By Ella Alexander, 1 June 2017
Until now, author Elena Ferrante has remained quiet about her hugely popular Neapolitan series moving to television screens via HBO. However, as casting begins in Naples for the adaptation of My Brilliant Friend, the famously private author – who works under a pseudonym – has opened up about her involvement in the project.
“For now, my contribution to the set design is limited to a few notes on whether they look right,” she told The New York Times in a rare interview. “As far as the collaboration on the script, I don’t write, I don’t have the technical skills to do it, but I am reading the texts and send detailed notes. I still don’t know if they will take them into account. It is very likely that my notes will be used later on, in the writing of the final draft.”
However, she does want the young characters – including leads Lila and Elena – to be played by newcomers rather than established child actors or actresses. All four books show an unparalleled, compelling look at the complicated friendship of two women who were both born in poverty-stricken 1950s Naples.
“Child actors portray children as adults imagine children to be,” she explained. “Children who are not actors have some chance to break free of the stereotype, especially if the director is able to find the right balance between truth and fiction.”
That said, she appreciates that ultimately casting is not her decision.
“I don’t have this skill set. Sure, I’d very much like to weigh in, but I would do it cautiously and knowing that it is useless to say, ‘Lila has little or nothing to do with that body, that face, that gaze, that way of moving,’ etc,” she said. “No real person will ever match the image that I or a reader have in our minds. This is because the written word, of course, defines but by nature leaves much to reader’s imagination. The visual image instead shrinks those margins.”
Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels have sold two million copies in 39 countries worldwide. Her final book in the series, The Story of the Lost Child, was nominated for the Man Booker Prize. HBO announced news of the show – which will comprise eight episodes – in March this year, although a release date is not yet known. The series will be filmed in Italian with English subtitles.