Casting Call

rifters-onYeah, I’ve been quiet lately.

Still working on the site, for one thing; finally got the Rifters and Blindopraxia galleries up and populated (Sunflowers and Shorts still to go): it’s a much cleaner layout than the old Gallery, and there’s a bunch of new material, so you might want to check them out. (Also, it’s worth keeping an eye on the “Updates” page linked to the right; I’ll announce any significant site developments there, which comes in handy if you want to keep up even though I can’t be bothered wasting crawlspace on every new bit of chrome that gets bolted into place.)

So site work is ongoing.  I’m also keeping my eyes on my feet as I haltingly try to relearn the steps of the New Release Rumba: the essays and interviews and what-if scenarios that come your way when you’ve just delivered. (One such interview just appeared in the latest issue of Albedo, in fact). It’s one of these what-ifs that I could use your help with, again.

blindopraxia-onSome of you know about this “My Book, the Movie” thing; as I recall there was some serious love on these pages for Ellen Page in the role of Lenie Clarke, back when I did it for the rifters books. I’m doing it again. The idea is to propose a dream team— mainly cast, but feel free to nominate a director or screenwriter if so inclined— for a hypothetical movie production of Echopraxia. Someone once suggested that Billy Bob Thornton  would make a decent Brüks, and I could see Edward James Olmos as Jim Moore if he lost a few kilos. Maybe Andy Serkis in a mocap suit as Portia.  Beyond that, I am bereft of clue; do you guys have any ideas?

Oh, and anyone who nominates Ridley Scott for director is banned for a week.  I still haven’t forgiven him for “Prometheus“.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Friday September 12 2014at 08:09 am , filed under interviews, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

94 Responses to “Casting Call”

  1. Neil Blomkamp for director. Elysium was hamstrung by studio interference, but District 9 was as close to perfect as a science fiction movie can get. Give him a smaller budget and somebody to shield him from the suits who want to focus group everything and he’d do great with your material.

    The cast should be unknowns, or little-knowns.

  2. Well alrighty then.

    Screenwriter: if he wasn’t so very busy doing other stuff, and if he wasn’t long overdue to get out a script for Fevre Dream, I’d say George R.R. Martin, as he had a fine career as a fairly hard-science SF writer back before he went all swords-and-sorcery. He can definitely do weird and spooky. If you haven’t read his Dying of the Light you might want to give it a go. Besides… in Fevre Dream there’s a character named Valerie. She doesn’t talk much either. 😉

    Although most people don’t know it, Jim Carrey can do really good straight acting, and he does clueless very well also. He’d be a natural for Brüks in clue-free mode. I don’t know if he’d be up to the more serious stuff; he could do it, but might prefer to do more of his usual schtick. So the question is how does Brüks get played? Hapless professor? Or just semi-normal guy swept up by affairs that are way out of his league?

    Meryl Streep isn’t available to do Valerie. We think. However, any stunts for Valerie would almost have to be done by Heidi Moneymaker, well-known as the stunt double for Black Widow in the Marvel films franchise. You could drag in some “True Blood” fans by casting Deborah Ann Woll though you might not want someone so attractive to play that character. Maybe someone usually typecast as some skinny biker-babe-o-pure-evil?

    To propose an alternative to the floated suggestion elsewhere, maybe Billy Bob Thornton as the Colonel? If you think he couldn’t pull it off, see his versatility in “Sling Blade”, though you might think from watching that that his ideal role would be as the zombie conversationalist.

    Director: Alfonso Cuaron comes to mind although he might not want to be pigeonholing himself as “that guy who does space”. Guillermo del Toro? He just got backburnered by Universal where he was trying to make Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Hell, he did “Pacific Rim” which i seem to recall was well received hereabouts.

    Sorry, best I can do on short notice.

  3. Director – Guillermo del Toro, somehow collaborating with Alejandro Jodorowsky in a vein similar to L’Incal . . . which would never work because Jodorowsky is nuts. I wish Moebius was still alive.

    I’m having trouble picturing Brüks as any actor out there . . . he’s tall (although shorter than the vamp?) and slightly clumsy and middle-aged and that’s all I’ve got. That could be any number of actors capable of doing the job. Edward Norton perhaps. He’s only six feet tall, but that’s what movie magic is for.

    My vision of Moore is either Idris Elba or Kevin Spacey. I don’t know what Siri looks like, so I don’t know what his father looks like either. I have this vague sense of Moore being shorter than Brüks. Or Michael Caine? His age is very hazy to me, he feels to be in his sixties max, so maybe not Michael Caine.

    Lianna seems shorter than Brüks or Moore and of small build. Jasika Nicole?

    Sengupta seems as tall and long-limbed as Brüks. Purva Bedi?

    I can’t see Valerie in my head except for dark eyes and dark hair, given how much emphasis is put on her paleness. Also, vampires and dark eyes and dark hair is a thing in movies. Basically, fit in any actress who can actually act and then make her look the part. Experience required playing a terrifying female character, preferably a nonhuman one. Movie magic can make up for physique if the acting skills are there. Sigourney Weaver, Helena Bonham Carter . . . Of course a real cast would have a few big names and then more up and comings or unknowns, for budget reasons.

  4. I don’t see Ellen Page as Lenie . If I recall, Lenie was described has having a lot of hard edges, emotionally as well as physically. Someone with a bit of mileage, regardless of her physical age. While Ms. page is a fine young actress, I have trouble seeing her as anything but a 16 year old girl. If I could invoke a time machine, I would cast a younger Parker Posie or early 80s Holly Hunter as Lenie.

    Since Watts characters tend to have a hazy ethnicity, I’m going to cast purely by familiarity, so please forgive the small ethnic sampling.

    For Valerie, it’s tempting to go with a a creepy faced girl like Fairuza Balk. But she doesn’t quite fit the physical stature associated with the role. Really, Valerie was more of an inscrutable force of nature in the book than an actual character, so it would really be fine to cast according physicality. I’m sure Hollywood would place an Olivia Wilde here.

    Brüks is tough. I picture him older, and with a beard. Dwarfed by the people around him. Possibly bald. Maybe a 90s era Richard Dreyfuss. Maybe Sir Ben Kingsley. Hollywood would cast Matthew Mcconaughey without his hairpiece.

    For Jim Moore, I’m going to give the nod to Idris Elba, simply because Idris Elba is the right choice for every role. But an offbeat choice might be Michael Shannon, simply to portray the simmering cauldron of crazy beneath Moore’s cool military exterior.

    I have no opinions on Lianna casting.

    Portia can be played by the pool of indeterminate matter I had growing in the bottom of my high school locker.

    And just to crowbar in Jukka Sarasti, I’ll say Mads Mikkelson, but pretend I said it a couple years ago back when it was still cool to drop his name, and before the Hannibal show made him an overly obvious choice.

    For a writer and director, I’m going to avoid the obvious sci-fi directing cliches, and give it to True Detective creator and showrunner, Nic Pizzolatto. Honestly, in the first episode of that series I was struck by how McConaughey was spouting the sort of hip neuroscience you’d find in a Watts novel (or a Ligotti novel, but that’s another story). Sure, the show went off the rails a bit, and eventually sold out a great atheist character at the end where he finally “sees the light” so to speak. But Echopraxia would be more about dialogue than spectacle. You need someone who can draw characters well, and make challenging dialogue and concepts interesting, as well as establish a persistent mood of tension and paranoia.

  5. Oops. I missed Sengupta. That’s ok, I’m not qualified to cast that character anyway, as my selection would invariably boil down to “that one Indian actress I know”. So not only would I have violated the political correctness of gender politics by using the term “actress”, I would have also been racially insensitive. I try to do only one or the other at any given time.

  6. I also fumbled my director nod. Nic Pizzolatto was the writer and showrunner, Cary Fukunaga was the director of True Detective. I’d like to see them team up again on Echopraxia.

  7. Sure, the show went off the rails a bit, and eventually sold out a great atheist character at the end where he finally “sees the light” so to speak

    God they did, didn’t they? I rationalize it by supposing they couldn’t have put the early bits in without promising that concession at the end. McConaughey is a bible thumper, isn’t he?

    I think of everything in terms of animation nowadays so I was imagining character designs rather than actors. Brian’s Valerie looks neat but a bit too “concentration camp” anatomy, I was imagining a little more muscle, gymnast style.

    A younger Juliette Binoche might fit my vision of Lenie

    Oh, and anyone who nominates Ridley Scott for director is banned for a week. I still haven’t forgiven him for “Prometheus“.

    Never forget! Never forgive!

  8. Bruks: Don Cheadle. Need a strong dramatic lead to carry it, he has the look (middle age, balding) and I have to think his studies of theology and war crimes would let him draw on more to bring to the performance.

    Jim: Michael Shannon. He brings just the right amount of intense focus that dips into outright obsessive madness, and does a very nice authoritarian cant to his speech.

    Valarie: Evanna Lynch. Need a female lead that gives off a distinct “otherness” and “serial killer” vibe, she has played roles for both.

    Lianna: Meghan Markle just because I like her.

    Sengupta: Aarti Mann is the only one that springs to mind, but there is probably a really strong Bollywood actress I just don’t know who could carry it better

    I’d roll Luckett and Ofoegbu into one character and have Luckett be played by Malcolm McDowell as the visual focus for the Bicarms when we need them on screen.

    Director: Gareth Edwards. Assuming we can get him to channel “Monsters” and not “Godzilla”

  9. ScottC.: Sure, the show went off the rails a bit, and eventually sold out a great atheist character at the end where he finally “sees the light” so to speak.

    I didn’t read that scene that way at all. I took it as Rust had been focused on seeing the truth of things and calling out others on the lies they tell themselves to get through the day. Then at the end he got to finally see the real truth of the universe and human nature, up close, personal, and in a traumatic fashion. He was so shaken that even his cynicism wasn’t enough that he embraced the lie knowing it was a lie because it was the only way he could handle what he experienced.

    In the Lovecraftian fashion, he sees that civilization is just the campfire that the starving ape-rats are huddled inward around, telling each other that the light is all there is and trying to ignore the vast outer dark. He stayed in the light but looked out, one of the “bad men keeping other bad men away” until he finally left the light and went into the darkness on his own. When he found what was out there, he started insisting on being the closest to the fire to keep what he saw away. His last line wasn’t praising, it was pleading.

    He didn’t see the light and repent, he saw the dark and was broken

  10. Nestor: God they did, didn’t they? I rationalize it by supposing they couldn’t have put the early bits in without promising that concession at the end. McConaughey is a bible thumper, isn’t he?

    I don’t know. I know he gave a generic, “I Thank God” speech for his Best Actor award in the same way a politician might, but I’ve never heard him drop a J-bomb, which I associate with the degree of believer that engages in book thumpage. He’s always seemed a good sport about his roles though. I never thought he deserved to languish in rom-com hell as long as he did.

    Also, I’ll say again here that I neglected to mention Cary Fukunaga’s directorial work on True Detective. He should be directing and Pizzolatto should adapt and produce. A couple previous corrections to my post are trapped in moderation hell. How does one get past that?

  11. Daniel

    He didn’t see the light and repent, he saw the dark and was broken

    Well, I’m certainly glad it’s open to interpretation to people, or at least open to denial. For me, however, that speech was the hyper-rational character embracing magical thinking. The damning bit was the, “and the light is winning” thing.

    Aw, Rust. Not you, Rust. Not you.

    That character was a miserable son of a bitch, but it was a bold character in a television landscape too timid to go out there and portray intelligent vocal atheism without a back door– a wink to the deists. And in the end, they took the back door too. Characters should experience some degree of growth in a serial, but not at the expense of something that unravels what made them a compelling character in the first place.

    My opinion, at any rate.

  12. Mr Non-Entity:
    Although most people don’t know it, Jim Carrey can do really good straight acting, and he does clueless very well also. He’d be a natural for Brüks in clue-free mode. I don’t know if he’d be up to the more serious stuff; he could do it, but might prefer to do more of his usual schtick. So the question is how does Brüks get played? Hapless professor? Or just semi-normal guy swept up by affairs that are way out of his league?

    I’ve said that about Carrey myself many times {Doing Time on Maple Drive, for ex.} but it never occurred to me. I think that’d be ingenious as a choice.

    The alarm-going-off moment in Echopraxia, BTW, a real lol. Brief but effective since it left the specifics to my imagination that had been built up on Brüks’ previous behavior.

  13. I’m only weighing in because I can’t stop myself, and that is to say that Noomi Rapace would be a great Lenie, only because it’s fun watching her kick ass. Also to the chagrin of a goth/comic-connite friend, I’d love to see Michael Bay tech-out your worlds, PW.

  14. J. Sixpack:
    I’m only weighing in because I can’t stop myself, and that is to say that Noomi Rapace would be a great Lenie, only because it’s fun watching her kick ass.Also to the chagrin of a goth/comic-connite friend, I’d love to see Michael Bay tech-out your worlds, PW.

    Unclean! Ms. Rapace has Prometheus taint. She also has that annoying stigma about her for being a Hollywood goto sci-fi it-girl for every character that isn’t played by Zoe Saldana. Sort of like a female Benedict Cumberbatch, considered for every off the beaten path, “not traditionally handsome” quirky role. I’m sure she’s a fine actress though.

    If I could add to my earlier comments about Lenie, and take, as in the case of Ms. Page, “not given hair color” (blonde), and body weight as a variable, I would also add Mireille Enos, from the U.S. production of The Killing to the roster.

    She’s tiny without being waifish, and adept at playing damaged, introspective characters, as interesting as all the damaged male characters who get to bleed all over the screen with their damaged maleness. (confession: I use the term “damaged maleness” after a bottle of wine, so if you could cut me some slack for that, it would be super).

    She was given the line “I break things. That’s what I do”, and sold it. That’s Lenie all over.

  15. Hell, Pete, I’ll do the lot for you. And I’d quite like to have Kubrick on board. So, that’s an unknown English actor (although I have just worked with Colin Salmon and he’s bloody good, so I can ask him) and a moody, dead director. How’s that, then?

  16. He seems to attract some negativity for some reason, but if we’re not going unknowns, Tom Hanks might also make a good Brüks which then brings to mind Ron Howard. For sure, he has managed to convert complex plots to the screen with financial success and gets to know his subject matter preproduction.

  17. whoever:
    He seems to attract some negativity for some reason, but if we’re not going unknowns, Tom Hanks might also make a good Brüks

    Hanks is a professional audience surrogate. And we know he’s willing to rock the beard. So, approval.

  18. I’m terrible at dredging up celebrity names for stuff like this, but I must say that Valerie strongly reminds me of the hybrid character Dren from the 2009 movie Splice (minus the tail and weird digitigrade legs). Some video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g7MZJfmBA4

    Slender elegance combined with disturbing “uncanny valley” looks and vaguely predatory, animalistic behavior. If a Blindsight or Echopraxia adaptation ever happened, I think that would be a great model for the vampires.

  19. I’m terrible at dredging up celebrity names for stuff like this, but I must say that Valerie strongly reminds me of the hybrid character Dren from the 2009 movie Splice (minus the tail and weird digitigrade legs). Slender elegance combined with disturbing “uncanny valley” looks and vaguely predatory, animalistic behavior. If a Blindsight or Echopraxia adaptation ever happened, I think that would be a great model for the vampires.

  20. OMG….

    Jodorowsky a la ‘L’incal’ – The lord God have mercy.
    Idris Elba – that is just CRAY. Hell no! If Watts himself hasn’t forgiven Scott for Prometheus, I sure as hell haven’t forgotten Elba in Prometheus.

    Tilda Swinton has always looked a bit Valerie… proof of which is the fact that someone’s already swiped her for the vampire movie du jour. I would second Noomi Rapace instead if she gets really good, really eerie makeup… but I feel like she would need to be taller? Billy Bob Thornton as Bruiks… Hrmm. Could work. Andiy Serkis as portia – rotfl..! Y’all are too much.

    I would have liked Nick Nolte as Moore, when he was a bit younger.

    What I do second though, is Blomkamp as Director.

    What this comment thread has taught me is that I either live under a rock or need to start paying more attention to celebs… because I can barely think of any!

  21. Shane Carruth would contribute fantastic direction to a Watts film adaptation. I highly doubt he could be persuaded from doing “his own thing” to work with an established fiction, but I see tremendously interesting synergy emerging from Peter and Shane bringing Blindopraxic themes from page to screen.

  22. ScottC.,

    The damning bit was the, “and the light is winning” thing.

    Ah I’d forgotten that bit. It was pretty much lifted directly from the speech of a dying alien in Alan Moore’s Top 10 comic.

    If you read comic books it’s funny to see the ideas being recycled or just plain plagiarized in more mainstream media. Happens a lot.

  23. Already called out, but I’d second either Tilda Swinton or Noomi Rapace for Valerie. Both have the chops for that much weird and intense. If they’re both busy, you could try Jessalyn Gilsig and see what she’d do with it – her turn in Vikings always leaves me thinking of spiders and vampires, something eerie and predatory about it despite her character’s nominal powerlessness.

    You could get a good Moore out of Bruce Willis, he does a nice line in Old Military/Spec Ops Guys, though he’s maybe a little *too* old these days. Or Daniel Craig now that he’s all buffed up for Bond. Would second Michael Shannon too.

    Hanks for Bruks is tempting, but I don’t think he’d carry the grit and grumpy anger vibe along with the helplessness. You need someone more like Anthony Hopkins circa The Bounty (which isn’t much help, I know). Maybe Shea Wigham (Sheriff Eli Thompson in Boardwalk Empire)? To be honest, you could probably get Craig, if you weren’t using him for Moore, to put on some flab and he’d make a good job of it too.

    No picks for Lianna or Sengupta, will brood on it. Director – Alfonso Cuaron has proven chops with zero-G SF, and he can do gritty well enough. I’d second Fukunaga for sheer intensity, or, since we have the Bacon link of Rapace, what about this guy:

    http://www.blackdogfilms.com/directors/uk/jonas-akerlund-uk/the-rolling-stones-doom-gloom/

  24. Oh and yeah, True Detective sold out at the end big time. Not just the light-is-winning crap, the whole “sneak-me-out-of hospital” bromance shit – we drop in one sickening jolt from Sevenesque best-in-its-class noir territory to a late-series Starsky and Hutch episode wrap. Could feel my ears pop with the descent.

    Got the feeling, generally, that the whole thing was originally written for twelve or thirteen hour long episodes and then had to be crammed into the eight they were given, involving some fairly brutal plot surgery along the way. But hey, I’m just grateful for the genius of the first seven and a half hours worth

  25. Had Craig and/or Liev Schreiber pegged for Lubin.

    So many “Old Bird” type actors for Moore, I think I’d find the one that does crazy and friendly best. Speaking of which, gone but not forgotten:

    http://copiouscope.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/dr2.jpg

    Love the expression.

  26. Ah. Ben Kingsley as Moore as the obvious choice if he’snot too old.

  27. Here’s what I had in my head while reading:

    Daniel Brüks = Daniel Brühl, of course!

    For the Colonel, Stephen Lang, who played…the colonel…in Avatar.

    I imagined Liana as Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead’s Michonne.

    Did Valerie have hair? I was picturing Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, minus the horns. Not that I think Jolie is the right actor, but that’s the aesthetic.

  28. I was thinking of Tilda Swinton for Val too… but, also for the executive in Rifters. I pretty much want Tilda Swinton for anything. What are your thoughts on having people of different sexes for roles?

    Steve Buscemi for Brüks, here he is looking pretty bedraggled. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/90/Steve_Buscemi_2009_portrait.jpg

    I wonder about Ally Sheedy (in her heroin addict photographer role from High Art) or Radha Mitchel (wannabe editor in High Art, also morally ambiguous pilot in Pitch Black), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Art

  29. Also, Cilian Murphy. I love Cilian Murphy for anything. Breakfast on Pluto was excellent. He’s pretty much excellent in everything. He could do a vampire with the right makeup to have him look gaunt and dry. He can do creepy. He can do tender and vulnerable. He can be a great psychopath (Red Eye — flips nice on and off). Have him in Rifters. See how he does with all the roles. Maybe our christ figure.

  30. Casting: if we’re picking actual actors — the idea is out there that CGI might be the way to go — we might want to try to work around Valerie’s described height through the tried-and-true Hollywood method of choosing non-tall cast for most roles. See also Natalie Portman’s famous remark of “I can make anyone look big”.

    More with casting: Mila Kunis as the annoying and punctuation-deficient ship captain. Versatile as well as photogenic and tiny, she can definitely do chatterbox, then shift right into battle-crazed psycho at the drop of a hat. Hilary Duff as the acolyte/translator. She can do that earnestness thing. If we are still doing non-tall casting, Bruks could be Seth Green, if he can for a moment stop being trendy and ironic. Or maybe we want that for Bruks. All of these people are talented and non-tall. Kunis, for example, 5’4″. Duff, 5’2″. Green, 5’4″.

    If we’re going to do “short cast” casting, that widens the field of possibilities for Valerie. Already quite good at portraying mixed-bag characters, Amy Acker. At 5’7″, put her in some internal-lift shoes and she almost manages the “full head taller” description. Additionally, she has that lean-and-hungry look and is physically capable.

    I should pause to note that I may be reading too quickly, but I don’t seem to recall much mention of any ethnicity of characters. Is it mentioned so briefly in passing that I don’t notice, or is it overwhelmed by the description of post-human characteristics? Or is it so unimportant to the story that it’s not mentioned, other than Valerie being very pale?

  31. Nestor:

    Ah I’d forgotten that bit. It was pretty much lifted directly from the speech of a dying alien in Alan Moore’s Top 10 comic.

    And here I thought it was just Ligotti he got into hot water for paraphrasing. Though it didn’t seem to me that Ligotti could really claim ownership of any of the ideas in question.

    I don’t care. As long as Pizzolatto can feed me the line, “You’re like the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch”, he can rip off whoever he likes.

    Just so long as Fukunaga directs. I picture the early “zombie” attack at the Bicameral stronghold being done in the style of that real-time, over the shoulder viewpoint drug raid sequence in True Detective.

  32. @ Sheila:

    Actually, I like Cillian Murphy as Siri. Way cool.

  33. Mr Non-Entity: I should pause to note that I may be reading too quickly, but I don’t seem to recall much mention of any ethnicity of characters. Is it mentioned so briefly in passing that I don’t notice, or is it overwhelmed by the description of post-human characteristics? Or is it so unimportant to the story that it’s not mentioned, other than Valerie being very pale?

    Didn’t Peter once mention that he picks varied names and that ethnicities don’t always match up? I can’t remember exactly. Maybe it was a discussion that came up with The Island.

    My take on it is that you could pretty match cast any ethnicity and get away with it.

    I’d be seriously disappointed if someone casts a POC who gets killed first because fuck hollywood.

  34. Mr Non-Entity: the annoying and punctuation-deficient ship captain.

    bite your tongue she is awesome

    re: non-tall/tall actors. I think they would need to go with some CGI or other methods to make the vampire characters look a little elongated in the limbs. even if someone is tall, they need to look uncanny. I’m also wondering if they need star trek makeup on the face to make them have a subtly different skeletal structure.

  35. rifters

    Since I don’t know nearly enough actors to do a nice casting call, I like imagining scenery. I love the specifical effects for the eyes. Ttried to find screen cap from the director’s cut of Donnie Darko and this came up in image search, http://37.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lxb40pvL6S1qaliojo1_500.gif

    Something with unreadable but obvious text/images/etc flowing across the eyes for the company exec. enough to make her eyes look filmed over.

    For the divers, varying shades of white. looking at pure white eyes for an entire movie might be difficult and might look too fake. so maybe something that is barely translucent so that you can see slight rings coming through?

    blindsight

    this one I mentioned a while back on facebook or something. when Siri goes unconscious the other characters should be exagerated and incomprehensible. The entire feel of the ship should change. Siri makes everything make sense to us. It would be like moving from one genre look/feel to the jagged scenes from Pi. but I think that might be too jarring, so you need a director who has a good instinct for what to do instead.

  36. @Sheila: Re: bite your tongue she is awesome

    Which, Mila Kunis? 😉 Honestly, I do the chatterbox thing all of the time myself, don’t say anything for weeks at a time and then make up for lost opportunities. And if anyone does a fanfic video production, they can cast me as Bruks, I do clue-free and out-of-my-depth quite well. Something of a habit, actually. Now if only I was photogenic.

    Re: Uncanny: Are we talking “stretch factor” like the Goblin King in “Nightmare Before Christmas”? Possibly CGI is called for though I can think of a couple of scenes where you would need a fairly wide shot to capture the scene, and mixing CGI with live-action can be difficult to do while supporting the willing suspension of disbelief. There’s an additional element to depicting the Wattsian Vampire; remember that unless they’re running hot, they store a lot of blood in the torso rather than circulating it to the limbs (even more pronounced in hibernation). That could easily be done with a “fat suit” sort of prosthetic, but what about action scenes? Because I seem to recall that the perfusion redistribution in action scenes would leave a rather thinned-down torso with a somewhat disproportionately large rib cage. Back to scanning teh webz for tall skinny athletic people who can take direction if not necessarily emote.

    @whoever, Sheila: Cillian Murphy is inherently awesome for anything.

  37. Looks like I’m not the only one who noticed the Alan Moore homage

    http://www.vulture.com/2014/03/true-detective-finale-comics-alan-moore-homage.html

    (Or rip off, depending on your perspective. Moore is notoriously prickly about adaptations of his work in visual media…)

  38. Mr Non-Entity: circulating it to the limbs (even more pronounced in hibernation). That could easily be done with a “fat suit” sort of prosthetic, but what about action scenes? Because I seem to recall that the perfusion redistribution in action scenes would leave a rather thinned-down torso with a somewhat disproportionately large rib cage. Back to scanning teh webz for tall skinny athletic people who can take direction if not necessarily emote.

    Maybe two actors could play Val. One would have makeup to make her look dehydrated and malnurished, the other would look healthy and have flushed skin, and maybe she’d be taller. …it would probably screw up suspension of belief if they didn’t resemble each other enough. makeup would help there — if you wanted to have the face bone structure be different due to a different branch of hominids.

  39. Re: CGI and the manufacture of the Wattsian Vampire.

    Peter Watts could certainly provide some correction and guidance here. After all, it’s his books. 😉

    Re: Wattsian Vampires (WV) — I think it’s not really a different branch of hominids, but rather a very extreme “breed” or “race” of h. sapiens.. Aside from what the characters know about the WV, they don’t have so different an appearance that people instantly recognize them as another kind, but rather as odd versions of their own kind. This would be essential to their modus-vivendi. The prey would see them coming and say “hmm that’s an odd person” but they wouldn’t so quickly say “it’s one of Those Others”. They live best at the nearby end of the “Uncanny Valley”. After all, while they are physically adapted to their lifestyle, their adaptations are primarily in metabolism (hibernation), sensorium, and particularly in neurology. All of those, with the exception of the dark-adapted eyes, are not easily observed. If you saw one sleeping you might wonder if they were sick, because of the concentration of blood in the torso and the “skinny” limbs. You might notice a more prognathous facial angle.

    I’ve been playing around with the makehuman.org system and built a female figure that has the maximum (prognathous) facial angle the software allows, maximum allowed height (just over 2 meters); tweaked the skull/face proportions for a generally “inverted triangle” shape with wide-set eyes (for better distance judgement and peripheral vision field); lengthened the limb bones by about 10-percent (lower leg bones more like 15%) and strengthened the ankles and wrists; made the neck as long as the software allows; built the torso to the shortest non-dwarfism specs, with the largest-allowed lower rib-cage and not much waist; dialed the build to high muscle and low fat in general. Teeth (and eye effects) would have to be edited in Blender but there are good and specific tutorials out there on how to do that without too much trouble at all.

    The result looks more than anything else rather like a stereotypical advertising drawing of a 19-year-old
    fashion model of the wide-eyed ingénue type. Add a blonde wig and she looks distressingly like a certain very popular young country-pop singer who writes award-winning songs about former boyfriends[1]. Probably not what Dr Watts intended. 😉 But then again, who knows what would go over well in Hollywood.

    I put the MHX files (for import to Blender) where our favorite author can find them and share them around as he may see fit.

    @Peter Watts: check Plus mail.

    Ref: 1. “You’ve got your demons, and darling, they all look like me…”

  40. I wasn’t as bothered by “Rust Sees The Light,” given that I had already thought Rust’s philosophizing was somewhat, er, entry-level nihilism, like someone who never quite grew out of his angsty teenager phase.

    As for casting…

    Ellen Page appeals to me for Lenie Clarke primarily because of her performance in Hard Candy. Sigourney Weaver as Pat Rowan (since Weaver managed to escape unscathed from the taint of Prometheus).
    I like Liev Schreiber for Lubin, and as for Desjardins, well, I picture casting some prettyboy actor, just to go against type… maybe Daniel Radcliffe or Robert Pattinson? If not, Guy Pearce would probably do it.
    I nominate either Neil Blomkamp or David Fincher for director.

    Seconding the calls for Tom Hanks as Brüks; he’s the perfect fit for an audience-viewpoint character hopelessly out of his depth. Eva Green for Valerie. I wonder if Zooey Deschanel would be too easy a choice for Lianna.

  41. Second the deadly pretty boy for Achilles. Can add Cilian Murphy again, and Josh Hartnett.

    {By the way, what was up with the PotV suits?}

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planet_of_the_Vampires

    Adding Twitter “pal” James Woods to potential Jim Moore casting. Ryswell’s Lang also a good choice.

  42. Sylocat:
    I wasn’t as bothered by “Rust Sees The Light,” given that I had already thought Rust’s philosophizing was somewhat, er, entry-level nihilism, like someone who never quite grew out of his angsty teenager phase..

    I’ve heard this criticism, and maybe it gains more credibility as the show goes on and Rust’s ideas get a little more out there, but in the first episode he could have been summing up themes from Blindsight. What some people label as philosophy, I heard as neuroscience.

    Besides, I’m not sure being a nihilist synesthete detective in a genre where the characters rarely vary by more than a few degrees is a bad thing. Nihilism is a perfectly reasonable and perhaps inevitable viewpoint from someone who does what Rust does, and sees what Rust sees ever day. Rust isn’t going to throw any curveballs to educated people, but within the medium of television, in the genre of police fiction, he’s a pretty interesting character.

    Even if you dismiss nihilism as being lazy or adolescent (which would be odd since you’re posting on the blog of a man who gleefully deconstructs our notions of morality, humanity, and existence, and tosses them into a wood chipper on a dystopian suicide-scape on a regular basis), it’s an honest character and a breath of fresh air. Which is what made the selling out of that character so irritating at the end.

  43. Heh, given Mr. Pizzolatto’s fondness for copy & paste homage, there could very well be some Wattsian DNA in True Detective for all I know.

  44. ScottC,

    I would say Rust’s view, though nihilistic, are more centered in pessimism. After all nihilism only states that there is no intrinsic value to existence, not that existence is bad. Rust’s antinatalism for example is a pessimistic view, based on the premise that life tends to entail at least some degree of suffering. I would also say that Rust often phrases his views poorly, in a kind of stoner philosopher fashion at times, though I agree with most of his philosophies. Especially antinatalism.

  45. All I can think of is that I’d love to see Steven Erikson as screenwriter. He has written scripts before, for sf, and he’s writing an sf parody right now, so he’d be just in the right mindset. Plus it’d be beyond amazing to see my two favorite writers cooperating.

    Oh, right, actors. Maybe Cumberbatch for Sarasti? Too obvious? And another vote for Tilda Swinton as Valerie.

  46. @HomicidalWombat

    I’m not much of a philosophy wonk. I was simply responding to Sylocat’s criticism, and accepted the premise of nihilistic positions. If you want boil down Rust’s positions with Sylocat, I’d be delighted to observe.

    As for how the character phrases his opinions, he is after all a redneck and content to be such. A self-aware hyper rational atheist redneck synesthete (Thank you, HBO). If one were to find the character to be insufferable, then they would be in the company of most of the other characters around him.

    I know it’s common to posture a bit and nitpick popular characters presented as being intelligent, or even worse, profound in order to let everyone know how much smarter we are than the character and writers. But we can also realize that the character is written for a broader television audience, that the dialogue has to be pithy and accessible.

    It’s not that I find Rust’s philosophical positions unassailable. I didn’t give anything that didn’t have a basis in psychology or neuroscience much thought. It’s just that I found them remarkable coming out the mouth of an A-list celebrity in what looked on the surface like a garden variety buddy cop police procedural. Concepts like the biological illusion of free will and morality might be old hat to folks around these parts, but are pretty striking in mainstream entertainment. Which again, is why the ending is such a chickenshit cop out.

  47. I’ve watched that season through twice now, and— wait for it— I’m not entirely convinced the ending sucks.

    The thing is, people who go through those kinds of traumatic near-death experiences often do get religion, regardless of their previous beliefs. They may not go 100% Biblethumper, but it’s pretty common to see the spirituality quotient crank up a bit. So you could regard Rust’s change of heart at the end not as any kind of moralising cop-out, but simply as a psychological symptom of PTSD. Maybe even one he could recover from, in time.

    Remember, the screenwriters kept insisting they weren’t trying to trick anyone with fancy plot twists or go all Lost on their audience. They just wanted to tell a True Detective story. Rust’s attitudes were character development, not thematic subtext.

    Or am I being too forgiving?

  48. Peter Watts:

    Or am I being too forgiving?

    Well, you’re correct to point out the frequency of near death cases that result in an uptick of spirituality, so I can’t claim it’s an entirely unrealistic scenario.

    Except it’s the same scenario we get all the time, and when it ends up as the end of the character arc, it reinforces magical thinking as “the happy ending”. It’s like the portrayal of any damaging trope or stereotype. It’s not that that sterotype might have no basis in truth, it’s simply that it’s repeated so much it starts to warp the popular conceptions we have, often to the detriment of society.

    It’s always the rational skeptic who ends up on some note for pro-magical thinking. The Scullys always have to be pointed out for the fools that they are by the Mary Sue Mulders.

    Why can’t we get one for once? Why couldn’t we have our best shot at a high profile character staying the same miserable son of a bitch, and saying the most obvious rational thing like, “After what we’ve just been through, how could you expect me to be any different than I am ? What is your justification for remaining the way that you are?”

    Character arcs don’t need to represent “positive” growth. We just as frequently end up worse. DDL in “There Will Be Blood” started as a crazy evil bastard, and ended crazier.

    I write this from a country where an atheist can’t get elected dogcatcher. I want better representation in popular media. That’s why I don’t forgive.

  49. Yeah, you’re probably right. And I’ve just been hammered down by so many years of magical-thinking drivel that I’m pathetically grateful when a show gets it even half right.

  50. Uh, just to be clear, I adore The X-files. I hope you’ll all forgive my previous reference. An X-Files where Scully was right all the time would have been dreadful entertainment.

    That wasn’t the case with True Detective. They built a show on a couple on a couple very well drawn characters and pronounced themes. To veer away so wildly from one of those characters at the very end was conspicuous.

  51. Although also carrying the Prometheus taint, what about Charlize Theron for Valerie? She’s alway seemed somewhat unnaturally beautiful, and can also be fairly detached/unemotional. Rooney Mara might also work, though she may be too youthful.

    I think someone above mentioned Kevin Spacey – I could see him as Bruks or maybe even better as Siri Keeton.

    Denzel Washington for Moore.

    Lianna and Sengupta are tougher for me to pick.

  52. @Will: Charlize Theron did an astonishing job as Wournos in “Monster” and lent something like actual gravitas to “Hancock”. But Eva Green might be a better typecast for Valerie.

    Re: casting: I am still holding out for Mila Kunis for Sengupta. 😉 One question: How old is Valerie? The image I have is of someone in the indefinable age somewhere between about 25-35. Fully adult but IIRC the story line has her busting out of a lab, which i assume is equivalent to a creche or all-grades school.

    True Detective: Very strong character-based drama. I have to admit to being taken aback at the ending since there hadn’t been anything really spritualistic in the sky-fairies sense previously. Think of it as a visual metaphor. I’ve heard a lot of people, especially people who have to deal with crime, saying that they don’t particularly believe in YHWH (or the Adversary as in Job) but they definitely believe in the existence of Evil as a force, even if that force lives only in any mentality that could perpetrate such acts (etc). So if that was a visual allegory, think of it representing the departure of something horrible from the world. All of the possible futures with that particular brand of horror and depravity, those all go away like a storm passing and leaving behind a sunny day. So to speak, in visual language. And call it PTSD visions or hallucinations from being in shock, either way, the man knows that he’s done a good thing when he sees those clouds blow over. The audience is satisfied with a visual metaphor that hits a visceral note in almost anyone.

  53. ScottC:

    I know it’s common to posture a bit and nitpick popular characters presented as being intelligent, or even worse, profound in order to let everyone know how much smarter we are than the character and writers.

    You mean, like exactly what Rust spends the first seven and a half episodes doing?

    He just struck me as too much of an /r/atheism type, making a big show of looking down his nose at anyone less enlightened and/or less miserable than him, and some of it sounded suspiciously like, “This is how religious people think Capital-A Atheists talk.”

    I certainly understand the desire for positive representation, but I can’t help but think that a character like this would be a better shake-up to the Hollywood formula.

    HomicidalWombat:

    I would say Rust’s view, though nihilistic, are more centered in pessimism. After all nihilism only states that there is no intrinsic value to existence, not that existence is bad. Rust’s antinatalism for example is a pessimistic view, based on the premise that life tends to entail at least some degree of suffering. I would also say that Rust often phrases his views poorly, in a kind of stoner philosopher fashion at times, though I agree with most of his philosophies. Especially antinatalism.

    Apologies, I was using the term “nihilism” in the colloquial sense rather than the formal sense (and while I don’t wish to asperse a mostly-brilliant writer like Pizzolatto, I can’t help but get the impression that that’s how he uses it too).

  54. I second Tilda Swinton as Valerie. She has an ‘otherness’ in terms of looks and her portrayal of characters who show little emotion, or unknown motive.

    Maybe Thandi Newton for Lianna.

    I like Kevin Spacey for Bruks, or as Moore. I believe he could pull off either.
    I also second the Denzel Washington idea.

    Frieda Pinto as Sengupta, just a suggestion. I think there are others who could fill the role well.

    Have to admit, this casting call is a little depressing when you realize how little a chance an intelligent, thought provoking story with staunch atheist protagonists has of getting an actual film made. A more dominant section of North America seems to claim monopoly on film ideas and their reception. I don’t know if it’s the public who needs things dumbed down, or the religious who drop ratings for those ideas way down.

  55. Sylocat:

    He just struck me as too much of an /r/atheism type, making a big show of looking down his nose at anyone less enlightened and/or less miserable than him, and some of it sounded suspiciously like, “This is how religious people think Capital-A Atheists talk.”

    Hmm. I might spot you stoner philosopher, but I don’t think I can follow you there.

    Rust is a clam and measured presence in the face of a lot of people who don’t engender much empathy. He exhibits empathy in that he is able to understand them, and doesn’t treat them any differently from anyone else, although what if anything he actually feels is unknowable. It’s what makes him such a good interrogator. He speaks to prostitutes, preachers, and people guilty of heinous crimes with the same calm, empathic demeanor, and they all respond to him. Calling it respect wouldn’t be right, but he disrespects everyone equally and dispassionately. Of course, Rust’s hyper rational version of empathy might involve advising you to commit suicide, but there’s no malice or judgement in it.

    Marty on the other hand, ostensibly a Christian, is all over the map. He drips with outward scorn and judgement. Contrast their two reactions at the backwoods brothel.

    The only time you really get Rust dripping venom is when you poke him with a stick. Marty constantly needles him, and Rust’s scorn is evident when the administration meddles with his case for absurd reasons.

  56. ScottC,

    Many people did seem to misinterpret that scene where Rust advises the women, can’t remember her crime, to commit suicide. Most did seem to think it was said out of malice, or just thrown in to show everyone how “edgy” Rust was, but I agree with you that it was a pragmatic solution he offered, born of Rust’s empathy and dislike of meaningless suffering. I thought it was obvious, perhaps I’m odd.

  57. Brian Prince: District 9 was as close to perfect as a science fiction movie can get.

    Eh. It started brilliantly, but IMO it went a bit downhill when they arbitrarily ditched the documentary angle. (Granted it would have been tough to tell that story without breaking that facade.)

    ScottC.: A couple previous corrections to my post are trapped in moderation hell. How does one get past that?

    I honestly don’t know. You’re not on my moderation watchlist, and anyone else goes to the front of the line once I’ve approved at least one of their previous posts. It’s not a function of embedded links. Some people just get caught in the filter, and I haven’t yet had the chance to track down why. (It’s not my highest priority, granted.) But it’s nothing personal. Just a WordPress glitch of some kind.

    Leona: Jodorowsky a la ‘L’incal’ – The lord God have mercy.
    Idris Elba – that is just CRAY. Hell no! If Watts himself hasn’t forgiven Scott for Prometheus, I sure as hell haven’t forgotten Elba in Prometheus.

    More to the point, Leona, who would you cast as Lianna?

    Nick Camm: Hell, Pete, I’ll do the lot for you.

    It’s settled, then. You do the voices, and Andy Serkis plays every other role in a mocap suit.

    Richard Morgan: I’d second Fukunaga for sheer intensity, or, since we have the Bacon link of Rapace, what about this guy:

    Holy shit. Who knew the Stones could still put out stuff like that?

    Ryswell: Did Valerie have hair? I was picturing Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, minus the horns. Not that I think Jolie is the right actor, but that’s the aesthetic.

    Valerie has hair, but it’s short. Maleficent is a great template, but less sepulchral and more predatory.

    Mr Non-Entity: I should pause to note that I may be reading too quickly, but I don’t seem to recall much mention of any ethnicity of characters. Is it mentioned so briefly in passing that I don’t notice, or is it overwhelmed by the description of post-human characteristics? Or is it so unimportant to the story that it’s not mentioned, other than Valerie being very pale?

    It’s unimportant, but it does get mentioned in the sense that things like skin tone and hair style are the sorts of things you notice when you meet someone for the first time. Lianna’s black, Rakshi’s East Indian. Jim and Daniel are both white. A lot of Valerie’s zombies are black (mentioned explicitly as a plot point). Chinedum is black, and has a soft spot for raccoons (that last point has nothing to do with his ethnicity, but makes him a much more sympathetic node in my estimation). We can infer from surnames that a couple of the Bicams in the background are Latino.

    Such things are important to the plot only in the case of the zombies. In other cases they’re mildly important to me personally, because the characters take some of their attributes from people I know in real life and I’d like to keep the tuckerisation consistent. But if Blomkamp wanted a Japanese Bruks for some reason, I’d go with it.

    Sheila: looking at pure white eyes for an entire movie might be difficult and might look too fake. so maybe something that is barely translucent so that you can see slight rings coming through?

    I’m basically ignoring rifters/Blindsight suggestions here, because Echopraxia is the project under current discussion (although I agree Cillian Murphy would be awesome as either Siri or Jukka). But yeah, the eyes: translucent is definitely the way to go, the way Bruce Jensen rendered them.

    Mr Non-Entity: There’s an additional element to depicting the Wattsian Vampire; remember that unless they’re running hot, they store a lot of blood in the torso rather than circulating it to the limbs (even more pronounced in hibernation). That could easily be done with a “fat suit” sort of prosthetic,

    My vampires are not fat. Just because they store blood in the core when not hunting does not mean that they look like the Michelin Tire Man. There are sinuses and cava in there that can engorge or drain without compromising Valerie’s svelte and boney figure.

    Sylocat: I wonder if Zooey Deschanel would be too easy a choice for Lianna.

    Hillary Duff, and now Zooey Descahenel? Guys, what is it about “Her skin was uniform chocolate, not the rainbow swirl of false-color it had been the night before” that you don’t understand? (although, no, it’s not important to the plot. But unless we’ve got some compelling reason, why not go for consistency with the actual book?)

    Cassanne: All I can think of is that I’d love to see Steven Erikson as screenwriter.

    Which one? Wikipedia serves up two authors by that name, one Canadian and one American.

  58. Putting on my artistic know it all cap, which allows me to become an insufferable wannabe authority of all things visual design-orientated, I’d say people are probably over thinking how to portray the physical differences of a Wattsian vampire on screen. In most cases, making radial changes to human physiognomy is fine, but with subtle deviations you run the risk of straying into the Uncanny Valley, even with prosthetic changes.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But maybe in this case, Uncanny Valley could be used deliberately to convey that sense of something being slightly “off” about the characters–their inhumanity.” Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works. Yes the audience would detect something being off, but almost never in the favor of the production. They would nitpick it to death, as people are wont to do.

    An artist can place one eye ten centimeters down the face from the other eye, and people would congratulate him for the disturbingly deformed human being. Ten millimeters, and he’s a bad artist. In most cases, it’s not going to be worth using prosthetics or CG for a being that is 99% human, to gain an inch here and there. Cast an actor that physically resembles the part, and trust the actor and director to communicate the inhuman nature of the subject. Although some long fingered nosferatu hand fingers for long shots might not be out of the question.

    This is why I like the above mentioned suggestions of Charlize Theron and Eva Green for Valerie. They are both roughly physically suited to the part. Eva Green is particularly well suited. I don’t know if anyone has noticed this, but she can do amazing things with her lips. Her mouth is very expressive and wickedly curvy. For a character that will be have a lot of close up shots on her lower face and mouth below shrouded eyes, this seems like great physical casting.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Valerie really offers anything to actors of that stature. Valerie isn’t a character so much as a force of nature. She’s completely and deliberately opaque, doesn’t have many lines, and with little exception doesn’t display anything resembling human emotion or logic. There’s simply not much there. That’s not a criticism. Valerie is deliberately inscrutable. But it would be like asking Meryl Streep to play the shark in Jaws. I think you’d be fine focusing on finding an unknown actress with just the right physicality, rather than worrying about celebrity.

    All that said, Valerie is clearly Sigourney Weaver.

    .

  59. This one:
    http://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/2g0whr/hello_reddit_i_am_novelist_steven_erikson_please/#s
    I think he’s Canadian, pretty sure he lives there currently too. Convenient :)

    I associate the two of you not just because of fangirl reasons, you also share an interest in twisting ancient hominids into interesting new shapes :)

  60. The canadian one. He wrote The Malazan Book of the Fallen, among other things. His real name is Steve
    Lundin, he published some under that name too.

    You should really try his ‘Crack’d pot trail’. It’s short and indescribably brilliant. No need to read his other work first, that one can stand on its own.

  61. @Peter Watts, who wrote:

    My vampires are not fat. Just because they store blood in the core when not hunting does not mean that they look like the Michelin Tire Man. There are sinuses and cava in there that can engorge or drain without compromising Valerie’s svelte and boney figure.

    I stand corrected! I wasn’t thinking that she’d look like Monica in “Friends” when she was on her eating binge, or like the Michelin Tire Man. Now that would be as seriously disconcerting as Gozer the Destructor come in the form of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And “roly poly” does not come to mind when you hear someone say “bloodsucker”. I was thinking of a more strongly muscular core of the type you see on hardcore Pilates ladies, as opposed to the wasp-waisted wisp woman who seems to have been raised in a corset after having a couple of ribs surgically removed. I do recall that Bruks was freaking out over Valerie becoming flushed and warm but I didn’t see anything about her becoming visibly “pumped up“. So I will try to model more of a stretched but healthy very gangling teen-type figure rather than a gigantism case with kwashiorkor.

    @ScottC: Ah, but you know that Maryl Streep would nail it as the shark in Jaws. “Because talent.” Yet you’re right about using a more unknown talent. Far from unknown, there’s Daniela Ruah who is not horribly far from type. Yet I bet she would like a more demanding job than being an enigmatic force of nature that spends a lot of time being scarce and lurking. Though for what it’s worth, I wonder if Valerie isn’t spending a lot of time figuring out a really big problem that probably isn’t the one everyone else seems to think she’s solving. (I could definitely be wrong about this, too.) But if that’s the case, how could that be gotten across to the audience in the film medium?

  62. Mr Non-Entity:

    @ScottC: Ah, but you know that Maryl Streep would nail it as the shark in Jaws.

    I admit, after I wrote that I had a mental image of Meryl Streep unhinging her jaw and swallowing Robert Shaw up to the torso on the deck of the Orca. I now have second thoughts.

  63. ScottC:
    Putting on my artistic know it all cap, which allows me to become an insufferable wannabe authority of all things visual design-orientated, I’d say people are probably over thinking how to portray the physical differences of a Wattsian vampire on screen.In most cases, making radial changes to human physiognomy is fine, but with subtle deviations you run the risk of straying into the Uncanny Valley, even with prosthetic changes.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But maybe in this case, Uncanny Valley could be used deliberately to convey that sense of something being slightly “off” about the characters–their inhumanity.”Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works.Yes the audience would detect something being off, but almost never in the favor of the production.They would nitpick it to death, as people are wont to do.

    That is interesting commentary, and probably right. However, I still have trouble shaking the idea that vampires are different enough from humans that mo-cap CGI may be the best way to go. From the descriptions in the books, it seems like their arms and legs are noticeably, unnaturally long in relation to their torso length, and their mandible structures are noticeably different from a human’s as well (I believe Echopraxia describes a vampire’s mouth as being as close to a muzzle as you can get on an otherwise primate-styled face, in order to accomodate extra and larger teeth); this is a feature I haven’t seen yet in the fan art for the Watts vampires.

    Someone up-thread mentioned Jack Skellington as a model for the body structure of Watts vampires, and from the descriptions in the books, that sounds about right to me. I’d have to imagine something like that would be pretty difficult to pull off with practical f/x.

    If Valerie (because we’re talking about Echopraxia) was done as CGI, then that still begs the question of who would serve as the base model (and handle the voice-work). It’s gotta be someone excellent, to visually and dramatically convince the audience initially that she is a sadistic monster, only to eventually bring them around to the possibly more uncomfortable idea that she isn’t actually sadistic, just inhuman in the way that a cat is inhuman (and yet, at the same time, maybe a little lonely).

  64. Brian,

    Well Brian, keep in mind I write this as a digital artist, so you’d think I’d come down on the pro CG side. But I’m just intimately antiquated with the limitations. I’d ask you to think of all the on screen CG characters you can think of, and ask yourself how many were really convincing to any degree that wasn’t distracting. It’s probably a small number–the result of an enormous budget, an especially talented effects team, and a whole lot of production time. And of that small number, how many of those characters were realistic humans, instead of clearly inhuman creatures like one of the Serkis apes or subhuman creatures like Gollum? I’m betting that number is zero.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, we enter the Uncanny Valley the closer and more realistically we try to portray something that is recognizably human. You end up with your horrifying digital versions of Tom Hanks, or Jeff Bridges, Antony Hopkins, and even near human things like the big Prometheus guy, or whatever the heck the things were in I am Legend. The human eye just rejects them as being off, and the more realistic you get, the more pronounced the rejection. Technology just isn’t there yet, and probably wont be for some while. MoCap gets better all the time, but it’s still largely only capturing the broad strokes, particularly of facial expression. There are a hundred little fine details missing that your conscious mind could never register, but your subconscious detects.

    The digital version of Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy is an example of something where the “wrongness” of the Uncanny Valley theoretically might have worked in favor of the story, as that character is supposed to be creepy after all. But audiences just don’t appreciate that. Instead, Digital Jeff Bridges is used as shorthand in arguments as to why that movie is “bad”, fairly or not.

    Jack Skellington is a humanoid, but he isn’t remotely human. He lives in an artistically stylized world where our minds have suspended normal perception of reality. He doesn’t trigger Uncanny Valley. Take that character out of that world, and try to render him in a realistic universe as a realistic near human character along side live actors, and the eye will reject him.

    So you could inflate the budget of your film, and risk alienating a significant portion of your audience who love to bemoan the overuse of digital effects, and all to create a creature that is about 99% human in the end. Or you accept that the threshold for the differences may be too small to worry about, an instead cast a great actor with a great face, like Willem DaFoe, and rely on the more traditional aspects of film making: performance, direction, lighting, low tech camera tricks, off speed filming, good makeup, and creative editing.

    How much could digital effects improve on F.W. Murnau’s long shadows in Nosferatu? How much CG did Antony Hopkins and Jonathan Demme require to make Hannbial Lector utterly inhuman? How dated does Gollum seem now? Live action Antony Hopkins will still be terrifying in 20 years. In 20 years time, we’ll look at Gollum like we do stop-motion King Kong.

    When I think of Watts vampires, I think of unsettling but mostly human serial killers that are terrifying more for the wrongness in their behavior, than the minor deviation in features. I think of Tom Noonan in Manhunter, or Antony Hopkins. The closest movie vampire I picture to them, are the vampires in 30 Days of Night. Obviously that movie has plenty of problems, and those creatures are pack hunters unlike Wattsferatu, but Danny Huston is exactly what I picture. Wrong mouth, dead shark eyes, but otherwise unaltered. It’s the behavior that was off. The way of speaking, moving. Other vampires in that movie had radically altered facial features, but Huston was mostly human, because he had to do the most *acting*. The more makeup or cg effect you pile on, the less acting comes through.

    Sorry about the Wall of Text. I didn’t realize how much I had written. I think about this stuff a lot, and it’s the only time I have much to contribute with all the free floating Big Brains around these parts.
    .

  65. Far be it for me to let a point go unmade, so I’ll also just tack on the following: Digital creatures just aren’t scary. They might be part of a thrilling sequence, but they can’t generate any real fear for some reason I don’t fully understand. About the fastest way to ruin a horror movie is to throw too much obvious CG at it. Even the scariest shots in Jurassic Park were done with Stan Winston’s robots.

    People are scary. And Jukka or Valerie should be terrifying.

  66. @ScottC: […] People are scary. And Jukka or Valerie should be terrifying.

    I covered a little of the same ground earlier. BTW nice to see someone more professionally-involved weigh in on the CGI issue. My own experience is mostly pretty old and more about CAD, blueprint-type stuff. Welcome and thanks!

    I recall with some vagueness a passage from “Blindsight” in which our narrator tells us how if one just happened to find one’s self standing right next to a vampire, aside from the gangling lean-and-hungry look, the second they moved, you’d be thinking “this is a murderer, and a practiced one”. Something to that effect. Again, as Sengupta observes, “she moves all wrong”.

    A bit over 20 years ago I tried to cover the ground of vampire-as-hominid and I certainly wasn’t the first. I don’t know if GRRM was the first but he covered the whole “they move differently” thing really well, if with minimalist phrases like “[character] stood up like a jackknife snapping open […]”. When vampires show up, you don’t see them coming, they’re suddenly there behind you and you feel them more than you see them. Another passage is to the effect of “they came with no sound at all other than quiet whispering of fabric against fabric”.

    If this were done as film, probably a lot of the scariness is going to have to be startle-shots, so the director should be good with the horror genre, if not overly fixated on slashery. For acting, I am thinking of the technique of Peter Mayhew who did Chewbacca. Alternatively, look at the techique of Kevin Peter Hall who was in the suit for “Harry and the Hendersons” as well as the first two “Predator” films. Wikipedia doesn’t specify but I have read elsewhere that he also got his “moves” by studying animals at the zoo. Whoever is playing Valerie would need to be a very good physical actress, capable of being weird without being pretentious about it, and observant and imaginative enough to combine the best motion elements of gorilla and tiger. Familiar and alien at one time.

    About the Uncanny Valley and not-CGI… the original “Planet of the Apes” was actually pretty believable as long as you didn’t look too closely at the mouths. Even the remake wasn’t too awful, and Helena Bonham Carter was pretty believable as a talking chimpanzee. I suspect that we should also wonder if Tim Burton could pull off film versions of “Blindsight” or “Echopraxia”. For those who think that nobody but Tilda Swinton or Sigourney Weaver are right for the part, shift gears for a second and imagine Geena Davis, who was wonderful in “Beetlejuice”.

  67. I nominate Shane Carruth as director. Think of the way he used the jargon of time travel and the looping plotline to such hypnotic effect in Primer. Think of the way he let the sensation of sound and image tell his very strange narrative in Upstream Color. It’s difficult to absorb, but it only makes us lean in and furrow our brows, eager to decipher it. We don’t know the words, but we understand the music, and on reflection, we maybe can decipher the patterns. He’s a filmmaker who trusts that his audience is willing to follow him down thematically and stylistically difficult but rewarding paths. That reminds me of a certain author’s work.

  68. Mr Non-Entity,

    Regarding the movement issue, a common film technique to produce unsettling, off-speed insect-like movements is to simply omit a frame here and there in editing. I think typical directorial smoke and mirrors would be sufficient to account for Wattsferatu speed. People turning around to get a face full of of a terrifying character that wasn’t there a moment prior is a horror movie staple.

  69. ScottC, your points are all well-taken, in particular about how scary a good actor in a serial killer role (such as Tom Noonan or Anthony Hopkins, or for a newer take, Mads Mikkelsen) can be, and about how distracting the Uncanny Valley can be for viewers (although I wonder if that is mitigated at all if you aren’t trying to do a full-CGI version of a recognized face, as was the case with Jeff Bridges in Tron, and are instead presenting someone we haven’t seen before, like Gollum).

    My only real concern is that based on my reading of the books, Watts vampires really are supposed to look inhuman (especially in the limbs), in addition to acting inhuman and moving in inhuman ways. If that can be done with practical f/x alone, Portiaspeed.

  70. Brian:

    […]although I wonder if that is mitigated at all if you aren’t trying to do a full-CGI version of a recognized face, as was the case with Jeff Bridges in Tron, and are instead presenting someone we haven’t seen before, like Gollum).

    Brian, I’d cite Beowulf for a facefull of steaming Uncanny Valley, and those guys weren’t supposed to be representational of the actors. If you look up the term “Uncanny Valley”, it shows you a picture of an unsettling (not in the good way) Japanese robot who you wouldn’t recognize as a celebrity (or as a human). Gollumn is subhuman enough in form that he doesn’t trigger UV, and the animators pumped quite a bit of humanity into him from his original, slightly more monstrous design.

    It has to do with any human face/form when you cross a certain threshhold of realism. Artistically stylized representations are fine, which is why Pixar characters are adorable, and why you will carry digital Tom Hanks from the Polar Express in a deep, dark part of your soul for the rest of your life. And yet, UV doesn’t seem like it’s able to be harnessed in a positive way for deliberately frightening characters–it just causes rejection.

    Obviously this is all just speculation, and my own belabored opinion. But I think it comes down to priorities. Keep in mind an Echopraxia adaptation would be a thoughtful dialogue-driven piece, a bit light on spectacle and action by CG blockbuster standards. Also keep in mind not everything is going to make it from a book onto the screen. There are always compromises from our infallible imagination. Finally, keep in mind Valerie is a small role in the larger story, without much “screen time” as it were. But when she is on screen, it involves complex and intimate interactions with other characters, more often than it involves movie monster slaughter. Can you imagine the scene where Brüks tends to Valerie’s repeatedly broken arm with a CG double? I can’t. Not only would it be logistically difficult for that much complex interaction, but you’re unavoidably restraining the actor’s ability to act against someone in real time.

    So are your priorities:

    1) Performance, genuine audience fear, film longevity, unhindered suspension of disbelief? If you accept my statement that CG creations may be breathtaking, but just aren’t scary, then the choice is clear.

    2) Absolute anatomical fidelity if the few scenes we ever get a full look at Val, and inhuman movement that is as likely to work against audience suspension of disbelief as it is for it (think superhuman Legolas scenes), as well as risk audience backlash for unnecessary use of digital elements. Maybe you can have your cake and eat it too, but are you willing to throw any of the stuff from #1 under the bus?

    So in short, do you want to make Alien, or Prometheus? If we’ve learned anything from horror movies over the years, it’s that the implied or suggested extranormal is always more effective than the explicitly rendered. Seeing is not better than feeling.

    .

  71. Scott,

    I’ve pictured human acting in general but with fx for glimpses or reactions before flipping to human. take the arm breaking…

    As an artist, how would you approach the scene?

    Using sound might be better than too many visuals, but what do repeated breaks sound like? Poetic license might be jarring. See how people complain about the sounds of drawing swords. And it’s already a break. Maybe someone would decide if wraps make a sound when they are ripped off.

    but, I’ve been wondering about visuals. I hate poorly done closeups of gore. I’d rather imagine the gore. So maybe after-the-fact visuals that infer they way her blood only seeps at first. And non-close-ups of flushing and looking less inhuman as the scene progresses. And non-close-ups of used up wraps with more blood on them as the scene progresses. Stuff would be in the background, not foreground.

    so mostly the actors carying things, but with some physical actions to represent the physiognomy of vampires. If the audience doesn’t know, the changes aren’t frightening. The lack of reaction and rebreaking her arm tells something about her, which is entirely good for establishing her character emotionally as well as establishing parameters for her ability to function. Maybe in a movie they’d have to do a different scene to establish the intense meaning of the adaptations for fight mode, but man it would suck if that was an infodump scene with lecturing. in the book it is done well with the narration. all in that scene.

    I am interested in how a movie would handle it! I wonder if they’d end up having to drop the scene or replace it with something else that establishes all the same facts while invoking the same reactions in an audience.

    If they couldn’t do that it would suck.

  72. As I said, I tend to think in terms of animation more nowadays, so I imagine the Watts vampires to look as if they were drawn by Peter Chung (Of Aeon Flux fame). Aeon’s movement style would also fit, I think.

    and even near human things like the big Prometheus guy

    Actually the big prometheus guy was a practical effect, a dude in makeup.

    I’ve long suspected that the “uncanny valley” is not a fixed thing, expose people to CG long enough and they get used to it. Drawing cartoon eyes with the pupil in the middle surrounded by white used to be verboten in animation because they looked like manic, staring eyes. The Simpsons started doing it, and now 30 years later I don’t think the effect is anywhere as pronounced.

    Like in nature, mimicing a wasp only works if the predator knows about wasps. We’ve had decades of bad CG saturation, paradoxically, I think this makes us more tolerant to it. Like the young kids who run like anime characters because they lack actual outdoors experience and don’t know it’s not practical to run with your arms trailing behind.

    Unless you’re a military zombie… that scene where Brüks clocks them at 9ms had me thinking, I had a good run last night and when I was at my fastest (Pacing cyclists) I was barely going at 17km/h, they were going twice as fast, around 34km/h. That’s one hell of a clip.

    Another problem a movie adaptation has is action movie stunt inflation, someone mentioned Zoe Saldana for Valerie so I caught one of her movies the other night (Colombiana, typical assassin revenge story). The kind of stunts and physical feats a supposedly normal human protagonist carries out in a movie like this are already pretty much Vampire tier, so you’d need clever direction to establish a grounded realism and then subvert it with the inhuman physicality of the posthumans.

  73. Sheila: And non-close-ups of flushing and looking less inhuman as the scene progresses.

    Oh, and a risk about the assumption that a vampire’s physiognomy would appear more human in some aspects (the skin changes) is that it might make her look too human. this might cause the character to appear softer to the audience rather than more bad ass and lethal. (particularly a risk with female characters in our culture.)

    so maybe my imagination is wrong that a vampire who is having these reactions looks more human.

    Hey Peter, do vampires look somewhat more human as this happens?

  74. Sheila:

    I’ve pictured human acting in general but with fx for glimpses or reactions before flipping to human. take the arm breaking…

    As an artist, how would you approach the scene?

    I don’t want to overplay that artist thing. I don’t work in Hollywood, and am no real authority. I’m just a guy that engages in art flavored activity, digital and otherwise. I also don’t want to seem like I’m down on CG. It’s an amazing tool, and it’s absolutely superb for certain things, particularly seamless background elements and hard surface technological constructs. Obviously a Portia would be a digital creation. I’m doing a digital sculpt of Jukka Sarasti right now in Zbrush. But like a lot of movie fans, I’m just down on the overuse and over-reliance on digital imagery for things that could have been done in a more practical fashion.

    Like some people, I weep for the loss of miniatures (or “bigatures” in the WETA vernacular) from the original LOTR trilogy, in favor of the wholly digital world of the new ill-advised Hobbit films. I completely reject the new digital creatures in those movies and their overwrought hijinks, in place of the great make-up jobs in the original where a human actor could have done the job. The CG critters in the Thing premake left me entirely cold, despite being much more visually elaborate than a rubber head on clearly fake legs, being pulled across the floor with a string. Don’t get me started on the last Indiana Jones movie.

    I just think the ability to visualize anything has made people lazier film makers. We’ve forgotten a lot of what we knew about the power of implied vs the seen–the infallibility of the human imagination as a rendering engine. A flash of a vaseline coated rubber appendage under a strobe light to suggest movement, is worth a hundred digital xenomorphs in terms of tension.

    But to answer your question, I definitely picture live actors for Watts vampires, with the exception of scenes that require impossible or dangerous movement that would be impractical to portray any other way. An impossible jump, zero gravity maneuver, or a body falling down a cliff. Long shots. However, I would also avoid showing anything like this unless deemed absolutely critical for the story, because audiences are really good at spotting digital doubles, and it takes some people right out of the movie. I wouldn’t want to rely on a digital double under extended scrutiny for more than a second or two. If the cost of that is to leave something to the audience’s imagination, all the better.

    There’s no substitute for a real actor’s face and performance though, if you’re trying to be scary or deliver dialogue with nuance. The arm breaking scene would require a lot of intimate interaction between a couple actors, and probably some great foley. I can just imagine some guy on a sound stage breaking a bunch of celery sticks into a mic to get a good sickening splintering bone sound.

    Constantine was not a particularly good movie. But I do like the scene with Peter Stormare (who would make a great Sarasti) having fun playing an idiosyncratic and feral Lucifer. He gives a real sense of someone who is talking to someone he means to consume, and is playing with his food. I like the lunge at the very end that isn’t CG enhanced in any way, but feels really fast because of good editing, effective sound design, and the performance of the actors that sells it. I love how he just takes a little taste of Constantine there at the end.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJgOxY_3qII

    That’s over the top, but not too far away from how I imagine a conversation with a Wattsferatu, and no amount of CG could have convincingly recreated it with the same tension. I don’t think portraying a few degrees of minor topological variance is worth losing that. No amount of CG effects in the world can recreate the kind of stuff a Willem DaFoe can do with his amazing face. Do a Google image search for “Bobby Peru”.

    I guess I’m soapboxing on this not only to defend my point about a purely theoretical Echopraxia movie and how I’d like to see it made, but also just to rant about modern movies in general. I just read today that Ben-Hur is being remade because someone probably thought that hundreds of computer generated actors and chariots competing in a dangerous race could somehow improve upon actual footage of hundreds of real actors and chariots competing in a dangerous race.

    If one good thing has come out of this rant, it’s that the Bobby Peru reference has made me think of what a David Lynch Echopraxia might look like. I may not sleep for a week.
    .

  75. Fascinating discussion. It made me think that for the vampires, you don’t need a great actor, you need a dancer or an athlete. Someone with an extreme body and extreme physical skills, someone who is good at choreography.
    And maybe, to create a subtle confusion in the viewers, cast them as the opposite gender? That might also make it easier to make the faces and proportions seem just slightly ‘off’. And the movements, if you tell someone ( a ballet dancer? ) to move like the opposite gender. Well, if I was the director, I’d try that approach first.

  76. Cassanne: cast them as the opposite gender

    speaking of which, I’ve been imagining versions of a movie where the actors are cast with different combinations of genders and races. it is giving me a lot of pause for thought when I introspect about how I react to gender and race in movies. If I imagine Bruks as a woman, do I imagine that he has the same amount of vulnerability, agency, competency, toughness. My reaction to Bruks as written is that he is damn rugged and manages to survive all kinds of crap. I’d want to see the same thing in a woman, but I can see films where they don’t pull that off well.

    People who do casting are going to have hella time on this?

  77. Cassanne,

    cast them as the opposite gender

    Didn’t Babylon 5 do this? Or maybe they intended to but didn’t? I distinctly recall reading about this idea for this show, but since I never actually watched it back in the day, I couldn’t say for sure

  78. Nestor,

    I remember that it was the plan for Delenn.

    I can’t find primary sources for you, but this comes close. I like the post since it brings up the trouble they had with fx for getting this to work which is why they changed the plans for the show.

    Subject: Re: changes in Delenn’s head

    [snip]

    JMS, 14 Dec 1992:
    “Well, hmm….I guess I can come out with this now. As you know, it was
    our plan to go for a very androgynous Delenn _ a male voice (which was to be
    computer/electronically altered), female mannerisms, and a very ambiguous
    makeup. We’ve now gone through about every possible electronic alteration,
    and frankly, none of them sound as convincing as I’d like. Many of them
    sound *okay*, but we’ve taken a hard and fast position on this show that
    “okay” is simply not sufficient.

    So we’ve decided to leave Delenn female, with the performer’s original
    voice intact and unaltered. Interestingly enough, when the performance was
    shown at Wishcon and LosCon, the audience responded very positively to her
    natural voice, urging that it be left alone. Which is now what we’re going
    to
    do.”

    And one minor nit-picky correction (’cause I’m a stickler for accuracy)…
    just a single diagloue change:

    JMS, 19 Oct 1994:
    “…so we finally decided to let it stand and change the one reference to
    “he” to “she,” and that was the end of it.”

    [snip]

  79. Nestor:
    As I said, I tend to think in terms of animation more nowadays, so I imagine the Watts vampires to look as if they were drawn by Peter Chung (Of Aeon Flux fame). Aeon’s movement style would also fit, I think.

    Actually the big prometheus guy was a practical effect, a dude in makeup.

    Prometheus Engineer was both practical and CG, depending on the scene. I admit that when I said that, I was only thinking about the digital Engineer in opening sequence that there’s no mistaking for a real person with the “off” facial expressions when he starts to dissolve.

    You can see the wireframe here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Dc_zsM2p34

    I’d love to see a stylized, fully animated Echopraxia like Aeon Flux. You can do anything in animation. Change the nature of visual reality, there is nothing to reject. UV only happens when you approach photo-realism.
    .

  80. Saw The Zero Theorem this evening. Inspired by the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s Terry Gilliam’s third in his dystopic trilogy.

    If you want to know what a busy, info-heavy day on Twitter or whatever immediate feeds people use is like, Waltz captures it pretty well in the first half hour; sometimes feels like sound and fury signifying nothing. Which is, I guess, part of the point.

  81. Amazon recommendations usually tend toward ‘why the $*#@ would they think I would like that’, but a couple weeks ago they offered me Blindsight. I’ve been completely useless to the rest of the world ever since. In the past 2 weeks, I’ve read Blindsight and Echopraxia twice, The Colonel and the Rifters ‘trilogy’. I haven’t gotten much sleep and may have let some reasonably important life things slide (for example, I totally spaced on a doctors appointment and I think the HOA heavies cruised my house earlier today because neighbor dogs keep getting lost in the knee high grass in my yard) but I’ve read some damn fine books, so I consider it time very well spent. Peter Watts, thanks for the books. Love, love, love them.

    Anyway, here are my casting thoughts.

    Brüks – Bryan Cranston. He can show hapless and in-over-his-head, and/or smart, tough and scary-intense, yet stay relatable to his audience all the while. He can reel you in and make you want to stick with him. I know I rooted for Walter White way past the point that it was probably morally acceptable to do so. Like all the way past that point. I’m actually still rooting for him right now.
    I could also see John Cusack, with a touch of his Being John Malkovich schlub (not to the caricature level of BJM of course, just a little of the look).

    Moore – Unless you want a 20-something Siri, Moore needs to look his age, but not be too old to be a believable badass. I also picture him as slightly older than Brüks, but I can’t remember if that was explicitly stated so that might not be a factor. I’m thinking Ed Harris. He would also make a great father/son pair with Cillian Murphy as Siri.

    Lianna – leaning toward Gabrielle Union. She’s a highly underrated actress in my opinion. She’s likable and beautiful without being intimidating. By that I mean, i don’t think for a second I could take her in a pretty-off, but I wouldn’t be mad at her for beating me. And then we would have a drink together.

    Sengupta – agree with Mila Kunis. I always thought of her as the airhead from that 70s show, but in interviews she can be aloof, sarcastic and pretty bitchy. But she’s also a really cute fast-talker. I think she’s got all the traits to be a pretty great Sengupta.

    Valerie – once someone mentioned Tilda Swinton, I couldn’t think of a single other option. I can’t even remember how I used to picture Valerie. I can’t think of a better casting recommendation than that.

    Siri – love Cillian Murphy for Siri. Or for just about anything, really.

    And I know this is about Echopraxia, but now I’m stuck in a fantasy casting mindset and can’t help but throw a couple Rifter picks out there.

    Lenie – Ellen Page could be pretty great. So could Rooney Mara. Or give Maisie Williams a few more years…
    Lubin – Liev Schreiber. Daniel Craig is my second choice. Craig’s just too pretty to be the perfect Lubin for me.
    Desjardins – character actor Jimmi Simpson. Hands down, no other option for me.
    Rowan – someone you don’t want to like. She has to earn it. Bebe Neuwirth, I think.

    Thanks to anyone who read these thoughts from a newbie. This was fun.

  82. @Heather C

    Simpson and Cranston: just brilliant. Swinton as well. Appears in TZT and is unrecognizable. And Ed Harris is another actor good for anything, would make a great Moore.

    Great list

  83. It’s interesting how trying to cast Echopraxia reveals how–I would use the term racist here but for the controversy surrounding the very concept of human “race”–I’ll say “phenotype deficient” Hollywood really is. We’ve got a queue a mile long of older white men lining up in our heads to play Brüks and Moore, but I’ve noticed some people struggle to cast Lianna and Sengupta, casting the wrong ethnicity, or avoiding those characters altogether.

    Mostly that second one with me. I just didn’t want to throw out the name of an actress because it was “that one Indian actress I know”, otherwise you’d have Mindy Kaling playing Sengupta (which isn’t completely crazy now that I think about it–she does a great manic ramble). I thought about Gabrielle Union as mentioned in an above post because that is literally the only name of a young-ish (not so much anymore) black female actor I can recall off the top of my head. I’ve got a decent sampling of talented older black women in my head, but none suitable for Lianna.

    I guess it just shows how few roles there are to highlight talented young female actors out there as anything other than “pretty young person”, and of those, how few would ever go to a non-white. So I say cast unknowns for those roles, after a diligent search. Trying to squeeze out a name for those two characters would be so unfair to the talented actors that are undoubtedly better suited to the role than the meager sampling I can manage.

  84. Er, don’t feed me to the vamp (at least not literally), but having watched some “Strike Back” lately[1], I had some strange ideas about Laëtitia Eïdo (playing Markunda) and Valerie:

    http://strikeback.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Makunda

    At least, I guess it would certainly fit a certain part of the uncanny valley[2], though I guess we’d still need some enhancing make-up.

    And, err, no, that has absolutely nothing to do with my fetish for an, err, “Eastern Mediterranean look”, why are you asking?

    [1] Well, blame German FOX Series showing Doctor Who. Me watching while surfing. And keeping the channel while working on at the computer.

    [2] E.g. the one where the Uncanny Valley effect and physical attractiveness (or was it the other way round) interact in a strange way…

  85. I’ve only read the book once, so I have to admit, a lot of the physical details didn’t stick with me (I don’t have a clue what age most people are supposed to be, but whenever I cast someone who seems too young I figure I can excuse it under the theory that anti-aging techniques are probably decently developed… actually my main problem’s the opposite, I think of somebody I like but they’re a little too old to credibly play the part).

    And also most of my choices are totally cheap- I’ll be honest, most are just drawn because they’re in a show I’ve liked over the years.

    Sengupta: Agam Darshi, who played Kate on a couple seasons of Sanctuary (which I was never a huge fan of but I catch bits of here and there on TV), although, granted, she’s sort of in the category of “one of the few actresses of Indian descent I know”, but when all else fails, go with what you know, and I do like her in what I’ve seen.

    Lianna: I’ve seen Kandyse McClure (Dualla from BSG) capture both “inherent likeability” and “dewy-eyed faith” before, so I’ll go with her.

    Moore: My first instinct was a bit strange, Clancy Brown… he’s normally known for sort of menacing-voices but, at least in my mind, there’s sort of an underlying tenderness that can work well with the bromance aspect of the story, and he can play a military guy. Although really my view of Moore is somebody who doesn’t really look or sound like a military guy but commands respect nonetheless, and I hit on one while I was considering options for Isaac Szpindel… Enrico Colantoni. In fact, I like him so much that I think he’s going to be my choice.

    Bruks: I’d go with a Lance Henriksen type, but I think he’s a bit too old, again, I don’t have a good memory/image of what ages everyone’s supposed to be, but he feels like someone who’s roughly Moore’s age, maybe a little younger, but a little less the hero type. Matt Frewer (who’d also be on my list of Spindzel if he didn’t strike me as a bit too old for that) is the only one that comes to mind, or maybe Robert Carlyle. Or Kevin Bacon, just so you can connect him to everybody.

    Valerie: It’s mandatory for me to nominate at least one Firefly actor for every casting scenario, so I’ll go with Summer Glau. Yes, she’s not tall, but she can do creepy and graceful ballet-like movements (having trained in ballet).

    I won’t bother trying with the Bicams or zombies as they strike me as pretty much just any-warm-body’ll-do type roles.

    And Blindsight (which I’ve read a lot more but still don’t have especially good mental images of people):
    Siri: Wentworth Miller has a detached demeanor that I like. Or if you want to sort of half-typecast, Jim Parsons from the Big Bang Theory does do “just a little bit off” very well and would probably get a lot of media attention for moving from a comedic to a heavy SF role.

    Susan James: Either a different actor for every personality (if we see the story through Siri’s POV…) or Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black since she can whipsaw between multiple different demeanors.

    Isaac: I had a choice I liked but then I put him in as Moore. So, I dunno… Kevin Pollack?

    Cunningham: William Fitchner, sort of dead expression, but he makes it work and it fits with how I see Cunningham. I don’t know why thought, but Joel Bissonette also seems to pop in my head visually for him, even though I’ve only seen him in pretty much one thing that wasn’t especially like Cunningham.

    Bates:Tough one, because she’d both described as having Amerind features and a sort of stocky body and red-hair, which don’t especially go together with traditional hollywood actresses. So I’ll cheap out, draw on SF, and suggest Rachel Luttrell, who played Teyla on Stargate Atlantis.

    Sarasti: Always a tough one. I know he’s not supposed to be pretty, but let’s face it, this is Hollywood, they’re going to make him pretty and hopefully with danger behind it through makeup and other effects. So Jared Leto. Even without makeup I look into his eyes and get transfixed, not in a good way, but in the way where I get the impression he looks at people and sees meat (though I’m sure he’s a lovely man).

    Chelsea: Jewel Staite (again, one Firefly-alum per casting! ;))

  86. Oo, I like the choice of Sheldon for Siri, and Clancy for Moore, both completely unlike they were pictured in my mind but logical in hindsight.

  87. @Pete

    Just noticed that The Colonel italic blurb at Tor calls Moore “Keaton” at bottom of paragraph.

  88. I’m surprised no one suggested Christopher Nolan for the director. Maybe after “Interstellar” comes out people will think of him more for science-fiction. I like that he’s ambitious and tried different kinds of stories — you’d need someone like that to begin to capture the ideas of PW’s books.

  89. Mark: I’m surprised no one suggested Christopher Nolan for the director. Maybe after “Interstellar” comes out people will think of him more for science-fiction.

    It is going to be shit. Very likely. Numbers..
    Good sf films are extremely rare. About the only ones that are not completely non-sensical are….

    .. can’t really think of any. Perhaps 2001. Westworld seems fine too.

    Stuff like Blade Runner. I mean, come the fuck on, someone making engineered bio robots derived from humans are indistinguishable biochemically to use as slaves? And they don’t even put radio tags into them.

    That makes about as much sense as some future science project resurrecting an extinct species of super-intelligent predatory great apes. And they don’t even bother to inflict say, congenital dwarfism on those to make them any less deadly. Or limblessness.

  90. Y.:

    Stuff like Blade Runner. I mean, come the fuck on, someone making engineered bio robots derived from humans are indistinguishable biochemically to use as slaves? And they don’t even put radio tags into them.

    Well, if NdGT can point out the flaws in Gravity while still enjoying it for all the things it does well/got right, then I can enjoy Blade Runner for visionary film making and contemplative themes about the nature of humanity, even if it doesn’t rigorously explore the probabilities of the Replicant scenario. There is no film of any genre without flaws. We enjoy them for they offer us despite those flaws. If…


    That makes about as much sense as some future science project resurrecting an extinct species of super-intelligent predatory great apes. And they don’t even bother to inflict say, congenital dwarfism on those to make them any less deadly. Or limblessness.

    Oh. I see what’s going on here. I didn’t make the connection with the name from the Mote-Turbation thread. Sorry, my mistake. Carry on.
    .

  91. Haven’t read Echopraxia enough to really get a sense for characters (I get visuals first, characters have to seep in), but I’d have to go with Bryan Fuller and his team from Hannibal for production crew, even True Detective’s psychology pales here.

    As a bonus they’d be perfect for Blindsight given the nature of its narration.

  92. OT:

    The credible advance reviews for Alien: Isolation are pretty much all saying it’s the real deal–the first authentic Alien video game adaptation. Long on atmosphere, an unkillable alien that you can’t shoot your way past and must outwit stalking you at every turn, faithful art direction that features boxy 70s keyboards and CRTs, and reportedly very scary.

    Might be just the thing to help me put Prometheus behind me this Halloween.

  93. I’ll just sneak in here:

    Bruks – has to be Keanu Reeves, surely? He’s built an entire acting career on stumbling about looking confused, so he’d be perfect. He’s also 50 now, so decent age.

    Moore – David Bowie, because, why not? Though he might be better as Sarasti. You could always go Sean Bean, but he lives too long into the film for that…

    Valerie – someone mentioned Taylor Swift upthread – not a bad idea as she’s the “right” physical type but is about as threatening as a marshmallow. Pretty much any vacant-eyed runway model would work – the bar scene would be CGI whoever you cast.

    Lianna – Hannah Simone? For some reason I think of her as beautiful, I think Bruks does, too.

    Sengupta – Amita Dhiri, maybe?

    Bicams were a bit interchangeable for me.

  94. At the risk of thread necromancy, I thought I’d share the Jukka Sarasti bust I’m working on. Just a quick 3d sculpt, perhaps to develop into a full character. This was the closest on topic ‘Crawl post, but I don’t know if anyone will even see it here.

    http://s24.postimg.org/lizrsi1tv/jsarasti_wip.jpg

    Like I spoke about earlier in the thread, subtle changes in human physiognomy are much harder to pull off than pronounced changes. I’m operating under the idea that Wattsferatu would cause you to look twice at something being off, but not be overtly monstrous at a glance. I extended the mandible, but I wanted to stop short of an LOTR orc or Planet of the Apes monkey mouth, so I gave him a bit of an underbite to sell the extended jawline. He also has a slightly flared jaw, and exaggerated jaw musculature. I wanted him to look like he could really clamp down on something. I flattened his nose a bit, to give the profile a slight lupine quality. I also couldn’t resist giving him the slightest suggestion of a pointed ear.

    As a result of all of that, he’s got a lot of bad angles where his “offness” works against me. He wouldn’t pass an anatomy critique unless I explained things, and generally if you have to explain why something looks wrong, it IS wrong. So, it’s a work in progress.

    There’s a little bit of Peter Stromare, a bit of Willem DaFoe, a bit of Ron Perlman, a bit of Dick Cheney in my Jukka’s DNA, and if I ever do a fully posed character, I’ve got a lot of Peter Sellers Dr. Strangelove reference for some great off head angles.

    Never did manage to pin down Sarasti’s ethnicity. I researched his name, and found that the two names suggested different origins. I don’t even know if Wattsferatu have recognizable ethnicities–they probably get their names from their handlers. So I tried to give him features that could suggest many things, but perhaps skewing slightly Indian.