As publication day approaches (1st December! good God) I’ve been having great fun thinking about who I’d cast in The Last Prince: The (Hypothetical) Movie. This wasn’t easy, partly because I don’t often write with actors in mind, but mostly because I’m tragically out of touch – or, if you like, I have old-fashioned sensibilities. I had to throw all considerations of time/space/age/death/retirement out of the window. But I finally got there, and so here are a few of my picks.
“Absolutely not,” I said, doing my best to channel Dad in my-members-won’t-wear-it mode. “There is no question of my colleague resuming the throne. This is not a palace coup, but a strategic operation aimed at laying open the mechanisms of government, creating a safe space in which a truly democratic alternative might emerge, and restoring a political prisoner to freedom. Sorry, have to blow my nose,” I added, ruining the effect a bit, and did.
My heroine/narrator Jennie was the most difficult character to cast. I’m so used to writing from her point of view that I hadn’t stopped to think what she looked like. So I asked a few of my beta readers and they said, as in one voice: Kelly Macdonald.
Like Kelly’s character Merida in Brave, Jennie’s a woman in a man’s world: the first and only female, civilian rider at the Imperial Riding School of the Principality of Santa Teresa. (Unlike Merida, she’s a weedy pacifist who never learned skill-at-arms.)
captain henri leclerc
“Forgive me,” he said and, to my shock, he seized my hand and pressed it to his lips. I looked at him in wonder, and he dropped it abruptly. “It’s not your fault,” he said. “None of it is your fault. I should never have…My conduct in all of this has been inexcusable. Forgive me, I beg you.”
I nodded, unsure of my voice. “OK,” I almost whispered. His képi was sitting at a jaunty angle, I noticed, knocked out of place by the hand-kissing bit. It made him look slightly roguish, like Claude Rains in Casablanca.
This one was very easy. An upright and rather unapproachable cavalry captain with impeccable style, expressive eyebrows and – buried deep underneath it all – a susceptible heart and a tendency to derring-do. Who could it be but Claude Rains?
Captain Leclerc is quite a different creature to Rains’ Captain Renault – they certainly don’t share a moral compass. But they do have some things in common: a certain panache, the potential to surprise, and the ability to look great in a képi.
Don rafael de la Fuente
Don Rafael de la Fuente, far from the Sir-Humphrey-a-like I expected, was well over six feet tall and powerfully built, with black hair touched with silver and a nose that might have been extremely distinguished or just badly broken. He could have been anywhere from a beaten-up thirty to a well-preserved fifty, although I’d have placed him around forty, and he was wearing a suit that probably cost more than my parents’ house. […] He strode over to me, seized my free hand and kissed it while, I swear to God, actually clicking his heels together. “I must apologise for the delay,” he said, looking me straight in the eye. He had very brown eyes.
“Oh, um, no problem,” I said, noticing that he also had a vicious-looking scar running along one cheekbone. Holy shit, was that a duelling scar?
Captain Leclerc’s deadly rival in love and power, the ambitious privy councillor Rafael de la Fuente, cuts a striking figure. My mental image of him is so clear that I couldn’t think who might play him. So I asked my friend Moira, who has excellent taste, and she said: Louis Jourdan. And I thought: yes. Even if his nose is a little too pretty. But, as we’re in a universe where the space-time continuum has already been pretty well discarded, I’m sure makeup could sort that out.
You’ll just have to imagine the duelling scar.
his serene highness prince bertrand of santa teresa (bertie)
It was an equestrian portrait along classic lines. The prince sat astride a prancing grey horse, the reins gathered loosely in one hand, half-turning in the saddle with his other arm outstretched to indicate something in the distance behind him. It looked like the balance exercises my old riding teacher used to make us do. He was wearing a simple blue-and-white uniform, which might have looked nicer if it weren’t covered in medals (for what? pointing?), and his fair hair curled over his forehead. I think he was supposed to look charismatic and commanding, but he actually looked bored, as if finding the whole thing unspeakably bog-standard. I gave an inner eye-roll and moved on to studying the horse.
This was another easy one. The reluctant Prince Bertie has a certain aristocratic assurance, an easy manner, and the skill of charming everyone he meets…including the prickly socialist Jennie. I can’t think of anyone better than Julian Rhind-Tutt.
I’m glad to say Jennie’s reaction is a *little* more dignified.