Ken Follett on Casting The Pillars of the Earth Movie Characters
Photo: Egon Endrenyi
Author Ken Follett takes you behind the scenes on the set of the movie adaptation of The Pillars of the Earth and gives you a peek into the casting of the characters and the actors who will bring them to life. Look for the movie that will air as a limited series on television in 2010.To start off, I want to give you a production update: The television adaptation of my book The Pillars of the Earth has just moved from Hungary to Austria for a few weeks of shooting. After that, they'll go back to Hungary for the last part of the shoot. In all, there are 112 shooting days on this huge production. After that, of course, there will be months of editing to put all the components together, including music, visual effects and sound design. In a different way, a television drama is as complicated as a novel.
As the reality dawned on me that the book was about to become a television series—a visual version of my story—I realized that the characters I spent years creating in every intimate detail were now going to be recreated by actors, and I wondered nervously who would be cast. I need not have worried. When I learned who had been cast, I was thrilled. They are from the top flight of serious actors. I have seen, admired and enjoyed their work.
The people I created in my mind and my imagination are going to be represented by some of the most talented actors around, actors who can make you scared, angry or tearful. From the marvelous Ian McShane as the dark soul Waleran Bigod, who believes he is God's will; the intense and multifaceted Rufus Sewell as Tom Builder—probably the most popular character I ever wrote Matthew Macfadyen, who portrays the complex Prior Philip with unrelenting strength; the highly regarded Sarah Parish as the manipulative and dangerous Regan Hamleigh. Then there's the wonderful young talent: the lovely and truly gifted Hayley Atwell playing our heroine, Aliena and Eddie Redmayne as our hero, Jack, who gives a performance of amazing depth and passion. I've been looking at footage regularly since Pillars went before the cameras in June 2009, and the cast is so good I can hardly believe it.
When I was on set in July of this year, I observed a scene that was being shot between Aliena and Elizabeth, the scene in which Elizabeth tells the story of how her husband, William Hamleigh, has beaten and abused her over the years. As I watched this scene and got tears in my eyes, I thought: Wait a minute! I made this up! For all authors, it is a real buzz to see characters brought to life by good actors in a set that is been so lovingly created.
Keeping the characters of The Pillars of the Earth true to the book