Friday, May 26, 2023

Bryn Turnbull's "The Paris Deception"

Bryn Turnbull is the internationally bestselling author of The Woman Before Wallis and The Last Grand Duchess. With a master of letters in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews, a master of professional communication from Toronto Metropolitan University and a bachelor's degree in English literature from McGill University, Turnbull focuses on finding stories of women lost within the cracks of the historical record.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Paris Deception:
This is the first novel that I’ve written with fully fictional main characters, and when I started envisioning the novel I struggled with picturing my two main characters, Sophie and Fabienne. In my previous two books, I wrote historical heroines, meaning that I had photographs and newsreels to draw upon when picturing the character in my mind, but with this project I had difficulty envisioning the characters: they wavered on the edge of my mind’s eye, sometimes shifting into focus before blurring, frustratingly, once more.

I have Pedro Pascal to thank, in fact, for helping me solidify my characters. I was listening to an interview where he talked about developing scrapbooks to get himself into his character’s mindset, and I thought it sounded worth trying. In the course of developing my scrapbooks, I gravitated towards images that felt like one character or the other. I found their clothing – for Sophie, worn tweeds and pleated trousers; for Fabienne, rich velvets and flowing silks. Furniture for their apartments – a wrought-iron bed for Sophie, and a bathtub filled with pillows for Fabienne. The tools of their trades: palette knives and paintbrushes, coffee cups and champagne coupes. Finally, with a hundred different aspects of the characters down in the scrapbook I took a stab at their physical appearance.

To me, Sophie is Holliday Grainger, beautiful and strong with a cut-glass accent and victory curls. Having played queer historical heroines in the past, I think she would do wonderfully navigating the many levels on which Sophie has to hide her true self.

Fabienne, meanwhile, would be played to perfection by Aubrey Plaza: changeable and unpredictable, who could embody Fabienne’s empty bravado and grief like no other.

I continued this exercise of scrapbooking – and dream casting – for other characters in my book: Dietrich would be played, ideally, by Joe Alwyn, serious and steady yet dreamy enough for a romantic lead; Sebastien, meanwhile, I envision as Tom Sturridge, who could capture Sebastien’s reticence and hard exterior before unfolding and letting Fabienne, and the reader, glimpse his true nature.

Gerhardt Hausler, Sophie’s confidante and co-conspirator within the Jeu de Paume, I could see played by Torben Leibrecht, a German actor known for his role in Altered Carbon.

The most difficult castings, of course, would be the antagonists. Konrad Richter, Hermann Goering’s right hand man, is the main villain of this story: I see him as Daniel Bruhl, chewing the scenery as he embodies both Richter’s smirking elegance and brutal rage.

I pictured Christoph Waltz as Colonel Bohn, however he’s played plenty of characters in this ilk before; perhaps he’d prefer to take a pass on this project (and it’s terribly obvious casting given his work in Inglorious Basterds, I know) so let’s give the role to someone else: Alexander Skarsgård, who would do a masterful job playing the character’s weakness.

Finally, I would cast Helena Bonham Carter as Rose Valland, the real-life historical heroine who protected the Jeu de Paume, and the treasures within it, for the long years of the German occupation.
Visit Bryn Turnbull's website.

--Marshal Zeringue