When Andy invited me to hi-jack (sorry, guest on) his blog by writing about filming my novel Winter Song (Angry Robot Books) I thought well, why ever not? I’d never thought about the actual filming of it since my expertise -and my passion- is words printed on extracts of dead trees. But we all of us have that visual strain running through our head when we read or write books. And besides, I’ve been doing a bit of scriptwriting in the last year, so maybe I ought to think more about aspects like location, casting, process, etc, etcetera.
Winter Song is unashamedly hard-core SF, with a big spaceship on the cover and aliens and plasma bolts to go alongside the sword-wielding, horse-riding sociopathic villain. At the start of Winter Song, Karl Allman is headed for home to his pregnant wife when he’s ambushed in a remote star-system. Karl crash-lands on an icy planet settled by Icelandic colonists who wanted to get back in touch with their Viking roots, including laws that forbade men from travelling without permission and the right to kill in self-defence. Karl defies the local chieftain and sets out in search of a legendary crashed spaceship…and on the way finds the answer to a secret that he didn’t even know existed, one that will change everything.
Let’s assume that I get the call one day from The Big Studio: they’ve got the budget, they can hire whoever they want, do whatever they want. Who would be my choice to make it? Where? And how?
How is easy enough; live action in the great outdoors, with CGI aliens and deep space battles and comet-riding.
The location’s equally easy to decide upon, since the country inspired the book; as we were driving round the country three years ago, a remote planet-sized version of Iceland took shape in my mind.
So we’ll just scoot over there for the external scenes, to where in Die Another Day, Bond drove the car across a glacier. That’s Eastern Iceland, and the rest of the country is as stunning in different ways, with fjords, black beaches whipped by winds from the South Pole, and wooded hills overlooking long lakes.
Given how important setting is to the story, it’s essential that the producer hires a director who feels the same way, and Ridley Scott is the arch-proponent of the use of light and setting to enhance theme. Most of the action takes place on the planet, but with Alien Scott showed that he could use SF-nal settings as well, so I’d have no concerns about the deep space scenes.
Casting is a little trickier; I didn’t really have an actor in mind when writing the novel, and those old enough to bring some weight to the part of Karl -the hero- probably aren’t muscular enough – so I might have to bring down Karl’s age, and go for either Clive Owen or Daniel Craig. Carolyn Dando, who played a relatively small part in The Lovely Bones would be well cast as Bera — like her role in The Lovely Bones, Bera is more of an ensemble piece rather than a grandstanding part, and it calls for someone both young and ballsy enough to carry it off.
The last but potentially the trickiest part is Ragnar, who could easily descend into a pop-eyed madman if played by someone like Brian Blessed. So instead, I think that the excellent Krister Henriksson, who plays the title role in the Swedish series Wallander, could do a brilliant job of playing the villainous local chief, intent on squeezing every advantage that he can from the situation and then when he is crossed, setting out for revenge.
But I’m sure that everyone who reads the book will have their own cast in mind. Feel free to drop by and share yours.
Winter Song – “A fascinating universe of want and plenitude” The Guardian
Displacement – “Properly SFnal. Huzzah!” Best SF Reviews
Future Bristol — “The future of British speculative fiction is secure.” The Fix
Short stories: ‘The Killing Streets,’ Interzone 225