Wednesday, 12 January 2011

I'd Be Elizabeth Taylor - Karen Ball

Following on from Nicola’s post yesterday, it’s clear that a yawning chasm lies between the reality of an author’s life and the pictures people paint of us. As I sit at my marble topped desk, writing with my solid gold ink pen, my butler butters my crumpets and we both excitedly await the latest Harrods delivery. I thought I’d kill time delving into the various portrayals of the writing and publishing world, as seen on the big and small screen. Always good for a laugh!

The launch party
My favourite of these is in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'. Salman Rushdie and Jeffrey Archer both make cameo appearances. The editor-in-chief (a US term, surely?) is bouffant, the senior editor is prim and snobbish, the publishing director is lecherous. Everyone gets drunk and there’s a cock up during the speeches. Some may say staggeringly accurate. (I couldn't possibly comment.) There is one glaring error. The London publishing offices are high tech, clean and swanky. Erm. Did these film makers even go near a typical London publishing office in the name of research?



The literary agent
This has got to be Lauren Bacall in ‘Misery’. Who wouldn’t kill to have a screen legend as their agent? Especially when she spells out home truths like these: ‘Misery Chastain put braces on your daughter's teeth and is putting her through college, bought you two houses and floor seats to the Knick games and what thanks does she get? You go and kill her.’ Oh, Paul. If only you’d listened to your agent…

The author
Take your pick. You can be Nicole Kidman with a prosthetic nose, grimly smoking hand-rolled cigarettes to show your rebellious creativity as Virginia Woolf in 'The Hours'. Or you could choose the rosy cheeks and extra padding of Renee Zellweger playing Beatrix Potter. Perhaps you prefer the absinthe madness of Ewan McGregor typing in a garret in 'Moulin Rouge!', just before a miniature Kylie Minogue pops by for a visit. The rules are all the same: you'll look mad as a hatter. I recently enjoyed the cruel irony in the last TV episode of 'Any Human Heart' when the main character only makes it into Waterstones 3-for-2 after his death. Typical!

Are there any realistic representations of what we do either on the small or big screen? Should there be? Are people ready for the truth? Personally, I can't wait to see Tim Burton cast Helena Bonham Carter as JK Rowling. And Jude Law as Philip Pullman? Come on! It's a no brainer...

Do you have any favourite cinematic publishing moments. And who would play you in the film of your career?

Please visit my blog at www.karen-ball.com


7 comments:

Stroppy Author said...

What a great idea, Karen!

Most realistic portrayal of writing life is probably Jack Nicolson in The Shining. Not that I'm having a hard day or anything...

Joan Lennon said...

Just rewatched Stranger than Fiction and was totally convinced all over again!

And to play me, well, this is fiction, right? Then it'd have to be Edna Mode from The Incredibles. Voiced by, er, Brad Bird ...

Sarah Taylor-Fergusson said...

I can't say it was a favourite, because it was about the breakdown of a marriage followed by a suicide, but Sylvia, the film about Plath and Hughes, sticks in the mind.

Nicola Morgan said...

Fab idea for a post! Interesting that you mention Any Human Heart. I know all authors are different and some are self-indulgent spoilt gits, but I found the portrayal of the author (central character) glib, shallow and lacking resonance. OK, I did resonate with the staring at the blank page for a few decades - after all, he had no Twitter and email to look at during those "moments" of uninspiration. But gosh he was a shallow character and really didn't deserve to be the deep-thinking novelist he clearly thought he was. And I know it was a period piece and times have changed but the portrayal of tortured rather shallow muse thinking the world owed him publication just rather plain and, um, lacking in interest. He needed to keep his trousers buttoned up a bit more, then he might have managed to get some writing done. Lazy git, he was, most of the time. Whereas I, on the other hand...

Yes, come to think of it, maybe it was more accurate than I'd like to think, if we transpose to those days some of the useless behaviours some of us (me) use today to avoid actually getting the bloody book written.

Thanks for an enjoyable post, Karen. Your examples were excellent ones - mine wasn't!

Book Maven said...

The most realistic portrayal of a writer?

Ed Reardon on Radio 4 wins hands down!

Gillian Philip said...

Wonder Boys. Michael Douglas in a woman's dressing gown, trying to write That Difficult Second Novel.

I adore Stranger Than Fiction too. I remember a very up-herself female (can't remember the name) on Newsnight Review, saying the plot was ridiculous and unbelievable and how very silly - if Emma Thompson was that upset about killing her lead man, she could just have changed her story. As if! And this critic was even a writer herself!

Fab post, Karen.

Lynda Waterhouse said...

In Old Aquaintance (1943) Bette Davies plays the talented but not famous author , Kit. Her so called best friend Millie decides to write and produces a series of bestselling romantic novels which make her a fortune. I'd like to think I'm Kit but maybe I'd settle for Millie.....