“Vin Diesel IS… Matthew Swift!”
These were the words spoken by the gentleman known as ‘TLC’ whenever he wanted to infuriate me.
There’s been a lot of discussion on the blog lately about who, if anyone, would play Matthew Swift – or indeed, any of my characters – should someone get their finger out and make a movie. (The option’s been bought, but that is NEVER the same as actual progress…) The answer I have given before, and will give again, is I don’t know. Not because I don’t have opinions, but because I go out of my way NOT to have opinions on the subject. As a writer, the last thing anyone wants is for me to be involved in this conversation, since writers aren’t casting directors. And on my own part, I try hard not to give a character – let alone a first person character – the face of anyone I know, or a big movie star or anything like that, as I feel that once you have that face in mind, you also start acquiring the mannerisms and voice of that face, and lose a certain flexibility. Sure, I can give a very good physical description of Matthew Swift, or Horatio Lyle, or indeed anyone else you care to name, and I can tell you who they’re not, but I tend to avoid making absolute commitments unless I really, really have to.
Which doesn’t stop speculation, of course. Take the character of Horatio Lyle. I initially did take an actor’s face as a starting point – albeit a very distant starting point – simply because in the case of third person characters it’s good to have a basic template from which to begin work. The unlucky dude in question is called David Wenham, and I started there only because he had the misfortune to play both Faramir in Lord the Rings, and a cowardly monk in Van Helsing (not the world’s greatest movie) within a few months of each other and frankly, the fusion of hero + science nerd was exactly what I was looking for. Anyone could have played those parts and I might well have started with their faces when the revelation of what I was looking for clicked – it just so happened to be him. Which isn’t the same as saying he looks like Horatio Lyle, merely that it was the starting point I referred back to while finding a feel for the character on the page. A lot of people have suggested an actor called Paul Bettany, and I can think of far worse fates for Lyle. Is he what I pictured? No, of course not. Is he not what I pictured, is he that great floating category of ‘not in a million years jimbo’ into which most of the world falls? Absolutely not. A film is not the book from which it spawned; a book need not be dictated to by a film.
A lot of people tend to make links, as well, between whoever happens to be playing Doctor Who at the time, and the characters in both my Lyle and Swift books. I suspect this is more about the writing of the character of the Doctor, than the actors in question, as more than a few similarities (unconsciously, I swear!) crop up between the styles of writing between the writers on Dr Who, and what I write. What does this tell us? Very little, except that the BBC should really, really hire me to write Dr Who one day, oh yes, pretty please…?
The various producers I’ve talked to down the years, all tend to have very strong opinions. These fall into two categories – those actors who the producers want, and those who they know the studios will expect. Ten years ago, the only possible candidates to play Horatio Lyle were figures like Jude Law and Clive Owen (ticking your Male + British boxes) and I think we can probably all agree it would have been a bad idea. These days, the ONLY candidate it appears currently in the Male/British contention to play someone like Swift, is Robert Pattinson, and on this theme I shall say no more. Judiciously.
For my part, I will maintain, if you will forgive me, a firm policy of neither confirming nor denying, unless it’s something as blazingly obvious as ‘Vin Diesel is Matthew Swift’ in which case expect a firm glare and kick up the behind. If nothing else, I dislike the fact that I even know who half these actors are, since I can’t shake the feeling that a small part of my brain is being wasted on this information, and within that part of my mind perhaps lies untapped the ability to understand simple harmonic motion, or get to grips with Spanish, or other such wonders of cognition yet unknown and unexplored, and now wasted, on things I do not need to process. Then again, if my few experiences with simple harmonic motion are anything to judge by, perhaps this was simply never meant to be…