Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Beth Morrey's "The Love Story of Missy Carmichael"

Beth Morrey‘s work has been published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies and shortlisted for the Grazia Orange First Chapter competition. She lives in London with her family and dog.

Here Morrey dreamcasts an adaptation of The Love Story of Missy Carmichael, her debut novel:
I used to work in TV, so it’s reasonable to assume I would have actors in mind when I wrote my book, but I didn’t, initially - I had real people in mind. Yes, there’s a disclaimer that says any resemblance is accidental etc, and that’s true – my characters are not wholly based on real people, but there might be one thing about someone I know that I use to kick-start a figure, and the rest follows from there. However, as I got to the end of writing the first draft, and indulged in fantasies about selling the movie rights for millions, I did start to cast it mentally, and it was quite helpful for embedding characters in my mind, so that when I went over the text again in the edit, I could strengthen them, enrich their dialogue and deepen their back stories. So here is who I would choose…

There is no working actor dog, to my knowledge, who could play Bobby, so we’d have to do an open casting to find a new canine star, who would go on to win the Palm Dog Award. Bobby is probably some sort of Collie/German shepherd mix, and I’d insist on finding a mixed breed with an incredibly plumy waving tail and melting brown eyes. I would personally have to audition a lot of dogs to find the right one.

Angela would be played by Saoirse Ronan. She would have to dye her hair red, and age by about ten years. As long as she did that, we’d be grand. Saoirse would be good at that barnstorming, tempestuous edge Angela has, and she’s a big star so she’d draw in the crowds. Emerald Fennell would play Sylvie – again, she’d have to age by at least a decade. She could nail that bracing, flippant style Sylvie has, but equally be capable of hinting what a dark horse she is. She could also help with adapting the novel for screen as she’s wonderful writer too.

The young Leo (who appears in flashback) would be played by James Norton, who I reckon would be able to look impossibly handsome but also convey a kind of careless arrogance and self-absorption. He’d be so dashing you’d be able to see how Missy could overlook it, or be blinded to it.

Missy is obviously crucial, and I’d want an experienced, respected actress to give the film gravitas. But she’d have to have a kind of diffidence, a reserve, hinting at untold depths. Missy is a very attractive woman, and although she’s nearly 80, she doesn’t look it. I imagine her with lovely cheekbones, a tall, sparse figure, and long dark-grey hair. Who fits the bill? Harriet Walter, who read the audiobook, could do it. She has the necessary spiky reserve. But that makes me look like I’m lacking in imagination, choosing the book’s narrator. The actress I kept coming back to, while I was editing, is Geraldine James. She looks right, and is doing such wonderful work in the Netflix adaptation Anne with an E. She’s got immense warmth under the prickly surface, such nuance to her performance, and I think she would take the role of Missy and run with it. She’d win awards, and I would bask in her glory.

The movie would be directed by Greta Gerwig, who would bring lashings of poignancy and resonance to the story, and I would insist on a cameo appearance as a dog walker with my own dog Polly.
Visit Beth Morrey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

Coffee with a Canine: Beth Morrey & Polly.

--Marshal Zeringue