25 August 2006

Hollywood inks contracts for Inkheart

Variety reports that New Line Cinema has cast Brendan Fraser as the dad in Inkheart, based on the novel by Cornelia Funke, and Paul Bettany as the juggler and fire-eater, Dustfinger.

I had some questions when I first read that news on Child_Lit. Not just about the casting (Is Fraser physically too imposing? vocally too mild?) or how those actors will go about their jobs (Bettany learned to play the cello for Master and Commander; will he now learn to eat fire?). Rather, I wondered if casting this story's good guys first was going about the task the right way. Inkheart needs to have frightful villains--not just cinematic thrill providers, but what-am-I-doing-sitting-here-in-the-dark? terrifiers.

But then I thought about the best villainous performances (adjusting for genre) that I recalled from recent years. The American Film Institute has its top 50 villains, but these are names that occurred to me:

  • Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet
  • Kevin Spacey in Seven
  • Alan Rickman in Die Hard
  • Vincent D'Onofrio in Men in Black
  • Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs
  • Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct
  • Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List
What did all those performers have in common? Most are excellent actors. Most had years of experience in movies or on stage. But they weren't stars. Heck, Stone had done Police Academy 4. The closest to star status was Hopkins, who'd been the lead in Magic; his status as minor celebrity in 1991 fit the role of Hannibal Lecter, notorious killer, while Ted Levine played Lambs' real menace to the star. In sum, the casting of these actors wasn't the sort to be announced with fanfare in Variety. Which meant that when we saw them acting evil on screen, we couldn't reassure ourselves that they were just movie stars.

In fact, those roles--often career breakthroughs--tended to spoil the actors' scariness as villains afterwards. Hopper in Blue Velvet was deeply disturbing, rising from the depths of career banishment and addiction and bringing what looked like total derangement up with him. Hopper in Speed and Waterworld was simply a Hollywood villain, almost as much a parody of Hopper as Spacey's voicing of the villainous grasshopper in A Bug's Life.

So it's still vitally important who will play Capricorn, Basta, and the Magpie in this Inkheart movie. But, I realized, I'm better off not knowing who it will be.


Indeterminacy said...

In the theater presentation of Inkheart (played in Hamburg) Capricorn was abosultely terrifying, an empodiment of fiendishness - I hesitate to say evil, as that's such a cliche. Possibly it is also the way he is introduced in the story. He is talked about with such fear, and in the beginning we don't see him, but hear his footsteps, and shadow and silhouette. And when fe finally do see him, his appearance is an unnatural mix of blood red and pale-white. Gave me the chills. Wish I could refer you to a photograph.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see some unknown actors for the film version of Inkheart--let them, in their mystery, become all the more capable of, like the last commenter said, "fiendishness". Any word on when this is coming to a theater near me? In terms of all time incredible books, I'd love to see what they can do with this story in film.

x AC (blog.finalword.org)