Monday, March 14, 2011

Roger Zelazny Casting Call: The Corwin Chronicles

I've decided to expand on the casting for an Amber movie, just because I had a fun time touching on it in my review of Roger Zelazny's Visual Guide to Castle Amber a couple days ago.

My usual go-to choice for Corwin is Clive Owen, but I went with Timothy Dalton in the first post because the Trump in the Visual Guide looks just look like Dalton. If I'm not mistaken, both men have green eyes too. I tend to prefer Owen in the role on most days, so that's what I'm going with today.

"Talk is cheap. Whiskey costs money."
I sometimes think of Chris Sarandon as Humperdink as Eric. Not that there is any resemblance between how Eric is described and how Humperdink appears, but I was exposed to both Amber and the Princess Bride at about the same time and over time, the two adversarial princes got combined into a single entity.

"...I've got my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I'm swamped."

(And on a similar note, I still like Christopher Walken as Julian, but maybe Christopher Guest as Count Rugen can be his understudy)

Chris Kovacs came up with Robert Downey Jr. as  Random, which is an excellent choice on which I can find nothing to improve.

"Look, they're making a movie! Robert Downey, Jr. is shooting it out with the police."

"I don't see any cameras."

He also nominated Gérard Depardieu as Gérard, and while I'm always partial to David Morse, I think Depardieu just slightly edges him out.

 "I can kill you, Corwin. Do not even be certain that your blade will protect you, if I can get my hands on you but once."

I suppose I'd cast Emma Thompson as Llewella, but who really gives a shit? Does anybody read the Chronicles of Amber and go away thinking "Llewella was my favorite character"? You could give this part to a mannequin with a good agent. Merlin kept a piece of string tied to his wrist, and it got more lines in one book and one short story than Llewella did in the entire series.


I was thinking a young Marcia Cross as Fiona, but then I though of Tilda Swinton. She's got frightful intelligence and absolute self-possession one needs to play Fiona, but she's really too tall and if I recall correctly, Fiona's height is given at 5'2". Julianne Moore is another possibility, but I cast her in everything. Maybe Gillian Anderson. She's short and has shown a willingness to dye her hair red.

David Tennant could do a really good Brand, I think. Take one part the Doctor, one part Hamlet and the combine with some red hair dye. He's got the manic intensity to pull it off.

Go sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here.

And to finish up the redheads, I'm pretty happy with Kenneth Branagh as Bleys. I think he's finally finished making a movie out of everything William Shakespeare has ever written, so perhaps he's ready to play a prince of Amber with all of his dash and charm.

Benedict was giving me a lot of trouble but I think I finally found the right actor in a young Christopher Lee. At 6'5" he's tall enough to loom even over bigger guys like Corwin and he just has absurd amount of presence.

Caine is a tricky one. Antonio Banderas is a more talented actor than people tend to give him credit for. (I'm told that he learned and delivered his lines in The Mambo Kings phonetically, which still continues to impress me.) His English still has an accent, though it's certainly better than my Spanish and if we can bring back Audrey Hepburn from the dead to appear in this movie we can certainly get Antonio Banderas a dialect coach.

Flora was the other one that held up this post. I always thought Téa Leoni was really attractive, but apparently only David Duchovny agrees with me.

Seriously, though, she's super hot.

I had considerable difficulty finding someone to play her. I was going back and forth on this with a friend, and I said that I imagine Flora as someone really beautiful somewhere in her thirties, with a maturity about her, and all these actresses these days are so young. (And if you'll excuse me, I need to wave a rake at some darn kids who won't get off my lawn.)

It took a lot of looking at pictures of attractive women, which was a bit of a chore, but one I'm willing to suffer for this project, but I finally decided on Virginia Madsen to play Flora. She's mature, but still extremely attractive, and has the adult beauty, and more importantly, the poise needed for the part.

So, that's that. In the next day or two, I'll combine all the images into one page.


  1. I don't know about that choice for Benedict, though. Since dead actors and younger versions of living actors are candidates, how about Lee Van Cleef? Think of him from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. He was the Bad AKA Angel Eyes, opposite Clint Eastwood. Check out his Wikipedia photo. And he was reportedly 6' 2". I think he could've portrayed the casual skill and confidence of Benedict, and he had the lanky form to go with it.

    Oh, and you forgot that Llewella was green! I can't help but think of the first green Orion slave girl in Star Trek, the one Capt. Pike almost bedded...

    Chris Kovacs

  2. Hmm...I always imagined Llewella as olive-skinned myself, but now you've put that image in my head and I think it's going to linger there for a long time.

    I like Lee Van Cleef in the role (he certainly has the build and the acting chops for it), but I can't find any pictures of him without facial hair, and I just can't see Benedict with a mustache.

  3. The people of Rebma are green. Llewella is specifically described as having green eyes, green hair (tresses), dressed in green, etc. And in the first book the queen of Rebma is described as having green-tipped nipples...

    Olive-skinned implies tanned, beige, swarthy, etc. Although olive as a color can mean a sickly, yellowy green. Is that what you meant?

    Lee Van Cleef could've certainly lost the mustache for the role. And since Random becomes king, I think Robert Downey Jr would relish that role.

    Chris Kovacs

  4. When I pictured Llewella in my mind's eye, I imagined her as having an olive complexion like one might find on woman of Latina ancestry on earth, with dark green eyes (on reflection, I realized I was imagining them as the color of seawater) and hair like dark seaweed, somewhere between brown and green.

    Are the people of Rebma green-skinned? That's the impression I recalled from the books, but I couldn't remember if it was ever stated outright. Your comment got me interested again, so I went and did some digging.

    I couldn't remember when I was casting Llewella, but I went back and reread the description of her Trump and the scenes in which she appears in Nine Princes and in Sign of the Unicorn and I didn't see any mention of her skin tone. (It's possible I've overlooked something, though. I'll go over it again tonight.) Corwin describes the men of Rebma as: "They were men with green hair, purple hair, and black hair, and all of them had eyes of green, save for one fellow whose were of a hazel color. All wore only scaled trunks and cloaks, cross-braces on their breasts, and short swords depending from sea-shell belts. All were pretty much lacking in body hair."

    Some Rebmans might be green-skinned, but not all of them, because nobody mentions such a trait about Vialle (Corwin describes her by saying "Vialle is only a little over five feet tall and quite slim. Brunette, fine-featured") in The Hand of Oberon, and I don't think she's an expatriate from anywhere else.

    Also, you've sold me on Van Cleef.

  5. I looked back through the texts, including searching some digital versions, and I can't say whether the Rebmans (or Llewella in particular) are ever described specifically as having green skin. When Corwin first goes down there he describes that everything is seen through a green haze, and he's seeing green hair, pale green nipples, green eyes, green dresses with pink and purple seemed to imply to me that the skin was green too, if the nipples were. Unless the queen liked to go topless and color herself at the points.

    Vialle is described at the beginning as a blind girl, one of the queen's subjects, without mentioning her parentage. So she could be an expatriate. I don't recall if any more details are ever given about her backstory.

    Chris Kovacs

  6. I'm not sure I agree with RDJ for Random. First of all, wasn't Random really short? Like 5'5" or something? Also, I feel like RDJ is too suave for the part. I didn't really picture Random being a suave guy, but maybe I'm wrong.

    (Mind you, I don't have an alternate suggestion, so . . . maybe I shouldn't even be posting this. =P)

    I'm also not big on Gillian Anderson for Fiona, but that could be because I only know Anderson as Scully from the X-Files, and Scully is definitely NOT like Fiona in my mind.

    One of my favorite scenes with Fiona is in Sign of the Unicorn, when the family is getting together to discuss Corwin's plan to find Brand and everyone is choosing sides. Fiona is the last one in the middle, and as she's checking herself in the mirror, Corwin says something about how she's just "messing with us." Fiona's a master manipulator, and I love that she has the spunk to do something like that even though she knows everyone around her realizes exactly what she's doing. I can almost see the wry smile she's suppressing as she toys with everyone around her . . .

    So, once again, I have no suggestion for an alternative, but I feel I need more spunk in my Fiona, and Scully is like the anti-spunk. But, as I said, that could be because I'm thinking of her as Scully and not Gillian Anderson.

  7. In some sense I think I'm reading too much into this. Rebma was kind of a one-off joke, (Hey, it's the mirror Amber! Its name is Amber spelled backwards!) which we glimpse once and we never really see again. From the narrative sense, I think Moire is the bare-breasted, green-skinned alien queens who trace their ancestry back to the pulps of R.E. Howard's era and her unusual coloration has no special meaning beyond a nod to that. However, that argument is a bit of a cheat. We've come this far, and I don't want to dismiss the discussion by saying "Pay no attention to the man behind the mirror." So let's see what we can figure out by continuing to take what we've got at face value.

    I employed pretty much the same methods and came to pretty much the same conclusions that you did, that there doesn't seem to be *explicit* textual evidence that *all* people of Rebman ancestry have green skin, which doesn't preclude *some* of them having green skin. After all, we've got green hair and purple hair already, so green skin isn't a huge leap from there. It could be within the normal range of phenotypes for folks in Rebma. Also, Corwin wasn't exactly conducting a census there. He was just looking at the guys around him, so his sample size was pretty small and may not have been representative of the population at large. Just because he didn't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Also, as you pointed out, he's underwater, and things are going to look funny there.

    Vialle is initially described as a woman of Moire's court early in Chapter 2 of the Hand of Oberon. That implies nobility to me, but need not necessarily be so. When she was first described, she was merely one of one of her "subjects", but the descriptions of her station are coming from two different people in two different circumstances, so the slight differences are certainly not irreconcilable. When speaking to Corwin of Random's fate, Vialle says, "He will marry with a girl among my subjects who is named Vialle. She is blind and has no wooers among our kind." Since Corwin is not one of her people, "our kind" implies that Vialle is a Rebman.

    That said, the best evidence that Vialle is *not* a native Rebman comes from the "The Salesman's Tale", where she shows hitherto unrevealed abilities by querying her sculptures about the spikards. Nobody else in the Chronicles has done anything like that, (unless you count Corwin's casting some fortunes with the Trumps while he was recuperating) and it seems a wholly unique ability. Also, she has brown hair, which Corwin didn't see in his brief survey of the men of Rebma, though it simply may be a rare color and not one that's entirely absent.

    Based on the information in Corwin's Chronicles, I would say that Vialle was a minor noblewoman, unremarkable save for her blindness. If we include the information in The Salesman's Tale, then I would say that she's something more, but what exactly, I don't know.

  8. Zach, I agree with your criticism about Gillian Anderson as Fiona. She was really hard to cast, because she has so many significant traits. She's short, spunky, red-haired, green-eyed, ambitious, calculating, manipulative and really really smart. It's tough finding an actress who can portray all of that, and Anderson was a compromise with which I am not entirely satisfied.

  9. I just wish I could have been more useful and provided an alternative suggestion, instead of being the guy who comes in here and critiques without contributing anything of his own. >_<

    (If I come up with anything new on the subject, I'll be sure to let you know. =P)

  10. Wow. New to the series, less of a fanboy...just wow. Snarky "Good read, though."