Actress Margaret Qualley has only recently gotten her name out there for co-starring in the American television drama series “The Leftovers” (2014-Present) as the character Jill Garvey, teenage daughter to the main character Kevin Garvey, Jr. (Played by Justin Theroux). Before that she had only done a small role in the 2013 American drama film “Palo Alto” as the character Raquel. However, Qualley is about to take a possible big step in her career by starring as the female lead in a live-action American adaptation of the hugely popular Japanese manga “Death Note”.
Having already been adapted into a duel set of live-action films in 2006 in Japan (“Death Note” and “Death Note 2: The Last Name”) with a third film being announced, this will be the first American adaptation of the manga.
Now, before beginning the usual “White cast and crew for Japanese material” controversy, let’s consider a couple things in tangent with Qualley’s casting. The director chosen, Adam Wingard, just came off directing “The Guest”, a critically-acclaimed 2014 American thriller film. This film actually falls closely into the threadwork of the base story of the manga “Death Note”.
In the story of “The Guest”, the character David (Played by Dan Stevens) goes after people who learn his identity. In parallel, “Death Note” is about a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook from a shinigami named Ryuk that grants its user the ability to kill anyone whose name and face they know. Not exactly “Tomato/Tomata”, but it shows that Wingard has a good grasp of the story concept before even jumping into the project with just his past work to help guide him.
As for casting Qualley, the fact is that “Death Note” is ambiguous enough to be adapted for American audiences. The fear is that, like many American versions of popular Japanese mangas/shows, no one wants “Death Note” to turn out like this:
However, let us consider something else. The 2009 film “Dragonball: Evolution” was directed by James Wong who was most known for horror films such as 2001’s “The Final Destination”. His only film outside of that genre was the American science fiction action-martial arts film “The One”. Adapting the manga “Dragonball” was asking a lot of him, not to mention the fandom pressure he was under.
On the other hand, Wingard’s previous films are almost EXACTLY like the story of “Death Note”. Doesn’t it make more sense to have a director who understands the type of universe you’re going for, especially thematically and story-wise? While this will be his first big CGI film, Wingard has experience as a cinematographer and editor as well meaning we can get a unified story and atmosphere. With all that in mind, having a good American director usually means an American cast. But if the root of the problem (Good directing) is solved, that can bleed over into the film’s performances since he will guide them.
Optimism is something you have to have when approaching the film process. We as fans can’t control the film industry. What we can do is find out the angle they are going for something. With a director who has expertise that could benefit “Death Note” story-wise and atmospherically and an actress whose continuous role in a supernatural series allows her understanding of that genre…I think that is an excellent start.