Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rhonda Riley's "The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope"

Rhonda Riley is a graduate of the creative writing program at the University of Florida.

Here she shares some ideas about casting an adaptation of her recently released debut novel, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope:
I did not have any specific actors in mind when I wrote the book. I don’t think /imagine that way when I am writing. I know writers who start with a photo of someone to help them develop character description, but I don’t do that. Actors’ faces come with their own characters--the people they are and the roles they’ve played can be like shadows next to them. When I’m imagining characters’ faces, I don’t want to give myself anything I have to ignore.

When I think of Adam Hope becoming a film, I think in terms of scripts, scenes, directors, etc. And how would they do that voice? But if there ever was a film made of the book, I’d want the actor who plays Adam to be someone who could convincingly and simultaneously play the surreal, slightly off character and the very down-to-earth character, have both qualities in his face and how he moves. Johnny Depp in his earlier roles played the other-worldly, not-quite-normal stuff very well, and his face is beautiful. But Adam should have a larger more robust physical presence. I love the way Javier Bardem can play his body large or small (check out Love in the Time of Cholera for scenes of him being younger and smaller in presence). He can be very convincing as an imposing power or as an impish young man. That is one thing I wish I’d bought into Adam’s character. I think of him as a bit of an imp. That didn’t come out in the book, but there’s only so much you can put in one book, only so many pages!

I fell in love with Tilda Swinton’s face long ago. She’s capable of a stunned bareness that I associate with Evelyn’s first encounters with A. She can be plain or beautiful. But the closest I’ve seen to how I imagine Evelyn, is  Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. Though the film was darker than Adam Hope, I was taken with her quiet, solitary, and determined character and the way she held herself and moved through the scenes.

For me, Momma is also a central character. I am blank when it comes to her. She is so closely tied, in my mind, to the bodies and faces of two women I loved, my own mother and my great aunt, Lil. An actress playing her would need a strong face.

As for all those tall redheaded daughters--I would love to see them in a film! Actually, I would be most thrilled by new faces—actors who are getting their first major break and blowing the audience away. Clean slates. Gorgeous and fresh. Of course, blowing away an audience would have as much to do with the script writing and direction as the actors. This question—which actors would play my characters—always confounds me a little and sets me thinking about the differences between the film and books. The collaboration of film is in the product, you actually see the evidence of it. With film everyone sees the same thing. But in books the act of seeing takes place in the moment of reading—in the reader’s mind. The author gives the parameters of the scene, some major characteristic of a face, a place, or a day, and the reader fills in the details. I’d love to see what readers imagine A. looks like. That possibility is endless and far more dynamic than Ben Affleck’s handsome mug.
Learn more about the book and author at Rhonda Riley's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope.

Writers Read: Rhonda Riley.

--Marshal Zeringue