Monday, March 2, 2020

Serena Kent's "Death in Avignon"

Serena Kent has been a journalist, a banker, a music composer and a sheep-shearer - and is also the nom de plume of Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees. They live in Kent in a house full of books, and own a ramshackle old farmhouse on the slopes of the Luberon hills in Provence which is also in desperate need of some more bookshelves.

Here authors deamcast an adaptation of their new novel, Death in Avignon:
There’s no doubt in my mind [writes Deborah] that Jennifer Aniston would make a brilliant Penelope Kite: she has impeccable comic timing and there’s a lot of self-deprecating humour in Penelope. Aniston would bring exactly the right balance of quirky and adorable, too – and she is exactly the same age as Penelope, looking great for 50.

The trouble is that I didn’t write this book on my own, and my co-author has equally strong views, so this post is going to be an insight into our creative differences behind the scenes! Husband Rob and I have even being doing book talks entitled “How to Write a Murder Mystery with your Spouse – without Actually Committing One”. At least we’re still laughing.

For the role of Clémence Valencourt, the ultra-chic Parisian real estate agent who becomes Penelope’s unlikely friend, I would have no hesitation in casting French film star Arielle Dombasle, tiny, blonde and determined.

The gorgeous Mayor of St Merlot would be played by Jean Dujardin, who won an Oscar for the silent movie The Artist (a first for a French actor). No question, Dujardin’s the man. Absolutely non-negotiable. Even if we have to kidnap him.

Susan Sarandon would make a wonderful Frankie, Penelope’s larger-than-life best friend. She would have to bulk up, or wear a fat suit, but Sarandon would bring the sassiness that is Frankie’s hallmark. She may be a big woman, but Frankie is attractive with bucketloads of charisma.

Monsieur Charpet would ideally be played by the late French actor Raimu, real name Jules Muraire. But perhaps if John Candy were still alive, he might have enjoyed growing a walrus moustache and pulling the mournful faces required for Penelope’s aged gardener.

I am assuming [writes Rob] that we can draw actors from any period for this movie. It is important that we can, as my favourites are almost all from a different age! It is quite interesting when the choice of actor reveals a difference in our perception of the character.

The role of Laurent Millais, the Mayor, needs an archetypal French film star: insouciant, brimming with Gallic charm (some would say arrogance), smouldering with every line. For me it would have to be Alain Delon in his heyday. And Penelope’s wrinkled retainer Monsieur Charpet would be played well with a comic slant by Maurice Chevalier.

The British artist Roland Doncaster is a rumbustious but attractive rogue – so Hugh Grant, maybe? Or Albert Finney, even better.

The diminutive but aggressive Inspecteur Reyssens is easy – Herbert Lom.

This leaves us to cast our three heroines – the difficult ones. Frankie is larger than life and would be well suited to the very funny British comedienne Miranda Hart.

Clémence, small sharp and perfectly formed, would be well suited to Audrey Hepburn at her most sylph like. For the really tricky part, Penelope, I am casting around a bit. Possibly Renée Zellweger, or a younger Alison Steadman. She is far and away the most difficult to cast for me! [Just as well that Jennifer Aniston is perfect, then, writes Deborah.]
Visit Serena Kent's website.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Provence.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Avignon.

--Marshal Zeringue