Monday, July 24, 2017

Jason Hewitt's "Devastation Road"

Jason Hewitt is a novelist, playwright and actor. He was born in Oxford, and lives in London. His debut novel, The Dynamite Room, was long-listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Authors' Club First Novel Award.

Here Hewitt dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest novel, Devastation Road:
Writing Devastation Road I always had James McAvoy in mind for Owen, probably because I had a picture of him from Atonement on my Inspiration Board. Now, he’s probably a little old for the role, or certainly would be by the time any movie version was put into production. Waking up in a field in May 1945 with no idea of where he is or why, Owen is a complex character that needs to have an air of bewildered innocence about him; however there is darker side to him too and he holds within him a deeply buried guilt. Age-wise Jeremy Irvine is probably better suited now, if only we could make him a little scrawnier and a bit dirty behind the ears. Ideally, Owen would not be played by an actor who is instantly recognisable. (Daniel Radcliffe, sorry, but you need not apply.) The whole point of Owen is his ordinariness. He’s just a man trying to get home but finding himself in extraordinary circumstances and with little idea of who he is going home to.

The first travelling companion Owen meets is Janek, a 16-year old Czech boy who speaks little English. Janek was inspired in part by Jamie Bell’s character in the film Defiance. Like James McAvoy, Jamie is a bit too grown up now but I think Billy Howle has the same sort of look. US readers may not have come across Billy Howle yet but he was in the film The Sense of an Ending and is in the forthcoming movie adaptation of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach.

I can’t say much about the character Connie without giving her storyline away. All I will say is that she’s an attractive young woman who strays and then pays the price. I think Alicia Vikander would do a great job. She has the charisma and looks that Connie has, but also Connie’s embittered emotion. Failing that, Lily James has the same beguiling intensity. She was mesmerising in Baby Driver, but I first discovered her in the BBC TV adaptation of War and Peace.

Irena has the most devastating storyline and would need to be played by a actor that was prepared to shave off their hair and really be put through the emotional ringer. Irena keeps her feelings pressed deep beneath the surface and is full of secrets but her tragic truth is always bubbling away beneath. She commits the most unforgiveable act and yet still needs to win the audience’s empathy. Writing her I always envisaged Samantha Morton’s character in Minority Report. Samantha has that perfect pale complexion and yet also the emotionally wounded look that Irena has. I think Carey Mulligan would do a great job too – someone that can be understated throughout most of the story and then sock us with a stomach-tightening wallop of emotion come the end.

Martha, my lead American character, requires no thought. Owen thinks she looks like Loretta Young, the 30s-40s actress, so, naturally, that’s who I’d want playing her. Unfortunately, Loretta Young died in 2000 but Natalie Portman did such a good job transforming into Jackie Kennedy that I’m sure she could transform herself into Martha looking like Loretta Young (if that’s not too complicated).

As for director, it would have to be Terrence Malick, especially if he collaborated with his usual Director of Photography, Emmanuel Lubezki. The story is set in the devastated heartlands of post-war Europe and yet it’s May and Nature is at its most bounteous. I’d want a director with as much an eye for beauty as for the horrors that lie within the grass.
Visit Jason Hewitt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue