Thursday, February 11, 2016

Patricia Ward's "Skinner Luce"

Patricia Ward was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, moving to the United States when she was eighteen. Her books include The Bullet Collection, an award-winning novel about two sisters growing up in wartime Beirut.

Here Ward dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Skinner Luce:
I always imagined Skinner Luce as a movie or a graphic novel, but didn’t have the know-how to pull it off. The setting of this story would translate beautifully onto the big screen--the cityscape in winter, the whirling snow and ice, the choppy bay. And tucked away inside this frozen world, the grimy houses and rooms where terrible, secret things take place while humans stroll by, oblivious. Throughout, the stark wintery imagery would convey the daily desperation that defines serv existence, further emphasized when they doll themselves up so pitifully for the Nafikh, who swat them around like flies. In contrast, Lucy’s visits home would provide pockets of warmth and normalcy, a respite from the oppressive strangeness of her serv life. The clutter of Eva’s house and Lucy’s childhood bedroom, the ease with which she moves through these recognizable spaces, would highlight the freakish world she inhabits when she’s away, and make her efforts to forge some kind of normal life all the more poignant.

The atmosphere of Skinner Luce is definitely Indie not Blockbuster. Having any well-known actors in the movie would undermine the viewer’s experience. We need to be pulled into an underworld of wheeling and dealing aliens who are fighting to survive. We should come to the discomfiting realization that these servs are among us, all around us, and we had no clue. The world on the screen has to feel like the world we regular people step into every day, but skewed by this new and disturbing understanding. Having Matt Damon pop up as a serv or a sentry would wreck that.

That said, there are actors that come to mind because they remind me of the characters. Lucy would be a cross between Saoirse Ronan and a young Tilda Swinton. Or maybe just the latter. The sentry Gabriel is an Idris Elba type. Julian, stringy, dark and brimming with meanness and anger, might be a Cillian Murphy. Theo could be an Andrew Scott. I can’t think of an actor who looks like Bedrosian, but in my head he’s always been a tidy William Saroyan. Lucy’s mother Eva is a Betty White without the giggles.

If there had to be someone famous in the film to give it traction, I can see Benedict Cumberbatch playing a Nafikh. Just thinking about it creeps me out. He’s got that strangely addictive face and those weird transparent eyes. He’d be really well-suited to portraying a detached, otherworldly, terrifying alien being.

As for who might direct, I thought the directors of the new Battlestar Galactica did a fantastic job conveying a gritty, dark atmosphere and bringing out the intensely genuine emotion driving so many of the storylines. I also love Joss Whedon (who doesn’t?). In my fantasy of fantasies, he directs a TV series based on Skinner Luce. In reality, I have an old friend who is a director and who would do an amazing job with this film. We’ll see what happens!
Visit Patricia Ward's website.

The Page 69 Test: Skinner Luce.

--Marshal Zeringue