Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jean-Vincent Blanchard's "Éminence"

Jean-Vincent Blanchard is Associate Professor of French Studies at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. Born in Canada and raised in Europe, he earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1997. He is a specialist on pre-revolutionary France, with particular emphasis on the seventeenth century, and has published on a broad range of subjects in politics, history, religion, philosophy, and the arts.

Here he shares the context for an adaptation of Éminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France, his first book in English, and some suggestions for the cast:
Chief Minister to King Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu was the architect of a new France in the 17th century, and the force behind the nation's rise as a European power. One of the first statesmen to clearly understand the necessity of a balance of powers, he was one of the early realist politicians, practicing in the wake of Niccolò Machiavelli: a notable advocate of Realpolitik in our own time, Henry Kissinger, credits Richelieu with introducing a modern approach to international relations. He became, as well, a cultural icon, appearing, for example, as an important character in Alexandre Dumas’ classic The Three Musketeers.

Forging a nation-state amidst the swirl of unruly, grasping nobles, widespread corruption, wars of religion, and an ambitious Habsburg empire, Richelieu's hands were full. Serving his fickle monarch, however, and mastering the politics of absolute power provided Richelieu with his greatest challenge and ultimately determined his legacy to France and to all those who practice statecraft today. My new biography brings Richelieu fully to life—at court, on the battlefield, at times cruel and ruthless, always devoted to creating a lasting central authority vested in the power of monarchy, a power essential to France’s position on the European stage for the next two centuries.

Richelieu. The director should chose an actor capable of representing a stately and yet slightly devious presence, but without overdoing it. I propose David Strathairn.

Louis XIII. Nerd chic needed here: Jesse Eisenberg or Jim Parsons.

Marie de’ Medici: Meryl Streep. It takes talent to represent angry mediocrity.

Anne of Austria: Scarlett Johansson or Blake Lively.

Gaston: Oddball Russell Brand would be perfect.

Madame de Chevreuse was seductive and dangerous: Keira Knightley

Period costumes are gorgeous, but I think they should be adapted a little bit because some of the hairstyles would seem a bit silly now. The story mixes grand epic military campaigns with court intrigue, so the sets have to alternate between sprawling natural scenery (the Alps, the Atlantic Ocean, forests) and dark, jewel box, almost claustrophobic interiors.

For beautiful images showing these historical characters, see my "Writer’s Page (Éminence)" on Facebook.
Learn more about Éminence at the publisher's website.

Writers Read: Jean-Vincent Blanchard.

--Marshal Zeringue