[The Bone Collector - Leading forensics expert and New York City detective,
Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington), is bed bound after a backbone crushing accident, able
to talk and move one finger, with which he controls his technological world, from the
computers to the angle of recline of his bed. But his carer, Thelma (Queen Latifah), does
the real work. Rhyme, subject to fits, any one of which could leave him a vegetable, is
ready to 'make the transition' with the help of the doctor on his case, Dr Barry Lehman
(John Benjamin Hickey). A brilliant, published forensics expert, Rhyme's eternal exit is
interrupted by a request he can't refuse, to help a singular new case. This follows the discovery of a savage slaying, and young female policewoman Amelia Donaghy
(Angelina Jolie) impresses Rhyme with her sharp instincts and procedures at the crime
scene. She reluctantly becomes Rhyme's body in the search for a vicious serial killer
whose murders continue and whose clues taunt and frustrate the team. ]
ALU: In your book, The Bone Collector, you make several references to Amelia's
lips, describing them variously as 'gorgeous' or her as someone with 'Julia Roberts' lips'
or 'very expressive lips' - then we see Angelina Jolie's extraordinary, full lips….is
this a case of casting by lips?
JD: Ha ha…yes, well, I like to give my characters quirks, individual details that
we can relate to throughout the story. It doesn't necessarily have to be beauty . . .
Amelia also scratches a bit, chews her nails, all indicative of her edginess, her drive.
And someone commented after seeing Angelina Jolie in Pushing Tin, 'she's your
ALU: Would you recommend audiences see the film first or read the book first?
JD: I'll have to hedge on that question - but I hedge for a reason: I feel that books
and movies are two entirely different mediums. They both try for the same effect, that is
to achieve an emotional response, at least in this type of story. I write thrillers;
Phillip Noyce makes a thriller and we strive for the same thing but we do it in different
ways. I've always loved books and I've always loved films; I've never had a problem of
going to a movie of a book I've read and keeping it separate. It's like two different
carnival rides and I enjoy both kinds. In this case I can't say which would be better to
ALU: Is there anything in the movie that of necessity has been left out that
you wish hadn't been?
JD: When I knew that this was going ahead, I wondered how they were going to shift the
conversion because I felt it was very difficult book to make into a movie. In fact of all
of my books it was the most difficult because there was a great deal of internal material.
There was a large back story, going back a hundred years, with the character of the
villain and his obsession. Although I had read an early draft of the script, I didn't
really know how it would end up on screen. When I saw the film for the first time the
other day, I was astonished at how closely the movie adhered to my story line and how well
Phillip and Jeremey (Iacone, screenplay writer) had worked in the subtleties and included
all the crime scenes - I think I had one more crime scene in the book that the characetrs
had to investigate, but that wasn't really necessary for the film. Even the peregrine
hawks that sit on the ledge of Rhyme's window were worked in, and I was sure they'd be
left out. For me they were a very important motif - rather heavy handed I think. . . he a
hunter and immobile, and the birds hunters and being completely mobile, multi
ALU: What about the tone?
JD: Oh, the tone is identical to my tone. Underground is very important. . . those
scenes of Amelia in the slaughterhouse with her flashlight, the steam scene - they really
did a superb job on the production design.
ALU: The tone, and our emotional response to the film are, I thought, superbly
reflected in Craig Armstrong's score.
JD: Oh, the score is amazing. As the 19th century American writer Nathaniel
Hawthorn put it, when it comes to writing style the author's words should evaporate and
leave us with pure meaning. I was very conscious of the score because it was so
unobtrusive yet completed the tone of the movie very well. The reason I am concentrating
on the score is because when I get back to Washington, my business manager and I are
arranging a mini premiere (since I missed the big one) for 40 or 50 friends and we're
trying to get our hands on the CD of the soundtrack.
ALU: In the process of writing something as scary as this, does any of it ever
JD: I cringe when there is a sudden noise - but only because it's an interruption. No,
I'm quite distanced from my work. For me the books are very calculated. I have an
elaborate outline which I spend eight months preparing, then I sit down and write it. For
me, there are no surprises. I don't know where it's going at first, so I hammer out the
plots and subplots and develop all the characters. In some ways it's similar to
scriptwriting because I imagine it scene by scene. It's very organised, very left brain
process. But when I saw The Sixth Sense the other day, I was terrified! I mean, I do get
ALU: Does character lead this process for you?
JD: No. Just the opposite. The story is paramount. But let me define story: for my
purposes, story is realistic characters in extreme conflict which conflict is then
resolved. For good or for bad. That's all there is to my books. But that bit about
realistic characters is extremely important, because for the emotional payoff at the end,
after all the twists and turns, we have to care about all of the characters. And that's
why, for instance, the bad guy has a tragedy in his life that motivates him. Bad guys have
to be three dimensional - if they aren't our hero's victory means less.
ALU: Can you give us a glimpse of your next book?
JD: Oh sure, The Empty Chair will be published here in Australia probably mid 2000. It
features Lincoln and Amelia again, and they go down to North Carolina to very advanced
medical centre where Lincoln wants to try some experimental surgery to try to improve his
condition. So he's risking a great deal to have this surgery so he can move a bit closer
to Amelia. She doesn't want him to have surgery because she loves him the way he is.
That's the initial story. But there has been a series of murders and rapes down there and
Lincoln reluctantly postpones the operation to assist the local sheriff in finding a young
girl before she's murdered. They find the kidnapper, but Amelia becomes convinced that the
young boy is innocent and she breaks him out jail. Now Lincoln has to use his skills to
find Amelia before the boy kills her because he knows the boy is the murderer, and Amelia
has to use the skills she's learned from Lincoln to evade him. And of course there is more
to it than that. I love the idea of the two of them going against each other now, against
the backdrop of this relationship of theirs.
ALU: Do you write purely for the novel or do you have at the back of your mind
the idea of a movie?
JD: No I don't have a movie at the back of my mind. But - I've been so influenced by
film, my books include a great deal of cinematic techniques, from cross cutting to ending
scenes on a high note, to try not to give things away, so on. The books tend to be three
acts building to a crescendo in the final act, and then we relax a little bit and have an
epilogue or coda. But you can not look over your shoulder as you write. I was very
surprised The Bone Collector was picked up - and very surprised that The Devil's Teardrop
(the latest novel, published by Hodder Headline, November 1999) was not.