Coheed, Cambria, and Characters

By Randal Stevens · September 17, 2010


WARNING: This blog contains the musings of a HUGE nerd.

Characters can be tricky.  A big problem with a lot of amateur scripts I've read is that there's virtually no differentiation between the characters.  This can especially be a problem for people who try and imitate the hyper stylized writing of Quentin Tarantino, Diablo Cody or Kevin Smith, but who are lacking in other departments of screenwriting.  If all your characters sound and/or act the same, then your screenplay becomes bland and uninteresting.

It can be difficult, however, to create vibrant and distinct characters completely out of thin air.  Even if you're adapting someone else's work, such as a novel or a remake, in a way you still have to add your own individual touch to the characters you're translating.  Just think about how many times you've seen an adaptation and heard people bitch about how the screenwriter interpreted, left out, or composited a character/characters – most recently, I'm thinking about some of the complaints leveraged against what I feel is Tony Grissoni's excellent work transforming David Peace's bleak "Red Riding" quadrilogy of books into the Red Riding film trilogy.

One thing I've found helpful for writing characters in my own work is to think about characters in other movies to whom mine are similar.  For instance, the horror screenplay I gave up on two years ago featured a sassy, black female best friend so I wrote a lot of her lines and actions with Rutina Wesley's Tara Thornton from "True Blood" in mind.  When I was writing a weary father figure, I thought of Michael Biehn's Kyle Reese from Terminator with an alcohol soaked twist.  

I did this quite extensively in my mind this past spring when reading "Year of the Black Rainbow," the novelization of the Coheed and Cambria album written by frontman Claudio Sanchez.  Sanchez, despite his ridiculous skills at shredding and the help of comic writer extraordinaire Peter David, isn't exactly gifted when it comes to prose, so I was playing a lot of make believe while reading his 352-page hardcover space epic.  And because this is my blog and I'll do whatever the hell I want, I'm going to share with you the imaginary casting that went on in my head in order to bring this first tale of the Amory Wars to life.

Dr. Leonard Hohenberger (Viggo Mortensen): Hohenberger is the human who created the titular characters of Coheed and Cambria in order to combat the tyranny of Supreme Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan.  Hohenberger is described as intelligent and hard-working but modest, soft-spoken and reluctant to get involved in conflict.  In my mind, Hohenberger shares a lot of similarities with Mortensen's Tom Stall from A History of Violence in that he's very content to live his own quiet life, only springing to action when his family is threatened.  

Pearl Hohenberger (Diane Lane): Hohenberger's wife is, like him, a brilliant scientist who is happy living a quiet life with her husband and son.  However, she also has a furious anger that shows no bias to friend or foe as evidenced by when she is kidnapped by Ryan's right hand man, Mayo Detinwolf, and learns of her husband's eventual, reluctant cooperation with them.  In Unfaithful, Lane showed a great mixture of passion, torment, anger and sadness, which is the same lethal concoction of emotions that Pearl ingests while her husband struggles to right the wrongs.

Coheed Killgannon (Jeffrey Dean Morgan): One half of the power IRO-bot duo created by Hohenberger in order to defeat Wilhelm Ryan, Coheed has a large build with dark hair and a mustache and is an arrogant fighter who has no trouble backing up his bark with his bite.  Despite his rough exterior, he cares very much for his wife, Cambria and the family they eventually have together.  While I wasn't a huge fan of Morgan's portrayal of The Comendian from Watchmen, there was a good mixture of gruff and sensitive that I think would serve this character well.

Cambria Killgannon (Morena Baccarin): The heart to Coheed's muscle, Cambria has an outer beauty that belies powerful telekinesis.  Though Coheed is always the first to jump into battle, she always supports him and is equally deadly.  Baccarin's  Inana from "Firefly" was also a sensitive soul that would never initiate combat but always had tricks up her sleeve when it came time to throw down.  She also was an engaging emotional foil to Fillion's colder Mal Reynolds.  Plus, nerds already love her.

Mayo Detinwolf (Samuel L. Jackson): Detinwolf is the Head General of Ryan's United Red Army and is extremely dangerous despite his rather reserved demeanor.  The Amory Wars comics depict him as black and bald, so who else could fill this role besides Samuel L?  Like Jackson's Jules from Pulp Fiction, Detinwolf infrequently raises his voice, but when he does, it's time to listen the fuck up and pay attention because serious shit is about to go down.  He chooses his words carefully and not listening to what he says is often the last mistake people make.

Supreme Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan (Michael Wincott): What do all men with power want?  More power.  Despite being appointed as one of the most powerful beings in the universe, Ryan wanted more power and began the War of the Mages, overthrowing the other 12 Mages and gaining complete control over the 78 planets within Heaven's Fence.  He is cold, calculating and knows exactly what moves to make at one time and how to exploit his foes' weaknesses.  Wincott was impressive as the leader of Detroit's destruction in The Crow and his scratchy, deep voice carries its own power and gravity that seems to command attention.