Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Einstein Girl moves screenward

Today I went up to Holland Park to meet Emily Hickman of The Agency, who has been ably representing me on various screen-related matters over the past year. In her newly refurbished office I signed an option agreement on the screen rights to The Einstein Girl (aka Das Einstein-Mädchen), the counterparty being the German actor Sebastian Koch, who is in the process of setting up a new film production company in Berlin
Right now Sebastian is probably Germany’s most bankable star, and certainly one of its most highly regarded. Until recently he was best known outside his native country for his role as the playwright Georg Dreyman in The Lives of Others (see above), which won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2006. He has since added leads in many English language productions, most recently Unknown (2011) opposite Liam Neeson and Albatross (2011) opposite Jessica Brown Findlay. Over the past few months, as well as popping over to Greece to star in God Loves Caviar with Catherine Deneuve and John Cleese, he has been shooting the lead role in Suspension of Disbelief (see below),a new thriller being directed by the Oscar-winning director Mike Figgis, of Leaving Las Vegas fame. As soon as that's done, he'll be playing the villain opposite Bruce Willis in the latest installment of the Die Hard franchise.
During the course of last year I had the pleasure of meeting with Sebastian twice in Berlin (once at the famous Einstein café in Charlottenburg, which is well worth a visit). They were very enjoyable meetings, and the possibility exists that we will collaborate on the script development for The Einstein Girl. Sebastian is a bit of an Anglophile, and a great lover of Shakespeare, lending his weight to several Shakespearian ventures in Germany. Whether The Einstein Girl ends up heading in an English or German language direction, though, has not yet been determined. I guess, in the end, like so many things, that’s a decision that will be determined by finance.
In any case, I’m really delighted that The Einstein Girl’s filmic destiny has ended up in such talented and charismatic hands, and I’m unusually confident that something special will eventually emerge.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Author in a tight spot

Writers have been known to adopt desperate measures to get a little peace and quiet. But though my house has never been more full of people – small children with snot and temperatures, an au pair, a recuperating parent with a bewildering pharmaceutical regime, and an endless parade of tradesmen – that’s not what I’m up to in these photographs. Things aren’t that bad, not quite.
I’m actually in the process of fitting insulation beneath a section of roof, rendered highly inaccessible by a recently added stud wall within. Why my Albanian builders (and their British overseers) didn’t do this for me, before the stud wall was built, is for them to explain. But, fed up with corner-cutting and delay, I decided to let my friend Heiko, who knows an immense amount about this sort of thing, take on the job instead. The only problem was that Heiko – who was stuck underground for hours during the 7/7 terror attacks, in a packed rush-hour train – suffers from bouts of claustrophobia. So I decided to help. It turned out to be hot, dirty, suffocating work, but strangely satisfying once completed – not that I’m planning a second foray any time soon.
Actually I’ve always liked the idea of writers having a manual trade, or at least being good with their hands. The notion of the novelist as a pure intellectual, spinning tales in the splendid isolation of a rural retreat, is unattractive to me. I like my artists to get their hands dirty, and to interact with the physical world as directly as possible. That’s probably why Bruno Krug, the central character in The Valley of Unknowing – it would be inaccurate to call him a hero – is a man who writes for a living and plumbs on the side (though it was once the other way around).

Actually, I could do with Bruno’s plumbing skills right now, because the Balkan bloke who came to fit up the new bathroom was something of a let-down. I suppose if he wrote good poetry or something, that would make up for his professional deficiencies. But it would have to be very, very good.