Rainbow Rowell’s “Eleanor & Park” is joining the march of young adult novels to the silver screen, but with one major divergence: Her cinematic adaptation will likely not star the likes of Jennifer Lawrence or Shailene Woodley. In fact, if she has her way, the leading roles will be played by complete unknowns.
“There are not established actors who could play these roles, I don’t think,” Rowell told MTV News. “I don’t think they’re unusual characters in life — I think there are a lot of people like Eleanor and Park — but they are unusual people to be in movies and to star in movies. There’s not a lot of chubby redheads and 16-year-old Korean guys who star in movies.”
Set in the ’80s in Omaha, “Eleanor & Park” tells the tale of two 16-year-old misfits who fall in love on the bus — a romance that blossoms as the two trade comics and music across the social divide that is high school.
Eleanor is the fiery-haired daughter of a ripped-to-shreds home, menaced by her stepfather. Park is a half-Korean loner starting to rebel against the masculine ideals of his father. Together, they make up one of the sweetest — and most realistic — couples in contemporary YA.
Wednesday, EW announced that soon fans will be able to see that same love story unfold on the big screen. DreamWorks Studios has picked up the film rights to the book, with producer Carla Hacken (“Walk the Line” and “The Devil Wears Prada”) and executive producer Matt Kennedy (“Predestination”) already on board. Rowell will pen the screenplay herself.
“I have never written a screenplay! Suckers!” she said, laughing. “But I had never written a book before I wrote a book. I’m going to do my best. I’m reading screenplays to get a sense of the structure. It’s not completely a foreign language. … I think there’s a really good chance I’m good at it.”
“When I’m writing I visualize my books as if they’re movies, sometimes to my own detriment,” she added. “My first editor would say, ’You can’t just fade to black here, it’s not a movie.’ I think very soundtrack-y, so when I’m writing them I often think of them as if I’m watching a movie. It’s something that I can always imagine.”
Speaking of soundtracks, Rowell has a few dreams flitting around her head when it comes to tunes to accompany the flick.
“I have a fantasy — it’s like a total pipe dream — I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie ’Harold and Maude.’ Cat Stevens does that whole movie,” she said. “So I have this fantasy that The Mountain Goats would do the whole ’Eleanor & Park’ movie. Because I listened to them pretty much constantly while I was writing the book.”
She would also love for a woman to direct — specifically Catherine Hardwicke, of “Twilight” fame. “I would love it if it were a director who could make it her own,” she said.
Although she is writing the screenplay, Rowell knows that she will likely have little control over the way the movie unfolds. She does hope, however, that the chosen director will follow her advice about casting unknowns.
“I feel like it’s exciting to think of a romantic love story starring two people who don’t often get to be in Hollywood love stories,” she said. “If you think about it, the percentage of the population that doesn’t get to be in a Hollywood love story, that’s 99% of us. So it’s really exciting for me to think of who those two actors could be.”
DreamWorks aims to start shooting in 2015.