The Jigsaw Man

Added on 25 November 2008

When I first started writing I used to fill the gaps between splurges of creativity by doing jigsaws. It was therapeutic and very positive for the creative process. Keeps you occupied, but allows you to think about something else at the same time. Quite why at the time, as a young married couple, we had jigsaws in the house, I can’t remember. It wasn’t exactly rock ‘n roll, keeping an illegal stash of contraband 1500 piece Ravensburgers in the cupboard, but I got to know all the dealers on the streets of Dakar. ‘Here, my friend, I have an original 2000 piece Bavarian castle...’

The jigsaw phase passed, probably due to the arrival of two small children. However, when I wrote a film script a few years ago - Monkfish Cowboy - I put a character in it known as The Jigsaw Man. He’s the favourite character I’ve created so far. Too bad I put him in a screenplay for a film that will likely never get made. (After an encouraging start, Monkfish Cowboy has been subsumed into Development Hell, like 99.999% of all other screenplays on Planet Earth.)

Monkfish Cowboy is a romcom involving folk in their late twenties. The Jigsaw Man is maybe twenty years older, and he spends his life sitting in a coffee shop, dispensing wisdom and advice, such as :

It’s like a really good éclair. Cream, chocolate, the first bite is delicious. But you eat them every day, you become bloated and fat. You end up wanting a plain biscuit…… The magic never lasts, how can it? All you can hope for is that you marry a fairly simple chocolate bar that’s comforting to have with your tea every night.

And all the while he does jigsaws. The Jigsaw Man. The producers had talked of getting Stephen Rea to play the Jigsaw Man, as the current intention is to make the film in Ireland. This, however, is all part of the development process. Originally set in Scotland, then Ireland, we’ll probably have to move the script through at least another fifteen countries before anything happens. And then it’ll probably end up back in Scotland. I think Hugh Laurie would do a good job. If only he wasn’t making $80m a week on American TV.

Last week, in a moment of existential and creative angst, I bought another jigsaw. A return to my writing roots. I’ve set it up on the kitchen table, and now I sit there putting together a 1500 piece olde worlde map type of picture. It’s not cool and it’s not rock ‘n roll. I probably have an exaggerated sense of belief that it’s at least an acceptable thing to do with your time, because I created this character in a movie who oozes cool. (The Jigsaw Man sounds like a great character, but then if I’d called him The Child’s Puzzle Man, that wouldn’t have been so good.) But I have no wisdom to dispense. I just sit there, a kitchen general, ordering the kids to do their homework, and grudgingly acquiescing if either of them asks to help. Well, only One of Two asks to help. Two of Two, a Troy Bolton in the making, already knows that jigsaws aren’t cool.

Maybe if Monkfish Cowboy never happens, I could give The Jigsaw Man his own movie. And it might sound like a horror movie about a deranged killer, working in the eerie shadow of Dr Frankenstein, piecing together the bodies of the dead, but in fact it would be a small and quiet tale of a guy doing a jigsaw in the hope that it’s not him but the rest of the world that is going slowly insane.