Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Mascherari: A Novel of Venice - Now a Movie

It is the dream of many writers to see their creations up on the big screen. Historical novelists understand that a cinematic production is a welcome companion to a novel - bringing to life the glow of characters, their costumes, their emotions and all the drama and vibrancy of complex period sets. From Game of Thrones to the humble The Book Thief, people all over the world wish to see stories enacted. Even those who prefer the written word over film, possess an innate curiosity to compare, contrast or else discover the 'how' - how the story will be executed, how the story will become cinema.

For me the two are inseparable. I have respect for both writing and film making. I see film as its own creation - a unique dance between light, sound, art, acting and the talent of another breed of storyteller informed with semiotic sensitivity - the director.  I see film as a powerful marketing device for writers who are too often shy of media platforms. I see films as recognition that something is worth projecting to screen and worth disseminating visually to those who might not enjoy reading but who are lovers of good entertainment.

Mostly, I see film as a wonderful opportunity to reveal my characters.

Indulge me. Are you ready to discover The Mascherari: A Novel of Venice like never before? I hope you will like my casting. 

Magdalena / Elena - Phoebe Tonkin

Blessed with sultry, sensual looks that render her almost Mediterranean, this Australian beauty, born in Sydney, already has a solid supernatural film background under her belt.

In H20 she has played a Mermaid and now has recently appeared in Vampire Diaries

I love how this actress can appear Italian and has a certain raw quality that is perfect for the Naples-born character.

The gossipers of Venice brand Magdalena a witch, but she is more than that - an artist, a devoted wife and in a world ruled by men, a free-spirit who never gives up.

Phoebe's velvety, breathy voice is also perfect for this witch, this janara who captivates and haunts.  

Phoebe could play both the roles of Magdalena and her daughter, Elena, in the same way Natalie Portman interpreted two roles in Goya's Ghosts. A perfect cast. 

Antonio da Parma - Mark Strong

I have a big crush on this guy ever since I saw him in the role of Hani Salaam in Body of Lies. Actually what struck me in the film was the palpable, yet understated chemistry between Hani and Leonardo di Caprio's character. This sexual ambiguity is perfect for the role of Antonio da Parma. 

But what befits this character most is that Mark Strong (whose real name, by the way, is Marco Giuseppe Salussolia) has a thrilling broodiness, while his sharp gaze burns with intuitive intelligence. In short, the would-be inquisitor inspires fear even as he seduces. 

There is also a secretive quality in his eyes which is crucial for the role.  Finally Mark Strong is over 1,90m and would stand nicely alongside a particular someone who happens to be my favourite character...the towering Esteban del Valle.

Oh, I forgot to add that Mark Strong looks dashing in a turban - which as you know, is all the rage in 15th century Venice. Bring it on!

Esteban del Valle - Omar Sy

Wonder of wonders, it's Esteban. What a handsome, charming and noble soul. It has to be Omar Sy. No other will do. 

Masked for most of the film, the actor will only reveal his face twice. Yet you will see more of him than any other character because all the drama and panache is about this mysterious Catalan-born Venetian - the way he moves, such that even Antonio da Parma cannot stop looking at him, the way he dresses, the way he wields his sword, his daring, the boldness of his voice - all this, while in him dwells the purest of hearts.

Esteban del Valle and Omar Sy seem to share a few things in common. Esteban del Valle is a deeply altruistic and street-savvy character.  Meanwhile, with his deep involvement in the charitable organisation CEKEDUBONHEUR, it's not for nothing that Omar Sy was recently called "Omar au grand coeur".  (Omar with the big heart.)

Omar Sy it is. The Senegalese actor is perfect for the role of this talented part-Ghanaian sword master and traveler. This is because geographically, Ghana during the 15th century was not actually the same Ghana as today...nuance! 

Omar Sy - in tights, velvet and a cape. Add a mask and a sword. 
Is your heart melting yet? 

Catarina Contarini - Jessica Chastain

No stranger to horror and supernatural roles (Mama, Crimson Peak), Jessica Chastain will interpret the romantically tormented, intense and scheming patrician woman whose concealed designs set in motion the whole drama of The Mascherari

I admit I also chose Jessica because she was a red head, just like Catarina.  

From carnal to puritan, victim to Judas, Jessica Chastain will unveil a breadth that she has not displayed previously. Yet there will always remain that cool reserve she showed in A Most Violent Year, all the while fires will burn within. Fires will burn,  because what matters is that she will be fully smitten by her husband and relentless like no other in her jealous pursuit of happiness.

Giacomo Contarini - Martin Csukas

Ever since I saw Martin Csukas alongside Vin Diesel in xXx, I was hooked.

Actually before settling on Martin for the role of patrician merchant, Giacomo Contarini, I had envisaged actor, Oscar Isaac with a beard...but that didn't work very well.

Yes, Martin will be heavily bearded, grow his hair down to his shoulders Yorgi-style and wear tights, boots and ermine capes. 

The patrician will gesticulate as he did in xXx, command attention and have that alluring sex appeal that so attaches his wife to him. 

Just like in xXx he will enjoy his women, enjoy deceiving others and will have an innate misogyny.
And he looks Italian! 

Rolandino Vitturi - Riccardo Scarmacio

There is no other character in The Mascherari, apart from Francesco Visconti, who is more taunted than Rolandino. 

When we first encounter the broker, he is brash and boastful but it conceals his anxieties and deep animosity. 

Later in prison, he is haunted, weepy and incoherent. The Council of Ten assert that he must be mad. Madness is what I see in Riccardo Scarmacio's unruly, intense gaze. It's great! 

I like his energy, a quality that could translate into violence - something that Rolandino exhibits in the story more than others notably in his cruel treatment of our maskmaker, Francesco Visconti.

I also feel that this Italian actor could portray emotional desperation - he could be that guilt-ridden man, and I think he would be a delicious victim for our witch. 

Almoro Donato - Terrance Stamp

The Council of Ten member must inspire fear, respect and everything that is powerful about the Venice Republic. 

He must seem respectable, knowledgeable and wise. There must be authority in his demeanor while his facial structure should not depart widely from Mark Strong's to make it more plausible that this one could disguise himself as the Council member and break into the secret archives of the palace...

Terrance Stamp is perfect.  He will need to wear brown contact lenses.

Francesco Visconti - Leonardo di Caprio

Do you sometimes want to challenge actors? I have seen so much bravado and self-sufficiency in Leonardo di Caprio. Even when he is vulnerable, he never looks downtrodden enough. 

I want to see him broken. I want to see him as the Milanese, Francesco Visconti. Penniless, maintained for years by his beautiful wife, Magdalena, a newly-taught artist with a complete ignorance of the treachery in others' hearts.  In a world of schemers and hypocrites, himself incapable of masks and the victim of foul murder, Francesco Visconti IS the mascheraro.  

Francesco is that soul who is wronged.  What attracts Magdalena is that Francesco is the complete opposite of Giacomo Contarini.  

Can Di Caprio portay a character devoid of pride, can he be vulnerable? Can he make you cry? I know he can do it. 

Francesco Visconti is older than the actor but as we saw with his recent beard-do in The Revenant, Di Caprio can easily pull off a more mature look.  He will need to whiten his hair and put on a little weight.

Battista Alberti - Richard Madden

In all evidence from 15th century sculptures and portraits, our Italian Renaissance Man with his generous curls and well-formed lips was ever boyish and good looking.

For the first time in cinema's history, Leon Battista Alberti will come to life through no other than actor, Richard Madden. Incidentally Richard has just been cast as another Florentine for a TV series covering the Medici family. I had no idea he would interpret Cosimo de Medici when I made my decision.

The Game of Thrones actor resembles Alberti nicely - he can also do fresh-faced, as he did in Cinderella, but we will limit it to just enough youthful charm.

Times are hard when you are an orphaned, disinherited youth, striving to study and survive in the Venice Republic. Thank heavens, the nineteen year old Alberti has learned to use his wits, and will soon employ his secret talents to come to Antonio da Parma's aid.

That is the cast so far, I hope to supplement as I go along. What are your thoughts? Have you read the book and who do you see as playing the characters?

The casting is almost done.  That's the easy part. Now I just need 30 million dollars.

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