At the time I didn’t know how to answer the question, but only because I have an absolutely shocking memory for names, and when asked to recall the name of someone I should know, unless they’re called Mum or Dad, there’s a gaping hole in my memory where that name should be. (It’s so bad I once turned up at my local writer’s circle and made everyone wear name badges for the evening. True story.)
ANYWAY… truth is, I did know, and have always known, who would (or could) play each role, were my novel suddenly destined for the silver screen.
Back in those early heady days of bashing out the book, my friend Wendy criticised me for being a little scant on my character description. “I don’t know what these people look like,” she said. I mumbled some rubbish about wanting my readers to make up their own mind and she probably gave me one of her looks, because I went straight home and spent the next few hours on google finding images of actors & actresses that reminded me of the characters I’d created. I printed those pictures off, stuck them on the notice board in my office, and glanced up at it frequently whenever I was writing.
Here then, are those pictures. And I’d love to know what you think. Post your thoughts, feelings, or alternative casting ideas in the comments at the bottom of this page (or here if you’re reading this in an email)
Alex (Nick Frost)
“This mine?” asked Alex. He drained two thirds, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, let out a satisfied belch, then sat down next to me. “Where’s yours?” he asked, after a moment or two. I stared at a fleck of melting snow caught in the stubble on his face and the pathetic strands of damp blond hair glued to a forehead that had once sported an impressive quiff.
I’ve always admired Nick Frost, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he’d be absolutely perfect for the role of Alex so long as someone keeps him in a permanently bad mood throughout the shooting of the movie. (Alex doesn’t smile. Or laugh. Or joke.)
James Corden might also be good for the role if you could get him to stop smiling for two seconds.
Melanie (Jessica Alba)
“Jason?” I looked up into two gorgeous emerald green eyes, and froze. Those were her eyes. My field of vision widened to take in her nose. Regal in nature. That was definitely her nose. Then there was the slightly coy, but nonetheless playful smile. And those beautiful white teeth. And that hair, tumbling out from under a cerise beret – even though she was now a blonde my heart wasn’t fooled for a moment; it was still her. And all at once I was fourteen again, trombone in hand, looking across at her from my place in the brass section.
It’s just not possible to make a movie these days without a token American – not if you want that movie to be shown anywhere other than good old blighty. So here’s mine. Jessica Alba. She’s the kind of woman who you imagine she’d probably be in soft focus, even if you met her in real life, and as such she would be absolutely perfect in the role of Jason’s old school crush, Melanie.
Liz (Rachel Weisz)
She was wearing one of my sweaters. And though it was gigantic on her petite frame, it looked good on her. Certainly better than it did on me, although any hint of a bosom was lost within its deep woollen folds. Still, I liked the way her hair fell long and straight to the centre of her back, and though I’d long since given up on seeing her in some sort of skirt or dress, those skinny jeans were very flattering. I could almost fancy her if she wasn’t – well, if she wasn’t Liz.
Jason’s girlfriend Liz – who becomes and ex-girlfriend pretty much by the end of the first page – needs to be played by an actress who can pull off fierce & domineering, but not in such a way that you’re left wondering why Jason would go for such a woman in the first place. Rachel Weisz – seen here pulling her hair out in frustration – is such a actress.
Sian (Rebecca Hall)
“Jason – come on!” said Sian, leaning back in her chair and opening her arms. “I’m a ten minute cab ride from you! I guarantee there will be no boring people, everything Sainsbury’s has to offer in the way of alcohol and, best of all,” she lowered her voice for a moment, “it’s fancy dress!! Woohoo!!” Sian jigged around in her chair with as much energy as office etiquette would allow, her skinny arms going up and down like pistons, her head rolling from side to side to the sound of the music in her head, all in an effort to demonstrate what larks awaited me at her party.
Jason’s party loving work colleague needs to be played by a slender woman, who looks every bit the efficient project manager, whilst at the same time being able to carry off an outfit made entirely of black feathers, with a bottle of vodka in her hand.
Gary (Jack Hudson)
Though the Batman mask covered most of his face, I knew who it was from the sheer arrogance of his swagger. Whether he was walking to the photocopier, or jumping the queue in the staff canteen, Gary swaggered like he owned the very ground beneath his feet. And now he was swaggering in our direction.
Tricky one this. And I confess to getting some help when it came to finding an actor who would have every woman in the audience swooning, whilst at the same time being a complete and utter bastard. Mr Hudson looks like he’d have no problem playing such a role, though I’m sure he’s positively delightful in real life.
Charlotte (Keira Knightly)
If anyone ever doubted the existence of God, Charlotte was proof that he was alive and well. No one that beautiful could have come into existence without some kind of divine intervention. Tall, slender, elegant, and utterly sexual without even realizing it. Even her starkly conservative, prim and proper clothes became uncharacteristically erotic the longer they remained in contact with her.
Clearly, Business Analyst Charlotte needs to pack some punch when it comes to elegant beauty. Let’s hope Keira Knightly is available.
Ria (Gemma Arterton)
That was the moment I should have slid back out of the door and made my retreat, but instead I craned my head to see the owner of the voice, and saw the confident, swaying, curvaceous rear of a slender woman in tight three-quarter length trousers and strappy heels that flirted with the floor just long enough to keep her upright. Hands with long fingers drew small circles at the end of beautiful bare arms, whilst freckled shoulders supported a head that rolled and flicked a punky mop of the most vivid, poppy-red, bobbed hair I’d ever seen.
Sassy salsa dancing nurse Ria, needs to be played by an actress with the attitude to match. And for several years this picture of Gemma Arterton, which is still on the pin board even now, was consulted each and every time I needed to describe Ria’s beguiling features. What though, you might be asking yourself, would Ms Arterton look like with red hair? I confess that I’d absolutely love to find out.
Dave Fells (Bill Nighy)
“Yeah, but he’s not exactly Hugh Heffner, is he?” said a male voice from around the corner created by the stairwell. The owner of the voice walked into view, a cordless phone wedged between his shoulder and ear whilst he used his hands to light a cigarette. He was taller and older than I’d expected, skinny to the point of being undernourished, but the ripped jeans and faded Iron Maiden t-shirt were somehow exactly what I’d envisaged.
Every movie needs to good cameo appearance, and Bill Nighy would be bloomin’ awesome in the role of glamour photographer Dave Fells
Jason Smith (???)
“You still here?”
I sat bolt upright, startled by the sound of someone else in my flat.
“Err – yes. Hold on!” I yelled back, whilst I tried to manage the questions filling up my head: Who was I? Where was I? What time was it? What day was it? Who was the person downstairs? Why were they announcing their presence? Why did they seem surprised that I was here? And why did it feel like I’d only had four hours’ sleep?
Answers started coming back, though not necessarily in the order that I’d asked them: Martin the builder. He had a key. I was at home. In bed. He expected me to be at work. Which meant that it was Monday, past nine in the morning, and I’d overslept, again, because I’d been surfing the internet until the small hours. Which meant I was Jason Smith, from Essex, England. I felt both better and worse all at the same time.
The one thing I really can’t stand, when reading a novel, is creating an image of what the lead character looks like in my head, only to discover a few pages later that I have him or her completely wrong. Especially if I’m supposed to identify with this character or fall in love with them. So forgive me if I seem somewhat reluctant to share my casting ideas for Jason, because until that momentous day when someone does decide this story is worthy of the silver screen, I think it’s important that Mr Smith looks exactly like you want him to look. That said, I am quite intrigued as to what that would be… so feel free to share your Jason casting thoughts with me (and everyone else) in the comments.
Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!
The film will be along some time in the next decade.