The Emperor's Children

Knopf

This is dream team stuff, people.

The Wrap reports that actress/writer/director Lake Bell has been tapped to direct the big screen adaptation of Claire Messud‘s Man Booker Prize listed bestselling novel “The Emperor’s Children.” Bell will direct from Noah Baumbach‘s script, which has basically just been sitting around for whole years waiting for someone to make it into a real movie. Set in New York City just before and after 9/11, the novel centers on a trio of Brown University pals (who maybe don’t like each other as much as they should) who are just trying to make their way (often, their very misguided way) around life in the big city. The events of 9/11 change that, of course, and the novel is an unsentimental look at how we experience tragedy, especially the wide-ranging and extremely unexpected kind (as the pages tick by and the days move forward and the inevitability of what will soon happens sets in, phew, well, it gets pretty damn heavy). It’s just great stuff.

Chatter about a big screen adaptation of Messud’s beloved novel has gone around since 2006, when the book first hit shelves. The last we heard — way back in 2011! — was that Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper was going to take on the project (using Baumbach’s script), though that obviously didn’t pan out. Before that, Ron Howard was set to direct (also from Baumbach’s script). A hefty number of big names have been rumored to star in the film, including Keira Knightley, Eric Bana, Richard Gere, Michelle Williams, Rachel McAdams and Emma Thompson, but it looks like Bell might be starting fresh.

The Wrap reports that “Bell is expected to start her casting search from scratch,” which means that fans of Messud’s novel can start firing up their dream casting abilities ASAP (and, yes, we still think McAdams could be a good pick, but this could also be a fine time for Bell to shine a light on new talents).

The book is primarily concerned with the three friends Marina Thwaite, Danielle Minkoff and Julius Clarke, along with Marina’s dad Murray, her cousin Bootie and magazine editor Ludovic Seeley (who you better believe that Marina and Danielle come to blows over). The book is rich in characters, and it’s engaging enough to not need the looming specter of 9/11 lurking in its last half. Of course, the inclusion of the event is a major, major part of its final pages, and it should allow the film’s stars some big and emotional beats (Danielle in particular is changed by what happens, and it eventually makes her somewhat unsympathetic character much more relatable).

Although Bell has only directed a single feature, the festival charmer In a World…, that film is indicative of her skills behind the camera. While In a World… focused on a closed community of self-involved nuts (said lovingly), The Emperor’s Children will, well, kind of do that, too. Bell’s first film was about the world of voiceover artists in Los Angeles, and although they might not sound like direct companions to the characters of The Emperor’s Children, Bell’s ability to portray insulated worlds populated by delusional people is aces, and that’s a large theme of her new material.

Bell’s ability to get to the heart of her characters — even the seemingly silly ones — will be a big help in the creation of this film, and Baumbach’s ability to do the same thing should ensure she’s got a solid script to work from. Looks like this one has finally got some pretty fine clothes to wear.


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