Saturday, April 28, 2012

Richard Harland's "Liberator"

Richard Harland is the author of many fantasy, horror, and science fiction novels for young readers, including Worldshaker, Liberator, the Eddon and Vail series, the Heaven and Earth Trilogy, and the Wolf Kingdom quartet, which won the Aurealis Award. He lives in Australia.

Here Harland shares his conviction about the right director for an adaptation of Liberator, as well as some suggestions for the principal cast:
For the film of Liberator, the one thing I’m definite on is my director. David Fincher! Sorry, Hollywood, I just won’t accept anyone else. When Se7en came out, it blew my mind away, and I’ve admired almost everything Fincher has directed since: The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That’s an awesome list by any count! And Fincher has exactly the right talents for my brand of steampunk fantasy. I need his skill with action (for some huge action scenes in Liberator); I need his use of sound to create ominous atmospheres (for all the dark, brooding scenes); and I need his ability to maximise shock and surprise (for many moments of jaw-dropping revelation). Most of all, I need his visual imagination. Se7en blew me away because it used colour effects I’d never seen before in a movie: dark, glinting, metallic colours, steel and bronze and copper. Other directors have followed the same path since, but there’s still no one who can do it better than Fincher. His visual imagination is just crying out for the steampunk industrial settings of Liberator.

Seriously, I reckon steampunk is a gift to any movie director. So much amazing imagery: gaunt machines, smoke and steam, fire and sparks—and in the case of Liberator and its predecessor, Worldshaker, sheer vast scale. As in, mobile juggernauts three miles long! Think what Martin Scorsese did with steampunk imagery in Hugo … and Scorsese isn’t even an obvious steampunk director. Whereas steampunk and David Fincher are a marriage made in Heaven. I suspect he must’ve worked that out for himself, because I see his next movie is his vision of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Can’t wait!

(Memo to David: when you’ve proved yourself on gigantic under-the-sea vessels, try moving on to even bigger over-the-land vessels!)

Actors for Liberator are harder to pick. I visualize my characters very strongly—that’s one of my best ways of getting a handle on them. But my visualizations come from real people or composites of real people. When I try to think of actors, I start thinking in terms of roles in previous movies … for example, I think of Jennifer Lawrence for Riff, only because Riff has a lot in common with Katniss in The Hunger Games. But if I’m serious about this, I have to think of potential roles not past roles, and focus on faces and body language.

Okay. Steve Buscemi could do a great Mr Gibber, the crazy schoolteacher with the rubbery lips. And Bill Nighy fits the bill for Col’s permanently depressed father, Orris Porpentine.

For Col himself, I think someone like Ewan McGregor. A bit earnest, a bit awkward, yet stubborn and determined … and he’ll need a baffled, thwarted look when Riff breaks it off with him. Yes, Ewan could fill that spot.

Lye needs to be beautiful, but in a cold sort of way. She’s also a fanatic, and her crucial feature is her piercing eyes. The most piercing eyes I know belong to Saoirse Ronan—not the biggest name in the business, but she was in Atonement, The Lovely Bones and The Way Back. She’d need a change of hair colour to black.

As for Riff, my third major character, I give up on actors. I can’t go past this image [above left] I found –

That’s what the Riff in my mind looks like!
Learn more about the book and author at Richard Harland's website.

Writers Read: Richard Harland.

--Marshal Zeringue