Saturday, October 4, 2014

Maggie Anton's "Enchantress"

Maggie Anton is the award-winning author of historical fiction series "Rashi's Daughters" and "Rav Hisda's Daughter." She is a Talmud scholar, with expertise in Jewish women's history.

Here Anton dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Enchantress:
While writing my Rashi’s Daughters trilogy, I had some specific actors in mind – Katherine Hepburn for Joheved, Fred Astaire for her husband Meir, Olivia de Havilland for Miriam, Timothy Dalton as her husband Judah, and Elizabeth Taylor for Rachel. When I told my daughter, then in her twenties, about my choices, she protested that they were all dead, to which I replied that my characters, who lived in 11th-century France, had been dead even longer.

However for Enchantress, and its prequel Apprentice, I wrote without any preconceived actors in mind. It was only when the novels were done that I started to imagine who might play them in a modern movie. This time I limited myself to living actors, with their being Jewish a bonus. The tricky part was that the story takes place over a 60-year time period in 4th-century Babylonia, so I allowed myself to consider older actors, knowing how they’d looked in their youth.

I had created my heroine, Dodi, as the model for a mosaic portrait known as the “Mona Lisa of the Galilee,” so the actress would need to bear a decent likeness to this. She also would need to play a woman who was not only intelligent and passionate, but a talented sorceress. My choice: Natalie Portman.

For Dodi’s first husband, I needed a sweet, somewhat shy man with a fabulous smile. Noah Wyle fit that bill. I considered Jake Gyllenhaal, having seen him in Prince of Persia, but Noah had the better smile.

Dodi’s second husband, Rava, was trickier. Not particularly handsome, he was rather small and skinny. He was also brilliant, arrogant, charismatic, intense, and so serious that he almost never smiled. Plus a powerful sorcerer. My daughter suggested Jude Law, but he seemed too nice. I concluded that if I ignored his pirate movies, Johnny Depp was the man.

Last but not least, Mandy Patinkin for Rav Hisda: a teacher who was patient, kind and never sarcastic or mean to his students. And Susan Saradon for Haviva, Rav Hisda’s wife: a woman both sensual and possessing a quiet power.
Visit Maggie Anton's website and blog.

Writers Read: Maggie Anton (December 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue