Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Who IS and WHO SHOULD BE Dr Kay Scarpetta? Open Letter to Columbia Pictures

  For those of you not familiar with this wonderful literary figure, Dr Scarpetta is a forensic pathologist, psychologist and lawyer (I might, ahem, have both a Psych degree and be a qualified lawyer in some small way as homage to her greatness), please let me further enlighten you.

  Dr Kay Scarpetta, probably late 40's if not older, Italian American crime solving genius, amazing cook, stroppy paranoid blonde and aunt to the definition of the modern 'Alpha Female' Lucy Farinelli, is the creation of Patricia Cornwell in 16 crime novels. I've read almost all of them. She's mostly based in Richmond, Virginia and is ably assisted by balding, semi-obese but incredibly loyal lovesick Officer Marino and has an on-off love affair with the mysterious Benton Wesley. These are characters that jump right off the page into your imagination. I care for them a great deal, so you can imagine my chagrin when I read the following (and other) news stories on the casting of Angelina Jolie as Scarpetta in the forthcoming feature film.

  Why this is so wrong? here are just a few of my thoughts:

  1. Angelina isn't Scarpetta. Dr Kay Scarpetta is an ice cool short-haired blonde with an Italian American no-nonsense attitude (much like Cornwell herself, I reckon). She is also much older than Angelina and nowhere near as overtly sexual, both factors which are imperative in evidencing her honed pathology and legal skills. This is a figure who has helped to stop many a serial-killer in their tracks through her quick-witted thinking and an understanding of the criminal mind. Jolie wasn't bad in the Bone Collector granted, but if said serial killer runs up to your home and you defend yourself by having violently your arm shattered, you need to look less like a girl who hasn't had a good meal in the last year. I have seen Changeling and A Mighty heart, I don't doubt that Angelina can act, but she needs to act her age first.

  2. Scarpetta is a role model. This is a role made for an older female actress. Meryl Streep is playing the love interest at 60 so she told Vanity Fair, Kathryn Bigelow could soon be the first female to win the Oscar for Best Director yet this is a step backwards for feminist casting. What will this tell school girls, that you can't fight crime over 40? How about Diane Lane? Joan Allen? Even Sharon Stone could carry this role off with greater panache and gravitas as is required. Of course Helen Mirren or Meryl herself would do the role justice. But you need to take it seriously and be taken seriously.

  3. Scarpetta is not Bourne, nor is she Harry Potter. There are 16 books in the series and I am willing to bet that there will not be 16 films. Its all fine and well getting the funds together to purchase a franchise, after all the movie business needs to make money, and nothing sells like sequel after sequel, but I do worry that the Columbia execs have become completely blindsighted by this. Turning this into a turgid Wanted rip-off is not only a waste of money but it will also denigrate the name of a critically and commercially popular literary series.

  4. Benton Wesley. My body fairly shivers at who they may deem to cast as Scarpetta's love interest. On the page you see Grissom from CSI meets the beautiful but angry Mark Harmon. This is not a role suitable for the gorgeous but YOUNG James Macavoy. For goodness sake Columbia, send some flowers to George Clooney now, you know it makes sense.

  To Columbia I would conclude: Fire Jolie, hire Bigelow, Ang Lee, Mendes or Eastwood if you have to (although I'd even be partial to a Tarantino version - without all the violence), have an open audition for actresses aged over 45 and cast Alec Baldwin as Marino and Kristen Stewart at Lucy.

  And if all else fails, just take a look at Patricia Cornwell below, see any resemblance Hollywood.......?

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