The long-awaited news of who will be playing Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and John Moore in TNT’s upcoming adaptation of The Alienist was announced on Monday. Daniel Brühl (Rush, Inglorious Bastards, Captain America: Civil War) has been cast as Dr. Kreizler, while Luke Evans (The Girl on The Train, The Hobbit trilogy, Dracula Untold) has been cast as John Moore. TNT have also confirmed that shooting will begin in Budapest in early 2017.
While the casting of these two talented actors is certainly an exciting development, there was some troubling news to accompany this announcement as well. Namely, the description in the press release of John as “a society illustrator for the New York Times” who “always [lacks] drive and a meaning to his pursuits.” For any visitors who may feel that I am over-reacting in describing this as “troubling” — after all, John remaining a crime reporter can’t really be that important, can it? — I would ask you to remember what his role on the team was described as in the novel:
“What the hell was the idea of getting my whole house up and forcing me to go down there, anyway? It’s not as though I can report that kind of thing, you know that–all it did was agitate my grandmother, and that’s not much of an achievement.”
“I’m sorry, John. But you needed to see just what it is we’ll be dealing with.”
“I am not dealing with anything!” I protested again. “I’m only a reporter, remember, a reporter with a gruesome story that I can’t tell.”
“You do yourself no justice, Moore,” Kreizler said. “You are a veritable cyclopedia of privileged information–though you may not realize it.”
… “Tell me, Moore,” Laszlo asked, “what’s your opinion of Ellison? Is there any chance he is involved?”
“Biff?” I sat back, stretched my legs out, and weighed it. “He is, without question, one of the worst men in this city. Most of the gangsters who run things now have some kind of human spark in them somewhere, however hidden. Even Monk Eastman has his cats and birds. But Biff–for all I can tell, nothing touches him. Cruelty is really his only sport, the only thing that seems to give him any pleasure. And if I hadn’t seen that body, if this were just a hypothetical question about a dead boy who worked out of Paresis Hall, I wouldn’t hesitate to say he’s a suspect. Motive? He would have had a few, the most likely being to keep the other boys in line, make sure they pay their full cut to him. But there’s just one problem with it–style. Biff is a stiletto man, if you know what I mean. He kills quietly, neatly, and a lot of people he’s supposed to have killed have never been found. He’s all flash in his clothes, but not in his work. So, much as I’d like to, I can’t say as I see him involved in this. It’s just not his–style.”
I glanced up to find Laszlo giving me a very puzzled look. “John, that is the most intelligent thing I’ve ever heard you say,” he finally announced. “And to think that you wondered why you’d been brought along.” He turned to Theodore. “Roosevelt, I shall require Moore as my assistant. His knowledge of this city’s criminal activities, and of the locales in which those activities take place, will make him invaluable.”
This being John’s role, it therefore makes little sense for his profession to be changed to “a society illustrator,” nor is it clear why such a change would be necessary for creative reasons. Moreover, while John may lack drive during investigations at times, he does take his work seriously. One need only look to the opening of the novel’s sequel, The Angel of Darkness, to see this aspect of his character on full display — not to mention making it clear why it’s important for John to be represented as a writer rather than an illustrator.
Finally, I would ask any new visitors to 17th Street to note that this news follows some deeply worrying audition recordings that surfaced earlier in the year in which it became clear that the characters of Marcus Isaacson and Sara Howard had been changed significantly from how they were portrayed in the novel. At the time, I had been hopeful that these audition recordings would not be representative of the production as a whole. For now, however, I suppose we will have to wait and see.