Tuesday, January 21, 2020

M.L. Huie's "Spitfire"

M.L. Huie is a writer, teacher and actor. In addition to working ten years as a features journalist he has written several plays that have been performed throughout the US and in the UK. He is a proud member of Actor's Equity Association, and teaches theatre and acting at the university-level. He is married to a brilliant woman and has two genius kids.

Here Huie shares some thoughts on the lead and director of an adaptation of his new novel, Spitfire:
I write historical fiction and movies are a large part of my research. My debut novel Spitfire takes place in London and Paris of 1946. I’ve traveled to both of those cities, but only film can allow me to venture back in time. So, it’s natural that I also “cast” my book with actors to help me more clearly “see” the book as I’m writing.

My protagonist Livy Nash is a young woman of 26 in this book. She’s English and grew up in Blackpool, Lancashire. She’s working-class, direct, funny and pretty damaged when we first meet her. Livy was one of many women recruited to serve as a spy behind enemy lines during World War Two, and her war ended in tragedy. She comes home a broken woman, but soon after the book begins she’s recruited anew by Ian Fleming. Yes, that Ian Fleming.

So, the actor who plays Livy in the film or HBO series of Spitfire (hey, I’m not picky) would have to have a pretty wide range as well as be believable in physical confrontations. Livy is not glamorous or regal. She’s not a character who will be hobnobbing with dukes and countesses in later books.

When I wrote the book I cast every character with famous actors except Livy. I saw her very clearly in my own mind. As a result I’ve had a hard time pinning down who would do her justice. After considering the question to amuse myself for a while my wife Brook suggested an actor she had seen in HBO’s adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. It was Shailene Woodley.

I watched her in a few episodes and felt she had the requisite toughness along with a certain vulnerability, which I feel are part of Livy’s character. To my mind she certainly looks the part. Ms. Woodley also has a bit of action star on her resume in the Divergent series, where she leads a group of resistance fighters in a dystopian future. Of course my one concern would be whether could she pull off Livy’s specific British dialect. Ms. Woodley is originally from California. But as an actor myself, I know most of us are trained in dialects. How many times have you discovered that one of your favorite actors was actually Australian and British? I’m sure given the time she could look and sound like any one from anywhere.

Choosing a director for the sprawling, star-studded, big-budget adaptation of Spitfire (a boy can dream, ya know) proved much easier. The movie needs a woman at the helm and Greta Gerwig is ideal. Her film of Little Women proved she could take a period piece and make it feel relevant. It is possible that Ms. Gerwig might bring along the wonderful star of her films Little Women and Ladybird, Saoirse Ronan, to play Livy.

Sigh. OK, fine, Greta, if you insist.
Visit M.L. Huie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue