Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Acting The Housemaid's Daughter

Last week I was delighted to play a tiny part in World Book Night, the global jamboree celebrating reading all round the world. Along with 10 other authors, I presented a 2 minute overview of The Housemaid's Daughter to an enthusiastic audience at Guildford Library. And what variety there was in the books - and the authors - on display: science fiction, crime, domestic drama, historical fiction... you name it, it was there. The 2 minute talks were rigidly policed by a hooter (!) to prevent us rambling on. Afterwards, we were distributed around the Library to meet with interested readers, as you can see from the photo above.

In perhaps the most intriguing part of the evening, we were asked to nominate the actors and actresses whom we fancied for the film versions of our books. The library provided pictures of our nominees to show the audience at the end of each mini-presentation. I have often been asked about this. Whom would you cast as Irish Cathleen? As her austere husband Edward? And... most importantly, as the heroine, Ada?

I chose Cate Blanchett as Irish Cathleen. I have always admired her as an actress for her sensitivity and conviction, and she created an impressive Irish accent in a movie called Veronica Guerrin a few years ago. She also has that chameleon-like ability to play a range of ages. Given that we meet Cath in the book in her mid 20s and stay with her for 50-odd years, I felt it would be a daunting challenge for any actress - other than Cate!

For austere, unbending Edward, I rather fancy Damian Lewis, the star of the TV series Homeland. But it was for his portrayal - several years before Homeland - of the severe Soames in the Forsyte Saga that has always convinced me he would be perfect for Edward. I wanted someone with repressed emotions, a shuttered face, and a certain ruthlessness, all characteristics that he seems able to portray.

Ada is the difficult one. A young, impressionable girl who matures during the passage of the book but still retains a naivete to the end; vulnerable yet determined, unschooled yet insightful. The centre of the story and yet also at its mercy. An actress who, like Cate Blanchett, will have to age convincingly. Ideally, a pianist... that's quite some list of requirements!
I suspect she will have to be an unknown. A young actress starting out - but with a hidden core of strength that will come to the fore as she grows with Ada throughout the book. An actress for whom Ada could perhaps be a breakout role?
And then, just as an aside, what about mean, manipulative Rose?
That would be a fun casting. Any ideas?

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