Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hillary Jordan's "When She Woke"

Hillary Jordan received her BA in English and Political Science from Wellesley College and spent fifteen years working as an advertising copywriter before starting to write fiction. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.

Here she suggests which actors might play the main roles in a cinematic  adaptation of her 2011 novel, When She Woke:
I can never see real people as my characters until I’m done creating them—I suppose I prefer to make the actors fit the characters rather than the other way around—so I didn’t start thinking about the casting for When She Woke until I was doing final revisions in early 2011.

The book is set in an unspecified near future and centers on a young woman named Hannah Payne, who begins the story as a beautiful, innocent, sheltered evangelical Christian. But after she has an illicit affair with a married minister, she becomes pregnant and has an abortion, for which she is convicted of second-degree murder and “chromed,” her skin turned lurid red to mark her for her crime, and then released to survive as best she can in a hostile world. The novel chronicles Hannah’s ordeal as a stigmatized woman and her journey toward freedom and self-agency. The actress who plays her has to have enormous range; must be able to project innocence and carnality, fear and courage, vulnerability and strength, shame and pride. She also has to be beautiful enough to look attractive with fire-engine-red skin for most of the movie, which few women are! When I saw Natalie Portman in Black Swan I thought, bingo. I could also see Carey Mulligan, who was amazing in An Education, Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis or Emma Stone being able to pull it off.

For Aidan Dale, Hannah’s lover, I’m not sure. He’s basically a good man, but flawed, and like Hannah’s his character is complex. He needs to be played by an actor in his mid to late 30s who can convey charisma, sensitivity, torment, passion, religious fervor, guilt and sorrow. Paul Newman or Ed Harris would have nailed it. Christian Bale maybe? James McAvoy? Ryan Gosling? Tobey Maguire? I’m open to any of them, as long as I get to go to the casting session. And since I’ll be there, we might as well throw in Daniel Craig and Johnny Depp. Oh, and Clive Owen.

I’m a huge True Blood fan, and I think Rutina Wesley, who plays Tara, would be excellent in the role of Kayla, Hannah’s feisty best friend and running buddy. For her sweet, vulnerable sister Becca, I see Amanda Seyfried or—if she doesn’t get the part of Hannah—Carey Mulligan. The role of Hannah’s father, who sticks by her even after she’s chromed, calls for an actor who can be both kind and stern: someone like Tim Robbins or John Corbett. For Hannah’s steely, proud mother, Ashley Judd or Catherine Zeta-Jones. And [SPOILER ALERT] for her rescuer and eventual lover Simone, the French actress Eva Green or Hilary Swank.

Now, for the villains: I think Aaron Eckhart would be terrific as Becca’s strapping, nasty-piece-of-work husband Cole. For the outwardly sweet but sadistic Mrs. Henley—a juicy role if there ever was one—I see Evan Rachel Wood, Claire Danes, Drew Barrymore (who has the dimples) or Amy Adams. And for her dimwitted, narcissistic husband Reverend Henley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Orlando Bloom or Bradley Cooper. Hmm, might have to go to that casting session too...
Learn more about the author and her work at Hillary Jordan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: When She Woke.

--Marshal Zeringue