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Friday, August 08, 2008

HBO moots Brooksie as Casting Director for new series!*

Everyone has their favourites in life, in categories like movies, food, music, celebrities, and destinations, among others. Sure, you might have your 'Top Ten' favourites and, depending on the category, sometimes it's hard to flesh out the list whilst at other times it's very hard to whittle it down to just ten, let alone set the order straight.

But sometimes, not necessarily in every category, there is one thing that goes beyond being merely a 'favourite'. It so completely blows away the rest of your list that it is in a class all by itself. I'm not sure what to call this exalted level of favouritism, except perhaps 'Unhealthy Obsession' or maybe 'To Die For'. Not to get too carried away with this, but sometimes you just experience something that has such a profound influence on you that you forever make it a part of your life, however small.

It could be a song that really clicks with you, either on some philosophical level or more likely for sentimental reasons. Maybe it's a movie that just had everything right that you look for in a film. Or maybe you actually have a life and are right now feeling a little sorry for me and perhaps a little amused that I could be so esoteric about elements of pop culture.

But that's OK! You see, I am so excited about what I am about to tell you that I am beyond caring how much of a 'fanboy' I look at the moment.

The category in question here is books; specifically, a series of novels currently being written by George R. R. Martin. Collectively, they are known as A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF) and at present there are four published books in the series. The fifth is on its way (hopefully by mid-2009) and Martin presumes there will be about seven total books when the series is completed.

This is a series of books that are the best I've ever read, bar none. They are written from several different characters' points of view as the story is advanced, and without giving too much away the cast of characters telling the story changes somewhat in each novel. There is much intrigue amidst a vastly developed history. This world is filled with polarizing, fascinatingly complex characters that are downright addictive. Martin has some experience writing horror so this is not your typical fantasy series. It is tinged with a dark and ominous feeling as the ever-present threat that 'Winter is coming' serves to heighten the sense of dread and doom as the books progress.

Still, there is enough of a positive thread going here that it is not entirely without hope. While I am at pains to remain patient while waiting for the fifth instalment in this brilliant series, this post is not about the next eagerly awaited novel in the ASoIaF series. No, I have much more of a jones for this:

HBO turns 'Fire' into fantasy series

I know, it's very old news judging from the date of that posting, and of course the prolonged writers' strike earlier in the year put everything on hold including this project. But I was so thrilled to read about this! You see, I feel we fantasy aficionados were really fortunate to be treated to the fine work Peter Jackson et. al. did on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The films did justice to a series of books that are highly difficult to treat right on the big screen, and they were a major success in everything from casting, writing, costumes, setting to all the little touches.

If you're like me, when you read a really good book, you often wonder how it would translate to the big screen. Who would they cast as the main character? How are they going to film this scene? What the hell kind of budget are they going to need to do this right? Things like that. Well I certainly thought about that a lot with the ASoIaF novels, but these thoughts were always laced with the certain knowledge that these books could never be made into movies. They are simply too long and involved (kind of like this post, you have my apologies) to be practically shown on the big screen. The LOTR films were a stretch even with just three books 'condensed' into just over three hours each, with the extended editions on DVD clocking in at four hours apiece. Even with that, they had to eliminate certain parts of the story and even merge two characters into one, in some cases.

While I have no problem with that, most of the movie-going public, even fans of Martin's books, would not have the stomach for a six-hour film for just one book. Especially since just to get all the material from one book into six hours, you'd have to edit a lot. I'd rather not see them butcher these novels just for the sake of getting them on the big screen.

Enter HBO. In all their awesomeness, they decided to greenlight production of the ASoIaF novels in the only format they ever could have: televised serial episodes. This is brilliant because in my opinion HBO is the only network that could have done this. They have an obviously lavish budget for their series, almost all of which have been exceptionally well done on every level. You may not like all of their shows (I know I don't like them all), but you have to admit they all are expertly crafted shows.

It looks like Martin is going to get about 23 one-hour episodes per book/season, which is perfect as it will allow them to explore all the nuances of the complicated plot as well as the many unique and blemished characters that tell the story. Martin himself may write 1-2 episodes per season, something which will be easy for him as he cut his teeth as a writer working on "The Twilight Zone" and "Beauty and the Beast" television shows.

Now if you enjoy a good book as much as I do, you will know that if they ever decide to put it on the big (or small!) screen, they simply must get the casting and plot right! There is much truth to the axiom that, 'The book is always better than the movie,' in my opinion, but this does not mean that they cannot keep the faith with the gist of all the major plotlines.

Equally important to me is who they decide to cast in the film, for a poor or tragic casting choice can really make or break the whole project. Just as much as deciding to shitcan a significant part of the plot can make a dog's breakfast of it all, so too can casting somebody completely wrong.

I am confident that HBO will do a great job on both counts, and am hoping that more than a few of the major parts cast will go to new and mostly unfamiliar actors. This will serve to keep everything fresh and new and allow me to enjoy these books all over again in this format without being too biased towards who is playing what role.

That being said, I hereby offer my humble suggestions for just a few of the parts, with a few other notes as well.

Sandor Clegane, "The Hound": I'd love to see Adam Baldwin in this role. He's got the physique for it and is familiar with playing brutish, anti-social characters. The Hound, like everyone else in ASoIaF, is complex and quite compelling and is one of my favourite characters in the series. I am encouraged by how well the special effects/makeup departments did with the Harvey "Two-Face" Dent's look in The Dark Knight, so they should be able to make Sandor look scary and threatening with ease as one side of his face and skull are horribly burnt from a childhood incident.

Arya Stark: My favourite character in the series, which is a hard choice since so many of them are great. But only until recently I had nobody in mind for her role until I saw Juno, and I realized Ellen Page would be great in this role, even though she's not 'horse-faced' like Arya is described in the books.

Robert Baratheon: It was hard not to picture Brian Blessed in this role, but he may be getting a bit on in years for this, especially since this whole project seems to still be in the 'concept' phase.

Jaime Lannister: I have always pictured William Katt here, but as my friend Pete put it, 'he's a bit long in the tooth for it' now. I just can't think of any other blonde curly-haired actors who would fit this role!

Tyrion Lannister: Peter Dinklage seems to be a pretty universal choice for this excellent role, one of the best characters I've ever encountered in a book. Mr. Dinklage would certainly be great as this character, I do hope he gets the nod when this goes to production. By the way, I've always thought that Tyrion must be quite similar to the author. I just get the feeling that there is far more of Martin in this character than any other of his that he's created. Wouldn't it be awesome if he cast himself in this role?

Eddard Stark: Michael Biehn would fit this brooding, dour persona best, but really this role could be easily cast.

Catelyn Stark: Julianne Moore would certainly be great for this role. She could carry off the noble haughtiness and tough inner resolve, which are two of Lady Cat's more defining qualities.

Qyburn: I am jumping all over the place with these suggestions but I only pictured a few established actors as these characters when reading the books. Given that this dark soul has necromantic tendencies, I feel that none other than Jeffrey Combs of Re-Animator fame (infamy) should or could play this role. Of course it's a smaller role but it'd be so cool if they managed to cast this guy here.

Margaery Tyrell: While Martin's description of this princess as 'doe-eyed' and 'beautiful' with her long tresses of dark brown hair makes her an obvious fit, I hope you don't think I'm gratuitously including Jennifer Love Hewitt here just because I think she is one of the hottest actresses! Call me crazy, you wouldn't be the first, but I stand by this choice.

And a final poignant mention of the late Heath Ledger. All through the books I pictured him as Ser Loras Tyrell, Margaery's valiant and arrogant older brother. He would have made a great Knight of Flowers but, like so many other great roles we will never enjoy seeing Mr. Ledger play, this is one that will have to go to someone else.

I realize this post is probably long-winded and about something to which you cannot relate, but I've been wanting to post about this HBO project for some time since I'm so excited about it. My friend Chris got me hooked on these books about ten years ago, and since then I've gotten two other friends madly hooked on them, and have discovered quite a few fellow fans along the way.

I can wholeheartedly recommend these books to you, whether you read fantasy or not. They are gritty and dark at times but I have not found a more wonderfully, completely crafted fantasy series than A Song of Ice and Fire. Though George R. R. Martin makes all of us wait for years in between novels, our one consolation is that at least there are several more novels still to come.

And now maybe a kick-ass TV series on HBO to boot!
*Yeah, right. I wish!


Blogger Sandjoy said...

This sounds very exciting. HBO does such a great job at trying to get things right. Looking forward to this. Thanks for sharing.


4:14 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Yep, while I'm not sure this series would be your cup of tea mom, it would be worth at least a look! I do hope it goes through, nothing is definite yet. And congrats on getting through that post!

11:26 AM  
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Now I need to read the books to determine whether or not I agree with your casting! Ok, after your description, I want to read the books just for me.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

That's cool Nick. If you read them I hope you enjoy them, and I apologise in advance for getting you hooked and waiting for the next book like the rest of us poor saps!

9:33 PM  

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