As we await the rest of the cast of Divergent to be announced and mark off the months until Catching Fire’s release (about a million years from now, right?), there’s plenty to keep our minds full of paranoid visions of a dark future that can only be saved by a couple of brilliant teenagers. Take, for instance, Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy, whose second book, Prodigy, hit shelves today. If you haven’t picked up the first, let us assure you that it’s not to be lumped brainlessly with all the other dystopian young adult novels out now — largely because of its unique characters, who take turns narrating their story. There’s 15-year-old Day, the Republic’s most-wanted criminal, whose ability to run from authorities and basically leap buildings in a single bound (parkour-style) helps him complete all sorts of Robin Hood pranks, stealing from the government to feed the poor. And then there’s 15-year-old June, the Republic’s star prodigy, who’s about to graduate early from military academy when her older brother (and only family member, since her parents’ death) is brutally murdered, she thinks, by Day. Their interaction is as tense and emotionally complex as the Jean Valjean/Javert conflict in Les Miserables, which Lu says was a partial inspiration for the story.
We caught up with Lu at San Diego Comic-Con last July, shortly after the screenplay for the Legend movie, which is being produced by Wyck Godfrey among others, was handed in to CBS Films. And it wasn’t hard for us to imagine a big showing for the film at one of the Con’s giant halls sometime in the future. “That would be amaaaazing. My fingers are crossed!” Lu said.
While she’s been in the loop on the screenplay, she doesn’t know what will be done as far as casting the movie, especially since it doesn’t yet have a director. (Warm Bodies‘ Jonathan Levine was once attached, but MTV reports that he’s since dropped out.) “I know you can’t find someone that’s exactly the way that I picture them in my head. I think they’ll do a pretty good job casting them in general. There’s only one character that I wrote with an actor in my head, and that was Metias, June’s brother. I always pictured Ben Barnes. I just love Ben Barnes. I’m going to cast him in anything that I write. I’ll squeeze him in there.”
Our big question is whether the movie adaptation will attempt to stay true to the mixed racial backgrounds of the characters. Day, for instance, is of Russian and Mongolian descent, with blond hair and blue eyes.
“My fingers are crossed that they will at least keep the casting open to the ethnicities that are mentioned in the book,” Lu said. “That would be ideal. I know you can’t always find a half-Asian, half-Caucasian actor who is perfect for the role … who has blue eyes and blond hair.”
Now that we’ve read Prodigy, we can tell casting won’t be the only challenge of bringing these books to life. It will be capturing the action as teenage revolutionaries hide out in underground bunkers, fly airships out of Las Vegas, and fly airplanes into the streets of Denver. And then also have the kind of love triangle that would make Marius, Eponine and Cosette proud.
“I cried into my pillow a lot at night,” Lu told us when describing how hard it was for her to write the action-packed romance of book two. Oh, man, were those tears worth it.