Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lynne Jonell's "The Sign of the Cat"

Lynne Jonell is the author of the novels Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls, and The Secret of Zoom, as well as several critically acclaimed picture books. Her books have been named Junior Library Guild Selections and a Smithsonian Notable Book, among numerous other honors. Born in Little Falls, Minnesota, Jonell grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis. She now teaches writing at the Loft Literary Center and lives with her husband and two sons in Plymouth, Minnesota, in a house on a hill.

Here Jonell dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, The Sign of the Cat:
I suspect the movie would have to be animated—there are just too many talking cats. So I’d want Pixar to do the animation, and Pete Docter to direct. There’s a bit of local interest there—he grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota, and I grew up in Richfield, its next-door neighbor! But the real reason I’d like Pete Docter is that his montage of Carl and Ellie aging, in the movie Up, is one of the best things I’ve ever seen done.

I’d have Pixar use performance capture so the animated human actors would not only sound, but also look and move like themselves. So with that in mind, here goes:

Choosing a child actor to play Duncan, the central character, is tough. Movies take a long time to make, and child actors just keep growing up. But since I write fantasy, I don’t consider that I have to be realistic about this; I’d choose Tom Holland, back when he was twelve. I loved his work in The Impossible and he’s even got the look I imagined for Duncan, a kid who longs for success but whose mother warns him to never, never do his best. I already know Tom can do adventure with lots of drama, and deliver an understated yearning; the big question is, does he like cats? And how does he feel about a tiger as supporting actor?

To play Sylvia McKay, Duncan’s mother: Meryl Streep, because she can do anything and I’ve loved every movie she’s ever done. She’d be marvelous as a woman hiding who she really was, fearful yet incredibly brave, and I bet she could pull off the violin scenes and really make us believe in her musical genius. To be the mother of an eleven year old boy I’d make her 35 or 40, though.

To play the Earl of Merrick: Ryan Gosling. He’s got that great “trust me” face with the little sly smile that makes you wonder what’s going on underneath. I loved him in Lars and the Real Girl, but I think he’s got it in him to be a fabulous villain, too. He’d have to first be credible as the hero the whole nation adores, and then let that little smile give us a faint wisp of doubt as to his true intentions. He’s too young, though; I’d age him about ten years.

For the princess: Keisha Castle-Hughes, at age fourteen. She was wonderful in Whale Rider, passionate and intense, and with her hair long and in a braid she’d look exactly like the princess of my mind. She has a natural athleticism, too, which I see in the princess who runs and climbs all over Traitor Island.

And the voices of Fia, the kitten, and Brigadier, the tiger? I think I’ll leave those up to the director. I can hardly wait to see what Pete comes up with!
Visit Lynne Jonell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue