Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Esther Friesner's "Spirit's Princess"

Nebula Award winner Esther Friesner is the author of more than 30 novels and over 150 short stories, including the story "Thunderbolt" in Random House's Young Warriors anthology, which lead to the creation of Nobody's Princess and Nobody's Prize. She is also the editor of seven popular anthologies. Her works have been published around the world. Educated at Vassar College and Yale University, where she taught for a number of years, Friesner is also a poet, a playwright, and once wrote an advice column, "Ask Auntie Esther."

Here she shares some thoughts about adapting her latest novel, Spirit's Princess, for the big screen:
I can't remember a time when I didn't love to play the game of "Hollywood has just signed on the dotted line and they actually care enough about the author's feelings to let me cast the movie!" The name of the game is rather a stretch, but so are the chances of Hollywood ever giving an author that much say. In spite of that, I continue to dreamcast.

Now I have the opportunity to do so publicly for my latest novel, Spirit's Princess, even if it's just on the "What if. . .?" level. You'd think I'd be overjoyed.

I'm not. I'm overwhelmed.

Much as I'd love to dreamcast Spirit's Princess, here's the problem: It's set in 3rd century Japan. The heroine, Himiko, grew up to be the shaman-queen who united her people's warring tribes, brought peace, and was recognized as a worthy ally by the emperor of China. She's strong but vulnerable, complex, admirable, spiritual, a fighter, a healer, and...Japanese.

As are the rest of the characters in the book, might I add.

I cannot see casting this book with anyone but Japanese performers, but I also know precious little about who's who in Japanese cinema. How can I pick the right person to play Himiko, her haunted father, her shaman mentor Yama, her nemesis Ryu, her indomitable best friend Kaya, and everyone else when I am woefully unfamiliar with contemporary Japanese actors and actresses? I can look up their images online, but that won't tell me anything about their acting style or the full scope of their talent. The person who looks good for a part might not be the right person to play that part.

So I'm going to take a different tack and, instead of dreamcasting Spirit's Princess with live performers, I'll turn to the realm of animation. Not just any animation, of course. This is my dream and I like to dream big! So I'm going to close my eyes and imagine that by some miracle, this project draws the attention of Oscar winner Hayao Miyazaki, co-head of Studio Ghibli, the master whose gifts brought us so many wonderful films. If you're going to get someone else to cast your book when it's turned into a movie, get the best!

See you at the premiere.
Learn more about the book and author at the Princesses of Myth website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue