Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels became a literary phenomenon. Will a televised adaptation of the books meet similar success?
The author, who write under a pseudonym and has kept her identity studiously under wraps even after a reporter, last fall, claimed to have “unmasked her,” told The New York Times she thinks expectations should be kept proportional.
The Times’s Jonathan Horowitz asked if the series, on which HBO is collaborating, might become a success similar to that of the network’s “Game of Thrones.”
“Unfortunately, ‘My Brilliant Friend’ doesn’t provide the same kind of plot points,” Ferrante responded.
Horowitz originally reached out to Ferrante while reporting an earlier story on the Neapolitan children auditioning to play the two central roles, Lila and Lenú, in “My Brilliant Friend,” the first of Ferrante’s four Neapolitan Novels. Ferrante missed his deadline, but still had thoughts to offer on the children trying for a chance at stardom.
“They know little or nothing about books,” she commented. “They are spectators who hope to become actors, either for play or a shot at deliverance.”
Asked by Horowitz if she, like the series’s director, casting director, and producers, would prefer to cast children who had experience growing up in conditions similarly rough to those experienced by Lila and Lenú, Ferrante was similarly circumspect.
“Child actors portray children as adults imagine children to be. Children who are not actors have some chance to break free of the stereotype,” she said.
While she’s abstaining from casting decisions — “I don’t have this skill set,” she said — Ferrante is advising on the show’s script.
“I don’t write, I don’t have the technical skills to do it, but I am reading the texts and send detailed notes,” she said. She is also offering notes on the series’s set, which will try to realize the fictional Naples neighborhood (“a composite of different places in Naples that I know well”) in which Ferrante set “My Brilliant Friend.”
As to “Game of Thrones,” “My Brilliant Friend” is neither as bloody nor as fantastical as its predecessor. But the two are both book series powered to fame — and the small screen — based on the vehement affection of a base of loyal fans. That’s not a force to underestimate.