Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Daniel Levine's "Hyde"

Daniel Levine studied English Literature and Creative Writing at Brown University and received his MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Florida. He has taught composition and creative writing at high schools and universities, including the University of Florida, Montclair State University, and Metropolitan State College of Denver. Originally from New Jersey, he now lives in Colorado.

Here Levine dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Hyde:
Hyde is my retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, from the supposedly villainous Hyde’s point of view. There have been many film versions of the story, but most productions I’ve seen portray Hyde as an ape-like beast, with heavy make-up and snaggled teeth. I would love to see a movie handle the Jekyll/Hyde distinction as the original 1887 theatrical production did: the actor, Richard Mansfield, simply changed his manner, his voice, his posture, his entire physical characterization.

I wrote Hyde rather cinematically, trying to imagine how each scene might be framed on the screen, how an actor would display a particular emotional state or reaction. For the title role, it’s hard to imagine anyone better than the brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis. In real life he seems to be a quietly spoken, gentle, thoughtful, intelligent man, and we have seen him play the mannered gentleman in Age of Innocence, The Crucible, Lincoln, even The Last of the Mohicans. Yet DDL can conjure a terrifying ferocity, as witnessed in perhaps his most memorable roles, Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York and Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. There are a few other actors who I think could capture the proper restraint of Jekyll and the cringing animality of Hyde: Ralph Fiennes, (a younger) Jeremy Irons, Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, ( a slightly older) Michael Fassbender.

As for John Utterson, Jekyll’s friend and solicitor and the steely investigator of the whole mystery, I can see Tom Wilkinson, with his fleshy hangdog face and stern, shrewd gaze. Kenneth Branagh might beautifully take on Hastie Lanyon, Jekyll’s vulnerable, grieving, alcoholic doctor friend. Ian McKellan would make a wonderful Sir Danvers Carew, the clever, cunning, white-haired MP who discovers Jekyll’s terrible secret. Stanley Tucci might play, somewhat unexpectedly, an excellent Poole, Jekyll’s sleek, subdued, endlessly loyal butler who knows far more than he lets on.

Georgiana and Jeannie, Jekyll’s and Hyde’s doomed “romantic” interests, make for interesting casting; they should indirectly resemble each other yet be separated by about 20-30 years in age. Emily Mortimer, with her sweet, shy, slightly awkward grace, could play a tender Georgiana. And I think Emma Watson—arch, pert, sexy, yet still trailing the innocence of Hermione Granger—could put a titillating spin on Hyde’s young prostitute, Jeannie.

Who to direct this dream cast? David Fincher, with his slick grasp of the dark and grisly would give the film a gorgeously gritty edge. But I would love to see David Cronenberg’s interpretation. He seems to have an interest in metamorphosis and twinship, as evidenced by his masterfully horrifying The Fly and Dead Ringers, and he knows the grand, sooty look of London, as we saw in Eastern Promises.
Visit Daniel Levine's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Hyde.

--Marshal Zeringue