Author Books Journalism Information
|The Prey Series|
The Kidd Series
The Singular Menace
In 1990, the rights for Rules of Prey were purchased by a film and television company called, oddly enough, Film & Television, Limited . I've got the whole rant about that on the comments page for Rules of Prey. After that whole non-disaster , the rights were in limbo for a few years, before being purchased by Jaffe/Braunstein Films, Ltd.
They were eager to make one of the Prey novels into a movie, but they also didn't want to start with the first one. They started, instead, with this, the seventh installment. Why? Because it's more dramatic, more action-packed, and more "Hollywood" overall than the other books. Whether this is really true or not, it's where they decided to start.
So they called in scriptwriter Adam Greenman to write the adaptation. And given the constraints , the script that he ended up with was remarkably accurate to the book. There were a few alterations, of course, and a few things that weren't in the book at all but overall it turned out pretty well, I think .
This nano-rant's gonna probably get me in trouble. Again.
When the movie was cast, the lead role that of Lucas Davenport went to Eriq LaSalle, longtime veteran of E.R. and one of the producers of this project.
Needless to say, Eriq LaSalle is not who most readers visualize as Lucas.
Not that the suggestions they've sent in match the book either. Some people think that he should be tall, thin, and stern, like Harrison Ford as the President in Air Force One . Other people think that he's shorter and brooding, like Peter Falk as Columbo. Others have suggested Pierce Brosnan, George Clooney, Tommy Lee Jones, Denis Leary, Tim Robbins, Kurt Russell, James Spader, Alan Thicke, Bruce Willis... and many, many others.
From the first book, Rules of Prey, we have Lucas described as:
He was slender and dark-complexioned, with straight black hair going grey at the temples and a long nose over a crooked smile. One of his central upper incisors had been chipped and he never had it capped. He might have been an Indian except for his blue eyes.
That, right there, is the official description. Nobody suggested so far matches it. In fact, the author has suggested that a good choice for actor would be Gabriel Byrne, like he was in The Usual Suspects. Or better, Pat Riley, former coach of the New York Knicks. Riley had a way of pacing the court, looking intense, with his hands thrust deep into his jacket pockets, that reminded the author exactly of the way Lucas would sometimes act.
Nevertheless, Eriq LaSalle played Lucas. When the movie was aired on ABC, it caused a flurry of hatemail. To me. About Eriq .
I got three hundred hatemails in the space of a week all basically starting with "Lucas isn't black!!!" . And the letters usually went downhill from there. And they went on to blame the author for making this choice, Eriq for being in it, me for... well, I don't know. Defending Eriq, perhaps?
See, my holier-than-thou stance is that the Prey books aren't about race. They never have been, and never will be. So I felt that as long as the actor was able to project Lucas with the right intensity, that it'd work. But a lot of the viewers disagreed. And I got the brunt of their displeasure. Not an experience I really want to go through again.
So, to summarize my position on the whole thing: I didn't mind Eriq's performance as Lucas, despite the race issue. He's not who I'd have chosen if I'd had control over it, but I didn't have control , and so I'm not going to whine about it .
Here's my personal opinion on the other major characters, as cast for the movie:
Rose Marie Roux was basically perfect. There's nothing about her that I'd change. Similarly, the guy who played Black was perfect. Some of the new lines he was given were lame, but I didn't have any problem with him.
Also perfect (in my opinion): John Mail , Andi Manette, and her kids. And the guy who played Greave was just perfect as the nice-but-kinda-incompetent officer who... well, he means well. There were some lesser characters (Dunn, Nancy Wolfe, and some other people who were more major in the book), but they're not in there enough to really get a reading.
Sloan, I've got some problems with. Mostly because his attitude is wrong. In the series, he's a polite, friendly, almost schmoozing personality. His main trait is the ability to get on your good side, to make you think that he's your friend. The guy here had a gravelly voice and next-to-no empathy. So that's wrong, personality-wise.
Marcy Sherrill wasn't in this movie, having been inexplicably replaced with "Cheryl Vega". Apparently she and Lucas had some relationship in the past. Oh, and she gets killed in the movie, which puts a damper on any future appearances. I guess she does okay, character-wise, but since the character she's playing is, at best, a distorted version of the one in the book, I don't know that that means much.
And as for Weather, I think that's another case where it went horribly wrong. Not because of how Nicole Ari Parker looks , but because she had no impact on the movie. She was barely a presence there. And at the end, she leaves. What's up with that?
The movie was shot in Toronto, which... well, it doesn't look like the Twin Cities. Ok, so it's closer than Los Angeles, or New York, or Banghazi. In fact, it's a pretty good analogue, if you really needed to find one. But it just doesn't have the feel of the Twin Cities.
Yes, that's the sort of thing that'd only bother people who live in the Twin Cities, but... I do, and it does. Also, I don't recall having that many street signs in French. It just felt... off.
There's really only one shot of a skyline in the daytime, and it's so hazed over that you can't tell what it is. I have this disturbing feeling that if it'd been clear, we'd have been able to see the CN Tower . So the location, unlike most of the casting, kinda gave me the creeps. Like seeing the Twin Cities from some alternate universe.
As for the shooting itself, most of it was shot in a warehouse district near the lake. Two other films were being shot at the same time. One was some dark psycho-thriller thing, way down at the end of the block, and I never found out exactly what it was. The other was Three to Tango, with some of the outdoor "Chicago" scenes being shot right outside the "Minneapolis Homicide Department". That was just kind of weird, as I'd never been around movie productions of any sort before. Weird, but fun .
One last note: the catered food was excellent. If you have any chance to wander around a movie set while they're filming, try to get some of the food .
The screening was on the Warner Brothers' lot in Burbank. I showed up and took lots of pictures of the water tower , and milled around taking pictures of... other... stuff.
The theater where it was being premiered was on some corner, with "JOHN SANDFORD'S Mind Prey" in big letters. Which was neat, except that they'd managed to spell it "SANFORD". Why does everyone seem to do that? At least this time, it got fixed eventually .
Pretty much the entire cast of E.R. showed up, which would have been a high point of my life if I'd ever watched the show. But I didn't, and so I had no clue who most of the people there people were. I recognized George Clooney, at least. And to this day, one of the author's favorite stories about the whole movie thing is about how his son went to the screening, met George Clooney, and reported back that "Clooney was a midget! Only four feet tall!!" 
When the movie was played, it was shown on a standard movie screen, which is odd, as it wasn't shot in a movie aspect-ratio. So bits were cropped from the top and bottom, sort of like pan-and-scan in reverse. It was pretty well received, and everyone milled around the reception area for a while. And then it aired on TV a couple of days later, and that's when I started getting the hate mail.
I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here, as there are a few things I want to mention that all happened at about the same time.
The movie got low-to-medium critical reviews. The biggest complaint wasn't about Eriq, but rather about it just being too darn bleak. You don't have stuff like that on television. It just didn't have any happy moments. Ok, that's fair enough.
It also got fairly low ratings. And that's something that bothers me, because the ratings were, in my opinion, measured unfairly. Ok, I may sound like I'm whining in Al-Gore-style here about how it's not fair, but I've got some justification here, I think.
See, a lot of people wrote in to say that the movie didn't air at all in their area. Some local affiliates simply showed some other movie, assuming that they'd get more advertising money from an older movie than from something new. In one major metro area, they showed Love Potion Number Nine instead of the Mind Prey movie.
I did a bit more research, and found that something like a quarter to a third of ABC affiliates simply didn't show the movie. Ok, so my methods aren't the most accurate in the world, but I have some faith in them. And I start to wonder: what kind of ratings would E.R. get if it were yanked from a quarter to a third of all of its network affiliates ?
That's it. No more whining from me. I'm all whined out now.
1. Film & Television, Limited, was run by Dino De Laurentiis. If you assume from that information that the script was horrible, you'd be right. Of course, correlation is not causation. The fact that he's been the producer of a vast trove of horrible films might be a coincidence.
2. It's a non-disaster because it was never filmed. Had it been filmed, it would have been a disaster. You'll have to trust me on this one.
3. These weren't trivial constraints, either. The entire book had to be condensed down to two hours without losing the primary drives of the characters, the unique flavor of the dialogue, or the feel of the setting. This is made even more complex by the fact that it's being filmed for network television. So that rules out swearing, sex, and a lot of other stuff. So given those rather draconian constraints, the adaptation was pretty good.
4. And I'll state again that all the opinions here are just that: opinions. If you violently disagree and think I'm stupid for whatever opinion, there's honestly no need to write in and tell me about it. I got three hundred emails about the movie complaining about, well, everything in the first week alone. Of those, a disturbingly large percentage went on to say that I am an idiot, that the website sucks, and that I should just give up and go work at a Taco Bell, that being more my level. If you want to write a letter like that, because of my opinions, don't. I don't really need more of those letters than I already get.
5. Actually, I don't think that Harrison Ford would be a bad choice. He just needs to get his sense of humor back. Yes, even if he's going to be playing someone who's notably lacking a human sense of humor.
6. Well, they weren't all about Eriq. Some were angry at the author for casting him (which he didn't). Some were angry at me for trying to defend the decision. Some just resorted to insulting the website, calling it moronic, whiny, and (in one wonderful example), "illitirate".
7. But not all of them. Some started off with something like "I'm not racist, but..." before launching into what was effectively racist rhetoric. How sweet.
8. I admit, I also caused a good deal of anger myself, by pointing out repeatedly that Lucas isn't real. It's not like they cast Pauly Shore as Ghandi, or Britney Spears as Ulysses S. Grant in some Civil War movie. And even if they did do something like that... it's television. Yes, the character in the books may seem real to you, but getting violently angry over "inappropriate" casting of someone in a network television adaptation of a work of fiction? I dunno. That seems... weird. And yet, given the response I got, people will. A lot of people.
9. And just to clear this up: the author didn't have control over it either. When an author sells the rights to a movie, they give up control over the project. That's what the selling of rights is about. In fact, there's a certain unofficial agreement in Hollywood: the more money you get for the rights, the less control you have. If you want to have some hand in the movie, you don't get as much money. If you get a lot of money, you don't have any real say. You don't get control and money.
10. Note the wording there. The meaning is that I'm not going to whine about that topic. And it's probably a lie anyway. Whatever.
11. Mail was played by Titus Welliver, who's been a clean-cut cop in a number of cop shows. He's an amazingly nice, friendly guy in person. Watching him transform into Mail was very disturbing. Still, I guess that's what actors are good at: being who they're not. Good actors, anyway.
12. In my personal opinion, she looks "stunning". The eyes alone are amazing. And again, that's just my opinion.
13. For those of you not in the know, the CN Tower is the tallest structure in Toronto, and probably has some "Tallest Structure" record or other, although I have no idea which record it'd be. The observation deck is something like 1100 feet up, and has plexiglass tiles in the floor so you can stand on them and look straight down. It is so amazingly cool. The tour guides will gleefully tell you that the tiles themselves are three times stronger than the concrete the tower's made of, so you can jump on them. Mind you, the only people to even walk on them (when I was up there) were the small hyperactive children and... um... me. Which probably says more about me than it does about small hyperactive children.
14. At one point, I was standing in the "Minneapolis Homicide Department" watching the other production. Someone went zooming by on an old blue bicycle and I realized with some shock that it was Matthew Perry, from Friends. So I had to know what the heck was being filmed. I saw some woman nearby checking out a script she was not from the Mind Prey production so I went up and asked her what the movie was. She told me it was Three to Tango, a wacky romantic comedy. We talked for about ten minutes about the productions on the set and such, and then I went back inside. And then the Three to Tango crew spent the next three hours filming a single scene with Matthew Perry and some other guy (Dylan McDermott). One small scene. Three hours. A few dozen takes .
15.Okay, I've got to admit that I've had exactly two experiences with movie-industry catering, but both have been really, really good. I'd like to think that this is the norm, but it may well not be. Still, if the food is like that pretty consistently, don't pass it up, if offered.
16. For all you Animaniacs fans, the water tower really does look like that. Really.
17. Probably only because I pointed it out to someone. Or, if you wish, I "whined". Yeah.
18. Not that I actually said that. The author just tells the story to make it seem like I said it. The truth is... less odd. See, I'm 6'0", and that's about "average" for Minnesota males. But out in Hollywood, the average is a bit shorter. Not much, but instead of being "average height", I'm suddenly "tall". Realistically, I'd guess that George Clooney is probably 5'10" or maybe 5'11". I just wasn't expecting him to be shorter than what I'd seen on television. Of course, from what little I'd seen of E.R., it looked like Eriq was something like 6'4". He's actually my height. I've got photos to prove it. Somewhere.
19. It doesn't actually fare too poorly. On a typical quiet week where it ranks at number 1, it'd drop to 10 or so if a third of affiliates yanked it. On the other hand, The West Wing, which typically places around ten or so, would drop down into the forties if a third of the affiliates yanked it.
20. The "punchline" to the story is that the woman with the script was Neve Campbell, and I had absolutely no idea who she was until much later . Call it a hunch, but I think celebrities deal better with people who don't ooh and aah over them. As it was, we had a happy little conversation about "what the heck is all this" and that was it.
21. Yes, I'm a straight white American male between the ages of twenty and forty and I had no idea who Neve Campbell was. So sue me.
9 June 2014
The Prey series, the Virgil Flowers series, the Kidd series, The Singular Menace, The Night Crew, Dead Watch, The Eye and the Heart: The Watercolors of John Stuart Ingle, and Plastic Surgery: The Kindest Cut are copyrighted by John Sandford. All excerpts are used with permission.
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