Today on Casting Couch, we’re pointing our eyes towards the recent Image novella “Genesis” by Alison Sampson and Nate Edmondson. Telling the story of Adam, he one day wakes to find that he has the ability to create anything he wants just by thinking about it — but there are dire consequences involved with that kind of power, as Adam experiences first hand and we watch from the sidelines as things are built up and then begin to fall apart.
“Genesis” is not the typical type of comic that gets put under the microscope for Casting Couch, but it’s never the less an interesting one, and certainly presented a different sort of challenge. Having read the book, I’ll admit: I can’t tell you what it’s really about. Not in any way that would help you understanding the ending, anyway; it’s one of the books you really need to read for yourself, to pull your own experiences and thoughts out of. However, in looking at it in terms of a film, it occurred to me that the surreal nature of it and the near-Kubrickian finale, that it could still make a rather interesting film — but for that, we need the right director.
Director – Terry Gilliam
With a book like “Genesis,” it’s probably easy to throw out your stereotypical surreal director and assume they could to it. David Lynch comes to mind, of course, as well as Jean-Pierre Jeunet. While they’re certainly talented, though, I can’t help but imagine that someone like Terry Gilliam would be the best fit for this film, specifically because more than anyone else Gilliam knows how to balance the real with the surreal in a way that the blurred line becomes impossible to notice sometimes.
That’s why Gilliam’s one of my favorite directors, in a nut shell. All of Gilliam’s films certainly have wild qualities about them, but it’s hard to look at his work and not see pangs of our own reality in it. With something as nightmarish as Brazil or Twelve Monkeys, those represent what we’re becoming; even the fantasy landscapes of Doctor Parnassus are displaced by their relationship with our world.
So if we want a director to give the film a grounded and visceral landscape that is touched and transformed by Adam’s powers in a way that still feels like an extension of reality, Gilliam is the way to go.
Adam – Domhnall Gleason
The lead role of Adam is a tough one, because the character himself seems almost removed from us. He’s somewhat closed, lost in his mind and in his waning control of his power. He also seems clumsy, though, and at times not quite assured of that which happens around him — yet at the same time, we need to be able to look up to him with a certain sense of awe. He is, after all, a god.
So for Adam I’ve chosen Domhnall Gleason, an actor who is quite underrated yet whose played some rather powerful roles. We’ve certainly seen him grasping at un-defined power in About Time, and we’ve seen him portray someone outside his own body as Ash in Black Mirror. Gleason is always able to strike a particular balance in his role that shows a contained amount of charm over a more conflicted inner debate, and that seems rather perfect for Adam.
Lillian – Melanie Laurent
Lillian is a complex role as well, but an important one as she is ultimately the character through which we (and Adam) learns the dangerous scope of his power. It’s a smaller role than others, but her role is pretty vital towards the story. And to portray her, I can’t think of anyone better than the wonderfully talented Melanie Laurent.
Laurent is one of the most impressive actresses working in the film industry today, and she always brings a rather impressive amount of gravitas to her roles. Yet with “Genesis,” I’m particularly thinking of her role in Enemy where she played opposite two versions of Jake Gyllenhaal, with each iteration of him bringing out a different performance from her. Given Adam’s decay, the parallel in that role seems like it would be quite perfect in creating a similarly powerful performance here.Continued below
Adam’s Mom – Isabella Rossalini
Unfortunately there aren’t too many roles in “Genesis,” so extending the cast was difficult. However, the one other notable person that Adam interacts with in the book is his mother, in an incredibly surreal but sad sequence more towards the end. It’s just about the time that Adam is sort of beginning to comprehend his abilities and what they mean, yet he still hasn’t quite learned anything.
So while it’s a very small role, Isabella Rossalini fits well here for Adam’s mother. She’s a talented actress in her own right, but she also seems like someone who could fit the part pretty perfectly as well.
Bear – Ralph Fiennes
Perhaps the most important character in the book outside of Adam, the bear is Adam’s main traveling companion in his ethereal journey. As such, it felt important to me to cast someone who could truly speak to Adam in a different way — that with respect, but also a fair amount of curiosity and just enough doubt. And in terms of actors who have absolutely defined characters that have been beyond this world, you’ll find it difficult to find someone who is more talented than Ralph Fiennes.
Certainly he’s known for his role as Voldemort, but Feinnes has also played Charles Dickens, M, Hades, Francis Dolarhyde and Harry from In Bruges. If anyone knows how to play multiple fairly iconic roles, it’s him, and it is without a doubt in my mind that not only could he give the bear an intriguing voice but — with appropriate motion capture devices — could really bring the bear to life in a unique way that would fit well into the rest of the surreal landscape of the story.
The Bald Man- James D’Arcy
Last but certainly not least, The Bald Man. This character is tough; from my understanding, he’s implicitly supposed to be Adam — but not in a Tyler Durden/Narrator sort of way. And to that extent, Domhnall Gleason playing him would make sense, as the two characters walk alongside one another throughout the book up through the ending. Yet, when looking at this from a film perspective, it seems more interesting to have a separate actor play him and have the director utilize this surreal angle for the benefit of the story.
So for our antagonist (as much as he can be an antagonist when Adam himself is destroying everything around him), James D’Arcy very much fits the bill. He has a similar build to Domhnall, which helps, but D’Arcy is rather accomplished on his own, having proven himself with his multiple roles in Cloud Atlas, as an example. You may also remember him in his excellent portrayal of Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock, which I think more than anything shows his careful and considerate balance between the sane and the psychotic (to borrow a pun).