Earlier this year, St. Vincent—the musical alias of Annie Clark—made her directorial debut with the short “Birthday Party,” part of the horror anthology XX that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Then, in April, she appeared in a short film with John Legend and Zach Galifianakis for Planned Parenthood. And on Wednesday, Clark announced, for her latest screen effort, she is returning to the director’s chair to helm a new adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novel The Picture of Dorian Gray scripted by David Birke, the writer behind Paul Verhoeven’s Elle and the upcoming Slender Man. With Clark and Birke’s shared background in horror, it will surely shape up to be a creepy, eerie adaptation of the 19th-century story.
But Clark’s Dorian Grey has something of an edge over the 20-odd adaptations of the novel that have appeared on film and television over the past century-plus (including in the Eva Green series Penny Dreadful), for her film will star a woman in the title role. (There is some precedent: A 1983 made-for-TV movie called The Sins of Dorian Gray featured a woman protagonist, a model who sold her soul in exchange for eternal youth.) It’s a role perfectly suited to a young actor like Riley Keough or Rooney Mara or Gugu Mbatha-Raw; we might also suggest a woman Basil in the form of Nicole Kidman, and the sylph-like thespian Sybil as either Zoë Kravitz or Matt Smith, depending on what direction Clark and Birke want to take their story.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde’s only novel, was published in 1890 to much controversy—it was quite salacious for its time, its earliest incarnations referring to extramarital trysts and gay romances. It’s also the original anti-aging parable, and in that way, it couldn’t come at a better time—a moment when some have declared the phrase forbidden. After all, how better to explore the continuing social pox that is growing older and acquiring wrinkles than through some classic English literature?
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