Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rowan Atkinson for Drood

I recently finished listening to the audio production of Drood by Dan Simmons. Drood is a fictionalized account of the last years of Charles Dickens' life as told by his friend and sometimes collaborator Willkie Collins. The title refers to Dickens' final unfinished novel, the Mystery of Edwin Drood. I was familiar with the story from the satirical musical version of the story, which has multiple possible ending voted on by the audience. The novel contains numerous running gags on Edwin Drood and other better known elements of the Dickens universe.

Dan Simmons is one of the greatest living science-fiction novelists. Simmons' work has a highly literate quality to it; things like a robot John Keats to having the gods hire classical scholars to report on the ongoing Trojan War. Drood is a literate, historical novel that often goes into the realm of the fantastic. The narrator, Willkie Collins, is an opium addict, who hallucinates. The novel dips in and out of the occult (Collins and Dickens may have mind controlling beetles stuck in their skulls, implanted by a criminal mastermind and Egyptian cult leader.) and we have no idea what is to be believed. Simmons needs to be congratulated for his ability to present the world of nineteenth century England where there is no aspirin or reconstructive surgery to deal with the aches and pains liable to accumulate in the body of a middle aged man. Hence opium. Think of Rush Limbaugh's addiction to Oxycodone just with hallucinations to make things more interesting.

For what it is worth, Guillermo Del Toro is down to direct a film version of Drood. My proposal would be to have Rowan Atkinson play Collins. Not that Atkinson looks like the real life Collins, but this is the sort of role that requires heavy doses of smug superiority even in the face of a contrary reality, something that Atkinson does better than just about anyone. Collins spends most of the novel venting his hatred of Dickens, gripping about the absurdities in Dickens' fiction and how he is truly the better writer. This is one of those characters who charms by simply being a horrible human being.

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