Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Alma Katsu's "The Hunger"

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank.

Here Katsu dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Hunger:
It’s fun to play this game this time around because The Hunger, unlike my previous books, has already been optioned for film. And by none other than Ridley Scott. His son Luke Scott is going to direct, and they’re working on the script now for Fox. I still can’t get used to saying that. Still, whether it will actually be made into a movie one day is a long shot, or so I’ve been told, and so being a ruthless pragmatist I’ve refused to dwell on it. This is actually the first time I’ve let myself think about it!

The Hunger is an ensemble cast and with few exceptions, the characters are based on real people. One of the main characters is Tamsen Donner, wife of George Donner, feckless leader of the wagon party. I’ve portrayed Tamsen as a bewitchingly beautiful, intelligent woman who is tired of being subject to the whims of men—which, given the times, can only lead to trouble and frustration. In an earlier era, Vivian Leigh would be the perfect Tamsen, but among today’s actresses, Jessica Biel (The Illusionist) or Olivia Wilde would be good choices for their cool beauty.

Charles Stanton is the closest thing to a hero in the novel. A bachelor, he makes a long, treacherous journey through wilderness to get supplies when the wagon party first runs out of food. He returns even though he has no familial ties, nothing to compel him to come back. There are a lot of actors I could see in this role but I’ve picked Scott Eastwood (Suicide Squad). He looks like he could play someone haunted by a terrible incident in his past and, let’s face, given his lineage probably looks good in a cowboy hat.

I changed James Reed’s character for the book, giving him a fatal flaw that I’m sure he didn’t have in real life (and which I won’t reveal here so you’ll be surprised when you read it). An Irish immigrant who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, James Reed became the de facto leader when George Donner crumbled. This may seem like a funny choice, but I could see Joseph Morgan (The Vampire Diaries) in this role. A little devilish, a little cunning, and hiding a big secret.

Several women in the wagon party emerge as leaders once things start going badly, and Mary Graves is one of them. It would be a great role for any young actress. The only requirements are that she should be tall and have a sincerity to her.

It will be hard for the setting not to run away with the movie: the story of the Donner Party transpired over flat-out gorgeous territory, from the red rock spires of Chimney Rock in Wyoming to the desert of the Bonneville Salt Flats to the lush mountain greenery of the Lake Tahoe area. The actors will have to work hard not to be outshone by the scenery.

If the movie ever gets made, let’s make a date to check back and see how accurate my picks were.
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

--Marshal Zeringue