Angelina Jolie finds a way to play Kay Scarpetta

The long and bumpy road to get out author Patricia Cornwell’s bestselling Dr. Kay Scarpetta crime series to the big screen seems to have finally found smooth sailing now that superstar Angelina Jolie is at the helm.

A Los Angeles Times interview with Cornwell yesterday gave a progress report on the much-anticipated adaptation of her popular mystery series. It also addresses the controversy created by casting Angelina, who, at age 34, many thought was too young to play the sophisticated, seasoned medical examiner.

Turns out, Angie is too young to play Scarpetta as seen in the 17 released bestselling novels. So, instead, scriptwriter Kerry Williamson is imagining a younger Scarpetta for the movie, making the film a prequel of sorts. The 53-year-old author said “I can understand why the studio doesn’t want to launch her as someone’s who’s my age” of the change.

Instead, Williamson said the younger Scarpetta we will see will have “this brewing passion in her, and intensity and sexuality that she doesn’t feel comfortable unleashing” just yet.

In the books, she’s further along as a character, at the height of her career. In the screenplay, we bring her back to a time before that, when she’s just charting her course, and trying to break the glass ceiling. She sees what society might consider her female traits — intuition, compassion, instinct — as a weakness in the real world. Yet that is where her power lies. Her evolution is into accepting that.

Like Cornwell, I understand why Hollywood would be reluctant to kick-start a potentially long-running and lucrative franchise with an older actress. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with their reasoning, but if done right the series could be the start of a strong, successful female-fronted film franchise. In case you hadn’t noticed, there aren’t a lot of those — period. Off the top of my head I can think of three (Aliens, Tomb Raider and Underworld) and Angie is in a third of them.

In the nearly 20 years it has taken to bring Cornwell’s books to the big screen, a slew of big names have been mentioned for the role of Scarpetta including Demi Moore and Kristin Scott Thomas. Apparently, the author even tried to personally persuade Jodie Foster to take the role saying, “Poor Jodie. I campaigned heavily for that in 1992. But she didn’t think it was a good idea because of Silence of the Lambs.”

God, I would have killed to see those movies.

But Cornwell seems quite happy with the current incarnation, particularly its star. She met with Angelina last year on the set of her upcoming summer spy flick Salt.

When Angelina came out of left field last year, I was floored…. [She] had pithy things to say about what she wanted to do. She was direct and goal-oriented. She waited on everyone, getting them their lunch, while her own staff was seated. She was aware intuitively how other people were feeling and wanted to make them comfortable. It was not typical for people of her stature. Usually, it’s all about them.

So, does this news make you more comfortable with Angelina as Kay Scarpetta? Are you excited to see the books make it to the big screen? Can this be the female-fronted film franchise we’ve all been waiting for?

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