All too often a show or movie cannot live up to a beloved book.
Though this statement will likely spark pushback because dissent is the Internet’s lifeblood, “Outlander,” premiering Saturday, Aug. 9, on Starz is perfect.
It perfectly captures the addictive magic of Diana Gabaldon’s series. And even she, who rejected many overtures to turn these wildly successful books — they’ve sold 25 million copies — into movies, concurs.
“This is the first script I have seen that didn’t make me turn white or burst into flames,” Gabaldon says, on the set in Cumbernauld, Scotland.
Dressed in a gorgeous green gown she blends into a castle crowd of kilts and gowns. In February, Zap2it spent time with the cast in Scotland, under moody skies, in 14th century castles and in a studio, where actors are fitted for hand-sewn costumes and hand-hewn weapons.
Here they learn to speak dialog in Scottish Gaelic, where “R” must be rolled with precision “or it sounds false, and achieving that control over your tongue tip is quite a challenge,” says Carol Ann Crawford, dialect coach.
When the series opens, World War II just ended, and Claire, a nurse, is reunited with her husband Frank. During five years of war, they spent 10 days together. They’re enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland.
Just as viewers settle into post-war Europe, Claire, an independent, smart woman experiences the inexplicable. She tumbles on a hill, a sacred site, and lands in 1743 in the midst of a battle between the British and Scottish. A redcoat, an ancestor of her husband, is about to rape her until a Highlander intervenes.
Perhaps the two hardest characters to cast are the leads, Claire and Jamie (Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan). Months before the premiere, the two poised on the brink of stardom, chat in a production office.
“I had heard of them,” Heughan says of the series. “When I was initially asked, I bought the book and prepped.”
“I read it over Labor Day weekend,” Balfe says. “I read it in a weekend. I knew I was reading for Claire.”
In person, the willowy, beautiful Balfe looks more delicate than she does on screen, with wilder hair and a fierce spirit. Heughan, in jeans and with combed hair is not quite the battle-scarred Jamie, who makes women swoon.
He attended boot camp in London, and “had to pack on a bit of weight, a stone” and practice riding horses, sword fencing and Gaelic to become Jamie.
The first book is told over 16 hours — the first eight now, the second half in 2015.
“I just hope people will like it,” Gabaldon says. “They will see in the show what they like in the book.”