Backstage: Directors turn to teen fiction for inspiration


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The Independent Culture

Academy Award-winning film director Kevin Macdonald has attacked literary fiction for being too “dull” and self-involved and says Young Adult fiction provides much richer material for movie-makers.

“There is something very interesting going on in Young Adult fiction, as they call it. I think traditional literary fiction for adults is pretty dull these days and kind of in a dead-end labyrinth,” he told me over the phone this week.

“It’s really just speaking to a self-selecting little group. And what YA books manage to explore is really big ideas. There are a lot of s**t ones but a lot of interesting ones too.”

It’s one of those interesting ones that Macdonald chose to turn into a film: adapting Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now. It tells the story of a teenage New Yorker sent to stay with family in the UK when war breaks out and has since seen its young stars Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland and George MacKay achieve increasing success.

“I think boldness and that ability to talk about really compelling big subjects and stories make them natural fodder for movies,” added the director. “They also make them connect more with an audience, who are looking for good stories.” Macdonald, who won an Oscar in 2000 for his documentary One Day in September, believes that so-called top writers will eventually have to start writing about “bigger ideas”.

“I think you look at most literary fiction and it doesn’t really seem to address the preoccupations of most people,” he said.

“And I don’t just mean talk about tax hikes or immigration, I don’t mean address your preoccupations in that way, I mean address the bigger ideas, yearnings and fears we all have, which is what teen fiction is doing. And I think literary fiction will do that eventually, once it stops being so up its own a**e.”

'How I Live Now' is available on Blu-ray and DVD on 10 February, from Entertainment One

As Bond, you only live once. Or is it twice?

Last week, Dominic Cooper put himself forward as a future James Bond. Now Rupert Evans, his co-star in Fleming, a TV series about the life of 007 author Ian Fleming, has backed his claim.

“Every actor who plays Bond is different,” he tells me. “They seem to somehow reflect their era. Roger Moore was the epitome of the 80s. Dom would be a great Bond. As for myself, time will tell. You only live once. Or is  it twice?”

In the programme, on Sky Atlantic next week, Evans plays Peter Fleming, Ian’s heroic and dashing brother, who sounds almost as fun to play as the spy himself.

“Peter Fleming was the elder, and more successful sibling,” he adds. “You get the sense that Ian modelled James Bond on him as much as his imagination. There was certainly a rivalry. Ian wanted to follow his brother into war, writing and, of course, there were the women!”

Producer thinks big on book adaptation for TV mini-series

Those daunted by the prospect of reading all 834 pages of Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries are in luck: it is set to be adapted as a TV mini-series. The Sunday Star Times in New Zealand reports that rights to the book, written by local author Eleanor Catton, have been bought by British producer Andrew Whitehead, who will, presumably, hope that the programme absorbs viewers in the way that another Kiwi drama Top of the Lake did. And those who did manage to read and love the story set in the 1860s gold rush in New Zealand, will be pleased to hear that Catton is apparently due to retain some control. “Some things I wouldn’t compromise on; it wouldn’t make sense to be filmed anywhere else,” she said recently. Another clause in her contract also apparently stops any characters being killed without her permission.

Model Claudia’s shift to movies

Where do supermodels go career-wise once they hit 40? For Kate Moss it’s an assistant editor role at Vogue, for Naomi Campbell it’s as a judge on a model talent show and for Claudia Schiffer, left, it appears to be a move to film. The German model is to be an executive producer on The Secret Service, made by her husband Matthew Vaughn. According to reports Schiffer, who also runs a clothing label, will “oversee” wardrobe, make-up and interiors.