Adapting AYZ: Casting --Spoilers--
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Author:  LilLeaguer [ Mon Feb 09, 2015 3:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Adapting AYZ: Casting --Spoilers--

Predestination is a very satisfying adaptation of "All You Zombies --", in large part because Michael and Peter Spierig stick close enough to the story in AYZ to be able to bring out the themes of identity and causality of Heinlein's short story faithfully. It is a mistake, though, to simply view this as a "literal" translation of the short story to the movie. Some choices necessarily follow from the translation of the original to a visual medium, while others might be suggested merely by some of the implausibilities in the original story.

Rather unusually, the creators here actually had the question of how many actors to use for the lead parts. John/Jane could have been cast as a single actor throughout, though perhaps The Prisoner too clearly shows the danger of doing this in a visual medium. (It is really hard to avoid looking absurd.) In the short story, Heinlein can simply assert that 30 years have so changed John's looks that the Unmarried Mother does not recognize the Bartender as himself. But in a movie, it would be more difficult to obscure the major plot reveal if the bar conversation were recognizably between two instances of the same character. And if enough makeup were used to hide the identity, that might lessen the audience's belief in the central paradox.

The filmmakers instead went with two actors in the bar scene, and introduced a new plot element, the disfigurement and reconstruction of John's face, to explain why the Bartender looks so different from the Unmarried Mother. In my opinion, both choices helped bring out the identity problems at the heart of this story, even though they were not straightforward portrayals of Heinlein's story.

This leads to the other significant change resulting from the appearance of the characters; in Predestination John openly acknowledges that he recognizes Jane in 1963, calling her beautiful. In AYZ, Heinlein strongly implies that John is able to actually seduce Jane without recognizing himself from just about 7 years ago. "Now you know who he is - and after you think it over you'll know who you are... and if you think hard enough, you'll figure out who the baby is... and who I am. --" Predestination has teetered in the other direction off of this central paradox. AYZ has the Unmarried Mother not actually recognizing his seduction of himself; Predestination has him romancing herself knowingly. To be honest, I'm not sure which way is easier to swallow, but I suspect that only Predestination's works within a visual medium.

Other casting decisions were possible. We discussed the problems of one actor to some extent above. Even with two, the choice could have been strictly along gender lines; Jane played by one, and John by the other actor. This would, I think, have allowed a better portrayal of the romantic section, but at the expense of the bar scene, which is more central in Heinlein's story. (A story that uses the same paradox to explore the issues around self romance in depth could also be an interesting story, but it is not AYZ.)

Another solution would have been three actors: Jane, the Unmarried Mother, and the Bartender. I'm intrigued by this approach, which might have strengthened both of the key scenes, but probably losing some of the power in the central paradox of identity.

In any case, I like how the choices made in Predestination mostly emphasized the themes of identity in the story. They continue to expose the weakest point in the paradoxical story, also present in AYZ, of exactly how you get a person to romance his/herself as needed by the story, but the story continues to be a mind-bending examination of self.

Author:  BillMullins [ Mon Feb 09, 2015 6:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adapting AYZ: Casting --Spoilers--

"A League of Their Own" had different actresses playing the parts of Lori Petty and Geena Davis aged 40+ years. The casting director did a super job of finding actresses who looked like older versions of the principals.

Somewhere out there are actors that look like older versions of Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook.

Author:  LilLeaguer [ Wed Feb 11, 2015 10:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Adapting AYZ: Casting --Spoilers--

BillMullins wrote:
"A League of Their Own" had different actresses playing the parts of Lori Petty and Geena Davis aged 40+ years. The casting director did a super job of finding actresses who looked like older versions of the principals.

Somewhere out there are actors that look like older versions of Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook.

Thanks, Bill.

Well, to be fair, the film makers did use younger actors to play Jane as a child; Sarah Snook takes over as a teenager.

Final Spoiler warning.

But they could have used another actor to play the Fizzle Bomber. My thesis (that I didn't make clear enough above) is that the film makers are choosing different actors for Jane/John when they want to obscure her/his identity, and use the same actor when they want to emphasize her/his identity. (I love how "identity" works both ways in this movie.) So the choice not to use another actor for the older Ethan Hawke is meant to clue in the viewers quickly that (when he is revealed) the Fizzle Bomber is an older version of the Bartender, at about the same time as the Bartender is also realizing it.

Author:  PeterScott [ Wed Feb 11, 2015 8:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adapting AYZ: Casting --Spoilers--

The FB would have had to have undergone another facial reconstruction in that case, no? Which would have required explanation that wouldn't have advanced the plot. Or am I missing your point?

Author:  LilLeaguer [ Thu Apr 09, 2015 3:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adapting AYZ: Casting --Spoilers--

Sorry for dropping this conversation.

My point, if I can unmuddle it, was to look at some of the problems in adaptation that exist even in a "straight" adaptation as in Predestination. One problem is how to hide the identity of The Unmarried Mother for dramatic impact. This is easy to do in the book, as it is a non-visual medium. In the movie, they introduced a new plot element (John's cosmetic surgery) and made a strategic casting decision. They used other misdirections to obscure the relationship between John and the Fizzle Bomber.

I hope to pick up on a couple of other adaptation problems that I think the film makers solved in interesting ways.

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