Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Simon Mawer's "Trapeze"

Simon Mawer is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel The Glass Room, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. His previous novels include The Fall (winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize), The Gospel of Judas, and Mendel’s Dwarf (long-listed for the Man Booker Prize). English by birth, he has made Italy his home for more than thirty years.

Here Mawer shares some ideas for cast and director of an adaptation of his latest novel, Trapeze:
It’s a game, isn’t it? Fun, but pointless because what will really happen is that someone will option the book, spend years writing a miserable script, try without success to get Angelina Jolie in the leading role, reset the whole thing in Afghanistan, make Marian a CIA operative with fluent Pushtu, and then fail to sell it because in the meantime the Taliban have become pacifist, NATO troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan and everyone is saying, “Where the hell?”

But even so, it is fun. I see it filmed with an understated colour palette, all greys and browns, and lots of mysterious, angled shots of Parisian streets. Absolutely no views of the Eiffel Tower or the Coliseum (largely because the Coliseum is in Rome, not Paris). 1940s period detail, both in Britain and in France. Director? Carol Reed, seeing what he did with The Third Man. He’s dead? Well someone must be able to do stuff like him. Noir. French, you see.

As regards cast – I’m in a bind here because the lead actress playing the part of Marian Sutro has to be bilingual in English and French, and actors suffer from the same problem that strikes all mortals – aging. Because I really need someone who can pass as 19 years old. That rules out Kristin Scott Thomas – but she’d have been great a few years ago. Quite a few years ago, actually. Sorry about that, Kristin. Maybe Natalie Portman could wing it in French (they say she studied the language) and also pass as ten years younger than she really is. Trouble is, I just don’t know many 19-25 year old actresses who are bilingual in French and English, although my life would probably be much more interesting if I did.

Then the two men in Marian’s life. They are both French. Oh dear, I can see no one in Hollywood is going to put up the money for this movie, more so because I’d want the French scenes to be in French with English subtitles. Death! Anyway, one of them I can do: Grégory Fitoussi. He’s the cool young lawyer in the current TV crime series that is a huge hit both sides of the English Channel: Engrenages (Spiral, in English). He’d be excellent as the worldly research physicist who Marian has a crush on. The second man, Benoît Bérard, would have to be younger. Young French hopefuls able to utter a few lines of English? There must be dozens of them...

Then there is the cameo part of Vera Atkins, the spymaster who sends Marian off on her mission. Well, there’s only one choice really. She’s also far too old but, hey, who cares? Helen Mirren.
Learn more about the book and author at Simon Mawer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Trapeze.

--Marshal Zeringue