Eva Green/Photo © Featureflash/Shutterstock
Welcome to Word & Fim’s Casting Call, where we exercise our creative muscles by focusing our attention on extraordinary characters from exceptional books – either fiction or nonfiction – and make the case for how we’d cast those roles if given the chance. Note that, here at Word & Film, we’re not casting directors, nor are we producers, agents, or anyone else who has any say in how a film will be cast; we’re simply ardent fans of books and movies who can’t help ourselves from such musings.
Published in 1989, London Fields is arguably Martin Amis’ best novel, a fin de siècle story for the twentieth century. Set in London just before the end of the millennium, the novel, narrated by a cynical American writer, follows the story of a woman who knows she will be murdered on November 5, 1999, and seeks — or chooses — her murderer, establishing a triangle of sorts with a petty criminal and a bored, upper-class banker. Present throughout this thriller is a persistent sense of doom, an apocalyptic anxiety about the end of the century, not just for the woman, but also for a London falling into ruin.
Since the acquisition of its film rights in 2000, London Fields has had various directors attached to it, most notably David Cronenberg, David Mackenzie, and Michael Winterbottom. The most recent news of the project, dating from November 2011, connected Shekhar Kapur, director of Cate Blanchett’s breakout film “Elizabeth,” to the project; despite his general skepticism with adaptations of his work, Amis himself is allegedly collaborating.
The success of a London Fields production lives and dies (literally) with the “murderee.” Nicola Six, “tall, dark, and thirty-four,” has always known — or, with her reluctance to age, hoped — that someone will kill her shortly after midnight on her thirty-fifth birthday. A femme fatale, she has the chameleon-like ability to adopt any persona to fit a situation — or perhaps to let her audience see her as they wish. We cast French actress Eva Green, most famous as James Bond’s lover Vesper Lynd in “Casino Royale.” Her British English is almost flawless, but, in any case, the novel hints that Nicola may not be British. More importantly, in every film, Green projects a knowing watchfulness, but also an air of mystery that allows room for interpretation, a quality all too rare these days.
Her fate in mind, Nicola seeks her murderer and the motive, finding the answer in a pub called the Black Cross. The working-class Keith Talent is a darts player, wife abuser, and small-time criminal, constantly teetering on the edge of violence. Hollywood’s go-to pick would probably be every-Cockney Ray Winstone, although he’s a little old for the role. (The narrator describes Keith as looking forty-two, though he’s only twenty-nine.) We’d like to see Tom Hardy, who combines bonhomie with menace and charm with disreputability, in a part that would be a throwback to his memorable lead roles in the biopic “Bronson” and the television drama “The Take.”
The narrator describes “the foil,” the privileged Guy Clinch, as a “good guy — or a nice one, anyway. He wanted for nothing and lacked everything.” With a domineering American wife and an equally strong-willed child at home, Guy, at thirty-five, longs to escape his closed life for a little excitement, leading him to the Black Cross. Several actors could fit this character easily, but we’ll pencil in Dan Stevens, who could twist his famous “Downton Abbey” role of nice guy Matthew Crawley with some downright dirtiness.
And, finally, we must cast the most difficult character, the terminally ill narrator Samson Young. After two decades of writer’s block, the American is delighted to have Nicola, Keith, and Guy cross his path, cannily manipulating them for narrative purposes. We’re sorely tempted to cast James Franco as a pretentious failed writer, but he’s not nearly old enough, so we’ll go with Christian Bale, who can do an American accent, would commit to looking ill, and, most notably, is unafraid to play unlikable characters.
That’s our London Fields, but we hope we won’t have to wait long to find out what an actual production would do. In the meantime, discuss your ideas for an adaptation below.