The person responsible for the creation of the lead character Stephanie Patrick (played by Blake lively) and the story itself is Mr. Mark Burnell. He was born in Northumberland and grew up in Brazil. The Rhythm Section is his debut novel and the first of upcoming thrilling series starring Stephanie Patrick. Mr. Burnell is both a novelist and a screenwriter( he wrote The Rhythm Section script). He currently lives with his family in London. So, take this time to get to know this talented writer and read his experience with his latest project, The Rhythm Section, which will be released on Friday, January 31.
1. What was your reaction when you first watched the trailer of The Rhythm Section?
It was a real thrill. I was in a movie theatre in New York and I wasn’t expecting to see it at all. It was the first trailer in the sequence and I was stunned when the opening shot appeared. To see it on a big screen in front of the public – after so long – was a great feeling. The crowd reaction was very positive!
2. What is the genesis of The Rhythm Section?
I wrote the novel before 9/11, which some people find quite shocking when they read it. They assume that I had some special insight into that world. But I didn’t. What is more shocking is that I based the climactic plot in the novel on a real plot – the Bojinka plot – and then modified it, but all the necessary information was already in the public domain. With hindsight, and knowing this, 9/11 was inevitable. This element of the novel has had to be altered for the movie, for obvious reasons.
3. What was your writing schedule when you wrote the novel and screenplay of The Rhythm Section?
I wrote The Rhythm Section in 12 weeks and it required no rewrites and very little editing. That is very rare! When writing the screenplay, there is no writing schedule: the Producers and I would agree what the script (or subsequent changes) should look like, then I’d ask them when they wanted it and they’d say, “yesterday”.
4. When writing the novel to The Rhythm Section, do you like to map out your fiction plots ahead of time, or just let it flow?
I always map out a plot. But once I start writing, I allow myself to deviate. To stick too rigidly to a pre-planned plot can be too restrictive. But to have a plot map is a good idea if I get lost or stuck, which happens all the time.
5. What was your favorite book when you were a teenager? Do you have a favorite book now?
I read a great deal when I was a teenager but I didn’t have a favourite book. As an adult, and as a writer of thrillers, I do now have a favourite book: Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson. It is by far and away the greatest thriller I have ever read and I am pretty confident I will never again read a thriller as good in my lifetime.
6. What films and books have been the most inspiring to you in your career as a novelist and screenwriter?
Philip Kerr, who died far too young in 2018, is my favourite author in terms of consistent excellence. Lionel Davidson, mentioned above, was wonderful. But, in general, I fall for individual books rather than authors.
I loved Bond films when I was a kid (given that EON are the producers of The Rhythm Section, you might think I’m obliged to say this!) but the films that really connected with me on every level would be two of Ridley Scott’s earliest movies – Alien and Blade Runner – and then the thrillers of the 70s: Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, The French Connection, Chinatown. A special mention for Jaws – it might be the most efficient film I have ever seen; every shot and every line are moving it forward. There is no waste. That’s an important consideration for a screen-writer. The script for Chinatown might be the single best script I have ever read – it’s genius.
7. Did you get writer’s block when writing the The Rhythm Section novel? What do you do to get back on track?
I never had writer’s block on The Rhythm Section. I’ve had it on every other book I’ve written, although another term for writer’s block might well be “insufficient focus and/or effort”. I still can’t decide whether writer’s block is a genuine “thing” or not, even though I know I’ve had it.
8. What’s your favorite line from The Rhythm Section screenplay?
I’m afraid it’s a line that ended up on the cutting-room floor and, even if I told you, you wouldn’t want to print it! One of the moments I do like most is when Kaif asks Stephanie how she intends to carry out her proposed revenge and she simply says, after a moment’s thought, ‘violently’. Nothing to do with my writing – it’s just the way Blake delivers it.
9. Which one is more challenging for you: writing The Rhythm Section novel or writing the screenplay to The Rhythm Section?
Screenplay, no doubt. The novel wrote itself. But this would not always be the case. Writing a screenplay is fun but, in the later stages, when studio execs and financiers and others all begin to have their say, that can be a problem. Too many opinions, not all of them helpful!
10. What are your thoughts about Reed Morano directing The Rhythm Section?
Truthfully, I couldn’t be happier. She’s done an amazing job. Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson were very keen that I should be happy with their choice of director and as soon as I met Reed, I was on board. We got on straight away. I think it’s fair to say that our visions were aligned. To transition from being an enormously talented cinematographer to being a brilliant director happens very rarely. She’s made it look easy.
11. What are your thoughts on Blake Lively playing Stephanie Patrick? Did you ever meet her or any other cast member on set?
I saw 85 screen tests for Stephanie but Blake wasn’t one of them so I was surprised when Barbara and Michael told me it was going to be her. But she totally got the character of Stephanie. Her diehard fans are in for a BIG surprise! They won’t have seen her do anything close to this before (including an impeccable English accent). I’m thrilled by her performance.
I was the writer for the shoot so I was on-set for almost all of the movie so I met everyone. It was a terrific experience for me.
12. For anyone that haven’t been to Northumberland, what would you suggest for him or her to go, eat, or do over there?
Northumberland is a well-kept secret! Most people pass through it on their way to Scotland. For those of us who live there, that’s how we like it, although the Northumbria Tourist Board might not. The Northumbrian coastline north of Newcastle is absolutely stunning – amazing beaches and castles, almost completely deserted in winter and really not that crowded even in summer.
Walking the remains of Hadrian’s Wall, built by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago, takes you through some of the most stunning countryside in the British Isles.
13. What are your fondest memories about Brazil?
There are so many – the people, the climate, the city itself: it’s hard to imagine a greater contrast to Northumberland, or even London, than Rio de Janeiro, which is where we lived. Body-surfing, coffee, football, Formula One motor-racing – they are all Brazilian passions which I fell for. A good churrascaria, however, is hard to beat. Sorry, vegans!
14. Do you recall the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. I was about 10 or 11 and it was an appalling piece of plagiarism – I wrote a story called 666 Squadron which was a hilariously badly-written rip-off of a World War 1 movie called Aces High.
15. Silly-Game question: From The Rhythm Section, could you please leaf through the pages and point at a random place. What is the full sentence? And what is the page number of this random sentence?
The cabin was virtually empty; she was the only passenger in row 9.
Page 196 of the US movie tie-in version.
16. If someone made a movie of your life would it be a drama, comedy, romantic-comedy, action film, or science fiction, etc.?
In my mind, it would be an action-thriller with a strong romantic streak. In reality, it would be a very slow-moving slice of life set to an ambient soundtrack where not much happens, punctuated, occasionally, by moments where even less happens. A sleep-aid, in fact. But directed by Michael Bay.
17. Could you give a sneak peek on your next project?
I have several possibilities, including a fifth Stephanie novel called Slipstream.
18. Last question, what is your favorite animal in the world?
Lizard. Or Vizsla. Depending on my mood…
I really appreciate Mr. Mark Burnell for taking his time to answer those questions. The Rhythm Section movie will be release this coming Friday, January 31. Mark your calendar so you won't miss it. Also, The Rhythm Section novel is available at Amazon and where books are sold. It would behoove you to put it on your to-read list or go read it now before you watch the film. Thank you once again for stopping by my blog and I hope you have a great day and a great movie/book experience with The Rhythm Section.