The Guardian

Fantasy casting for Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels on TV

Lenù and Lila are to be played by Italians, speaking their mother tongue. But here are some suggestions for an eventual Hollywood remake…

Fans of Elena Ferrante will greet news that her Neapolitan novels are beingmade into a TV show with equal parts excitement and apprehension. Reassuringly, the people who adapted Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah for TV are involved, as is the reclusive author herself. The four books will each become a series of eight episodes, and the show will be in Italian, with Italian actors – anything else would be wildly inauthentic. While we wait, here are some English-speaking fantasy casting suggestions (which might come in handy for the inevitable Hollywood remake). To keep this as spoiler-free as possible, the below focuses only on the first book, My Brilliant Friend.

Lenù (Elena Greco)

The narrator of the book, in all likelihood modelled on Ferrante herself, is a masterful literary creation. Full of contradictions – her self-doubt and arrogance are at constant war with each other – she perfectly captures the complexities of being a young woman. The actor who plays her needs to be pretty, serious and studious, with a facility for introspection: step forward, Carey Mulligan.

‘Austere beauty’: Stacy Martin would make a fine Lila.
‘Austere beauty’: Stacy Martin would make a fine Lila. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Lila (Raffaella Cerullo)

Maestra Oliviero

The girls’ primary school teacher notices Lila’s brilliance, but when her parents take her out of school she transfers her attentions to Lenù. Olivia Colman’s motherly-but-stern-when-needed demeanour would be perfect.

‘Eminently hateable’: Dave Franco could play Marcello.
‘Eminently hateable’: Dave Franco could play Marcello. Photograph: Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock

Marcello Solara

For this young, wealthy mafioso you’d need someone handsome (and knows it) and eminently hateable. This would have James Franco written all over it if he were a decade younger; thankfully his younger brother Dave Franco is also an actor, so he can step in.

Stefano Carracci

The son of the terrifying Don Achille, “the ogre of fairytales”, Stefano takes over the family’s prosperous grocery store. He is serious-minded, rational and focused on his family’s wellbeing, yet there is an undercurrent of violence in the Carraccis’ history. Whiplash’s Miles Teller combines that air of solid reassurance with a hint of danger.

Penn Badgley.
‘Possibly slightly smarmy’: Penn Badgley. Photograph: Billy Farrell Agency/Rex Featu

Nino Sarratore

Curly black hair, intellectual pretensions, possibly slightly smarmy: Gossip Girl’sPenn Badgley fits the bill for Nino, son of the duplicitous poet and railroad worker Donato Sarratore.