Who should play your protagonist on TV or in a movie? What is it about them that makes them suit the character – attitude, similar characters they’ve played or appearance or something else?
James Norton as Joe Rey
The protagonist of my new book Repetition Kills You (and my previous book Meat Bubbles & Other Stories) is Joe Rey, a cut-price private investigator, who regularly works as muscle-for-hire to make ends meet. Regular readers may recall that Rey has already had the Casting Call treatment, so I won’t go over old ground here, suffice to say, I picked James Norton – based on his performance as Tommy Lee Royce in the tremendous UK crime drama Happy Valley. The intensity that Norton brought to the role was hugely impressive, and while he was involved in some breathtakingly callous scenes, he was also a master manipulator who displayed a real toxic charm.
Repetition Kills You is a literary jigsaw puzzle. The book comprises 26 short stories, presented in alphabetical order, from ‘Actress on a Mattress’ to ‘Zero Sum’. Combined in different ways, they tell a larger, more complex story. Given the sheer number of characters that weave in and out of the various story strands I was spoiled for choice when selecting characters for this feature. They may not be the obvious choices, but these were the ones that elbowed their way into the Casting Call!
Charles Dance as The Gunrunner
The Gunrunner appears in the story ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’, when he hires Rey to retrieve his estranged daughter, Shivonne. If you can imagine Charles Dance with a firearm fetish and a floral-patterned rayon shirt, and you are in the right ballpark!
I always enjoy Dance’s imperious tone, and it would work especially well here, as he talks down to Rey – not a man who enjoys being talked down to! Dance was great in Game of Thrones, but it is his stint as Conrad Knox in Season 3 of Strike Back that resonated more strongly with me when casting this particular role.
Mark Bonnar as Slattery
In the Paignton Noir series, Rey encounters a number of increasingly unhinged father figures, ranging from Wet-Look in Meat Bubbles to Cantonese mobster Malcolm Chung in the forthcoming Boneyard Dogs. In Repetition Kills You, Slattery comes closest to filling this role, albeit in a far more innocuous manner. He runs a sleazy, unsuccessful bar on a near-derelict industrial estate, and Rey and he enjoy an uneasy, unspoken friendship.
Mark Bonnar has worked on some of my favourite British TV shows in recent years (Line of Duty, Unforgotten, Catastrophe) – performing vastly different roles each time – and I think he could effortlessly tap into the shifty, defeated quality that Slattery brings to all of his scenes. The crime dramas may have displayed his sinister side, but the excruciating dark comedy in Catastrophe is a good reference point too – not least the scene where he hires a transsexual prostitute.
PJ Harvey as Wila
Wila appears in the story ‘Howl’, which is the longest piece in Repetition Kills You, and one of my favourites. I don’t want to give too much away, but Wila is a Polish lounge singer with a murky – possibly dangerous – past, who Rey is hired to hunt down.
I’m always surprised that PJ Harvey hasn’t done more film work (her sole acting credit seems to be Hal Hartley’s 1998 movie The Book of Life, which I have never seen), as there is no one quite like her out there. In truth, I’m not sure how well a Dorset-does-Polish accent would work, but I think it is important to have a singer in the role, to make it convincing!
(Trivia: the song Wila sings mid-way through the story was inspired by ‘Dirge’ by Death In Vegas (which had Dot Allison on vocals), rather than a PJ Harvey track, but I’d love some PJ material on the soundtrack, as I’m a big fan.)
Tom Leins also did a casting call for Meat Bubbles & Other Stories.
Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. He is the author of a trio of novelettes, SKULL MEAT, SNUFF RACKET and SLUG BAIT, and two short story collections, MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES (Near To The Knuckle) and REPETITION KILLS YOU (All Due Respect, an imprint of Down & Out Books). His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction.