Readersforum's Blog

September 28, 2012

Putting Words in Halle Berry’s Mouth

Filed under: film adaptations — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:35 pm

Illustration by Holly Wales


“So how does it feel?” is the question you hear when your book completes the long ascent from production purgatory to movieplex. Well, first there’s a primal kick: actors speak dialogue you wrote years ago, and all those nonexistent people are now real. They find flashes of humor or menace you never spotted, and soon all memory of how you imagined the character before the actor muscled in is gone.

For a playwright or screenwriter, this is a normal day at the office, but the first read-through of the “Cloud Atlas” script will stay with me forever. With three or four actors unable to attend, the film’s directors — Tom Tykwer and Lana and Andy Wachowski, who also wrote the screenplay — divvied up the spare roles. It seemed rude not to volunteer. I hadn’t been in a group-reading situation since my high-school English class, but instead of my 17-year-old classmates slogging through “A Passage to India,” here were Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Jim Broadbent delivering lines that sounded uncannily familiar. The whole experience felt rather like finding Gandhi playing Connect 4 with your plumber in the cupboard under the stairs — it wasn’t so much the individual elements of the scene that were surreal but their juxtaposition.

Yet it soon sinks in that you’ve morphed from being the Creator to the guy who happened to write the original novel. How this makes you feel depends, I guess, on how you feel about the adaptation itself. I’ve never experienced much anxiety in this quarter. I met the three directors in 2008, and their plan to foreground the novel’s “transmigrating souls” motif by having actors perform multiple roles (each role being a sort of way station on that soul’s karmic journey) struck me as ingenious.

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1 Comment »

  1. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already ;
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    Comment by Acai Berry Whole Foods — November 6, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

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