As readers of The Thursday Murder Club will know, its crime-fighting heroes are septuagenarian residents of a luxury retirement village.
Richard Osman scored one of the fastest-selling novels since records began with a book that celebrates the wit and wisdom of old age.
However, anyone hoping to see age-appropriate actors cast in the forthcoming film adaptation will be disappointed.
Osman has revealed that Steven Spielberg, the director who will bring the novel and its sequels to the screen, plans to cast 50-somethings in the lead roles and age them up with make-up because he is worried that older actors will not make it to the end of the franchise.
That will dash the hopes of readers who regularly approach Osman to tell him that Dame Helen Mirren would be perfect casting as Elizabeth, the former spy who helps to crack cases at the Coopers Chase retirement community.
“This is terrible, really, but the thing about the films – in the books, the action of each next book starts the following week, so I’m not ageing them very quickly. I can get four books done in a calendar year, so they’re not getting much older,” explained Osman, who has just published a sequel, The Man Who Died Twice.
Fans expecting to see Dame Helen Mirren as Elizabeth in the film version of The Thursday Murder Club might be disappointed
Credit: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
“With films, of course you’re filming one every two years or so, so filming four [would mean] they’re going to be eight years older than they were on film one.
“So the Hollywood thing, by and large, is that you get people you can age up a little bit. They might have people in their 50s and 60s playing people in their 70s. I think that’s the tactic. I don’t know who they’re going to have, by the way, but they might go a little bit younger and do a little bit of a make-up job.”
Osman said other reader suggestions for the four main characters, besides Dame Helen, 76, are Dame Penelope Wilton, 75, and Kenneth Cranham, 76.
The author’s mother, Brenda, whose own home in a retirement village inspired the novels, has suggested Imelda Staunton, 65, and Celia Imrie, 69.
Appearing at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Osman, who combines his writing career with hosting the television shows Pointless and House of Games, said that the age of the protagonists was important to the story.
Fans' dream cast for Thursday Murder Club
“There’s one reading of these books which is: they’re a cosy mystery, and isn’t it cute that there’s four Miss Marples. And you can definitely read them as that, but I wanted them to be much more than that,” he said.
“I think about invisibility as we get older and the way we no longer have use for people as they get older, just at the point where actually they know more than they’ve ever known before and they’ve got a lot of time on their hands.”
“People say sometimes, ‘How do you get inside the head of a 75-year-old woman?’ And you think, well, it’s the same as the head of a 45-year-old man or a 25-year old woman. Our brains don’t change. We’re the same person and we have the same desire for adventure and novelty and new friendships.”
The Thursday Murder Club has sold more than a million copies since its publication a year ago, becoming the second fastest-selling debut adult novel of all time behind JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. It has been published in 40 countries.
Spielberg’s film version will be scripted by Ol Parker, who wrote the screenplay for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.