amongst these are Sir Makin, The Nuban, and Rike. For whom I might suggest a younger Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in Lord of the Rings), Djimon Hounsou (Juba in Gladiator), and perhaps Conan Stevens (Sir Gregor Clegane in A Game of Thrones) respectively.
Visit Mark Lawrence's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue