Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Stuart Rojstaczer's "The Mathematician's Shiva"

Stuart Rojstaczer was raised in Milwaukee and has degrees from the University of Wisconsin, the University of Illinois, and Stanford. For many years, he was a professor of geophysics at Duke University.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his debut novel, The Mathematician’s Shiva:
I just sent an advance copy of my novel, The Mathematician’s Shiva, to a producer with an IMDB credit list as long as a Hummer limo so, of course, I’ve thought about how my novel should be done by Hollywood. The rule of thumb is that bad books make good movies and good books make bad movies, but I think my novel, a good book, can be an exception to the rule and be a good movie. Here’s the elevator pitch. A math genius dies. Rumor has it she’s gone to her grave with a solution to a million-dollar problem that, out of spite, she revealed to no one. The math community descends upon her funeral desperately looking for the solution. There’s greed, chaos, mystery, comedy and lust. All I need is the right screenwriter – me, certainly – and the right cast and director. Here’s my wish list.

Rachela Karnokovitch. She is the queen bee, a mathematical genius to whom others defer to almost always. I need someone who can play royalty with a Polish accent. Meryl Streep? Helen Mirren? Those two would both be fabulous. Let them battle it out with screen tests.

Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch. The mostly dutiful son of Rachela, he’s an inveterate skirt chaser who somehow, in approaching middle age, must find a way to finally grow up. I need someone who can be dark, intense and also can tell a joke. It’s Liev Shreiber or bust.

Anna Laknova. As close to a daughter as Rachela will ever have and an orphan raised in the Soviet Union, Anna is a mercurial figure who never settles for second best. Cate Blanchett would own this role like no one else. But wait, Isabelle Huppert would kill, too. Decisions, decisions.

Shlomo Czerneski. Rachela’s brother - separated from his family by war and Stalinism for nearly twenty years - is by far the most resourceful of a very resourceful family. It’s Mandy Patinkin. In the bloopers section of the DVD, he can say, “My name is Shlomo Czerneski. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”

Cynthia Czerneski. Second wife of Shlomo and Texas born and raised, Cynthia must somehow try to understand and fit into this polyglot, Eastern European family scarred by war and Stalin. It’s Julianne Moore.

Viktor Karnokovitch. Ex-husband of Rachela. Raised in Soviet privilege, Viktor’s reflexive arrogance is softened by his strong paternal instincts and his deep-seated admiration for the intellect of his wife. Ian McKellan, come on down.

Jenny Rivkin. Admirer of Rachela for her strength and ability to operate with panache in a male dominated academic field. I need someone who can do a spot on Wisconsin accent and can believably hold onto her 12-year-old crush for decades. I’m casting a bit against girl-next-door type here, but summon me Heather Graham, please.

Governor Dombrowski. A man with great hair, great teeth who possesses both a once athletic body gone a little to seed and the ability to sound sincere and greasy at the same time. Where are you, Alec Baldwin?

Bruce Czerneski. Son of Shlomo, Bruce is the only one in the family who was born in the US (and the only one who has adopted anything close to American ways). He can sing, he can dance, and his libido gets him into trouble. Neil Patrick Harris, what are you doing in the spring of 2016?

Yakov Epshtein. Stuck in Nebraska and a perennial loser at love, Yakov is a genial soul who never strays too far from a kitchen and who can surprise with both his warmth and intellect. Give Stanley Tucci a month full of knishes and vatrushkas and he’ll shine in this role.

Vladimir Zhelezniak. Arch-enemy of Rachela. He’s come all the way from Moscow for Rachela’s shiva and for what purpose? I need someone who can play a bad, cunning, hot-blooded Slav. Calling John Malkovich.

Now that I’ve assembled this all star cast, I need a modern Ernst Lubitsch, someone who can seamlessly mix sophisticated, witty comedy with slapstick. He’s young, sure, but he’s very, very good: Jason Reitman.
Visit Stuart Rojstaczer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Margaret Maron's "Designated Daughters"

Margaret Maron grew up on a farm near Raleigh and lived in Brooklyn for many years. Returning to her North Carolina roots prompted Maron to write a series based on her own background, the first of which, Bootlegger's Daughter, was a Washington Post bestseller and swept the major mystery awards for 1993.

Here Maron dreamcasts an adaptation of Designated Daughters, the nineteenth book in the acclaimed Deborah Knott series:
Rather than a movie per se, I'd rather see all 19 of my Judge Deborah Knott novels turned into a series for "Masterpiece Mystery." (Hey, if you're gonna aim high, might as well shoot for the moon, right?) I've never cast the characters in my head except for Deborah's daddy. The only actor I've ever seen that matches the description of that tall, blue-eyed fiddle-playing bootlegger is Kris Kristofferson. He's just about the right age now. The Masterpiece producers do such a good job with matching actors to parts, that I'd leave the rest up to them as long as they didn't make Deborah look like an anorexic teenage sexpot.
Learn more about the book and author at Margaret Maron's website.

The Page 69 Test: Three-Day Town.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 29, 2014

Douglas Corleone's "Payoff"

Douglas Corleone is the author of contemporary crime novels and international thrillers. His debut novel One Man's Paradise was a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.

Corleone’s highly acclaimed international thriller Good as Gone, introducing former U.S. Marshal Simon Fisk, was hailed by the Huffington Post as “a heart-wrenching, adrenaline-producing adventure that leaves the reader gasping for breath.”

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Payoff, the second Simon Fisk thriller:
Since the opening scenes of my new novel Payoff take place at the Calabasas, California home of movie mogul Edgar Trenton, My Book, The Movie presents an ideal question.

When Edgar Trenton’s teenage daughter is kidnapped during a violent home invasion, he turns to former U.S. Marshal Simon Fisk to ensure a smooth ransom exchange. Not just because Simon Fisk is a kidnapper’s worst nightmare, but because Simon owes Edgar Trenton a favor. Years ago, Edgar granted Simon’s request to nix the film version of a book based on Simon’s own real-life nightmare – the abduction of his six-year-old daughter Hailey and subsequent suicide of his beloved wife Tasha. When Simon made the request, the film already had a star attached – Jason Statham was under contract to play Simon Fisk.

But if Payoff were to be made into a movie, who would fill out the rest of the cast?

While writing the book, I imagined Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) playing the role of movie mogul Edgar Trenton, and Jennifer Connelly playing his (much younger) wife.

The female lead in the book, a beautiful Latin American woman named Mariana Silva, should be played by Penélope Cruz.

In Bogota, Colombia, Simon Fisk receives the assistance of two hard-boiled DEA agents, Samuel “Grey” Greyson and Emanuel Vega, who I envision being played by Denzel Washington and Benecio Del Toro, respectively.

All right, so we may already be well over-budget. But with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Jeffrey Bruckheimer as executive producers, money shouldn’t be an issue, right?
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas Corleone's website.

Writers Read: Douglas Corleone (August 2013).

The Page 69 Test: Good as Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bruce Grierson's "What Makes Olga Run?"

Bruce Grierson, author of U-Turn (Bloomsbury USA) and co-author of Culture Jam, with Kalle Lasn, is a social-science writer living in Vancouver, BC.

Here Grierson dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives:
Coming soon to your local multiplex, What Makes Olga Run?, the movie. It’s the story of an uptight city guy’s slow absorption of the paleo lifestyle – primitive food, polyphasic sleeping and intense barefoot workouts with boulders — which he views as the secret of recovering his lost youth. His mentor on this journey, the Burgess Meredith to his Rocky, is a 90-something track athlete with Old Country grit and a Zen-like intelligence: Olga Kotelko.

There’s surely an Oscar waiting for the actress who can pull off the role of Olga. The part demands a pretty serious level of physicality. The real Olga Kotelko notched more than fifty world records in three age categories — most recently women aged 95-99. She was a sprinter and a high jumper. It’s hard to imagine, say, Betty White, putting that kind of spring into even her walking step.

But here’s the thing: In every physiological test done on her by specialists across North America, the real Olga scored at least 30 years younger than her chronological age. And in physical appearance she was at least 25 years younger. So we’re not looking for a 90-year-old actress here. We’re looking for a 65- to 70-year-old actress. That opens up the field to all those late-Boomer Oscar-winners who must be dying for another chance to carry a film: Goldie Hawn, Glenn Close, Sigourney Weaver, Cher. (!). (Okay, the last two are probably out, since Olga was five-foot-zero and 125 pounds.)

For pure athleticism, a casting director’s thoughts might drift to Jane Fonda, who will turn 77 in December. But it would be a stretch for Fonda to capture the humble Olga vibe. There’s too much muffler-dragging liberal egotism there. Olga was a Saskatchewan farm kid turned elementary school teacher turned churchgoing grandmother — a “Plain Jane” (by her own description), not a Botoxed Jane.

So here’s my vote: Sally Field. She looked passably like Olga as Forrest Gump’s mom. She has the right kind of simple wholesome gravitas. She’s 67; she could probably run the 100m in under 20 seconds: close enough. Whether she could throw a javelin or discus convincingly who knows, but that’s what body-doubles are for. Better to have the character of Olga shine through and fake the running scenes than vice-versa.

As for who would play me, I’m thinking David Cross, the Mr. Show guy. He looks as if he could have been a runner in his younger days, but he also has the air of a guy who lost his wheels in midlife, possibly in a package deal with the hair.

The chemistry between Cross and Field would be crucial. Think Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude, or more recently Steve Coogan and Judi Dench in Philomena.

And the director? How about Phil Alden Robinson, the guy best known for skirting sentimentality (barely) in his adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s Field of Dreams. The temptation would be to overmilk the premise for comedy, which would be a mistake. So no Ben Stiller or Judd Apatow. This is a sweet film, at bottom, not a farce.

Cue the popcorn sales. Hold the butter.
Learn more about the book and author at Bruce Grierson's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 99 Test: What Makes Olga Run?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kevin Baker's "The Big Crowd"

Kevin Baker lives in New York City with his wife. He is the author of the “City of Fire” series of historical novels, Dreamland, Paradise Alley, and Strivers Row, as well as the author or co-author of books on American history, baseball, and the graphic novel, Luna Park.

Here Baker dreamcasts an adaptation of his novel, The Big Crowd:
The Big Crowd is based closely on a series of real events, about a New York City mayor just after World War II who was forced into exile in Mexico, after he was accused of taking part in the greatest unsolved murder in mob history.

It’s a story about politics and crime, with all sorts of conflicting loyalties between what we owe the people we love, and our duty to the rest of those around us, so naturally I thought of Martin Scorsese as the ideal person to direct it. Someone else who understands the nuances of civic and personal corruption in a big city would be James Gray.

For the mayor, Charlie O’Kane, who started out as an Irish immigrant and a beat cop, I thought of Liam Neeson, who can convey that sort of bluff ruggedness but also a certain vulnerability. Someone else like that might be Bryan Cranston. Charlie is married to a much younger woman, his second wife, who was also a socialite and the most sought-after fashion model in the country. January Jones seems like someone who could fit that role, but also maybe Charlize Theron or even Kate Winslet, women who could play someone who is more than just the pretty face, but able to think and maneuver for herself.

For Charlie’s younger, idealistic brother, Tom, who is determined to clear his name, Josh Brolin could do the job, and maybe Barry Pepper. Rachel McAdams or Kelly MacDonald could play Ellie, Tom’s fellow assistant DA, who works on the case with him and becomes his lover, a smart, feisty woman.

A central character in the book, a man everyone called “Mr. Big” because he controlled the Port of New York, a son of famine-Irish parents who worked his way up from nothing, could be played by Sean Bean, or Ray Winstone—maybe even Albert Finney, who is too old for the character officially for the role, but can do anything. Joseph Gannascoli, who played Vito on The Sopranos, would be perfect as Abe Reles, the mob killer turned snitch from Murder, Inc. And for a dying police captain from Brooklyn, a legendary individual known as “The Old Man” by everyone, I can only think of James Cromwell. Who else could possibly be a tough old, dying Irish cop from Brooklyn? Well, maybe Finney…
Learn more about the book and author at Kevin Baker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

M. P. Cooley's "Ice Shear"

A native of upstate New York, M. P. Cooley currently lives in Campbell, California.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Ice Shear, her first novel:
Figuring out who would play the characters in the movie of Ice Shear is a challenge, but a fun one. My book is populated by regular folks who lack shiny hair and coordinated outfits, and for many of them, I didn’t develop a fixed idea of actors who might play them. Even my hero June only came to me in flashes: blond with pale blue eyes, slim, broad shouldered, and with a stillness and strength that comes from living through the grief of her husband’s death and taking care of her young daughter. Charlize Theron has that stillness as well as a physicality that convinces me that she could beat up an enforcer for an outlaw biker gang.

June’s partner Dave could be played by Mark Ruffalo, who has Dave’s black curly hair, laconic wit and hidden intensity. FBI Special Agent Hale Bascom never shies from a confrontation, and I’ve often pictured him as all angles, strong featured and square jawed, with sharp creases in his well-made suit. Guy Pearce would be perfect.

Danielle Brouillette, the hardheaded daughter of a Congresswoman, was the only character where I had a specific actress in mind as I wrote: Amanda Seyfried. She could play the whip-smart golden girl married to the ex-outlaw biker Marty, who could be played by Chris Hemsworth. Mary McConnell could play cool, steely Congresswoman Amanda Brouillette and Gary Sinise would make an excellent Phil Brouillette , the billionaire whose rough roots run through who he is and how he talks to people.
Learn more about the book and author at M. P. Cooley's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Nomi Eve's "Henna House"

Nomi Eve is the author of Henna House and The Family Orchard, which was a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection and was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.

She has an MFA in fiction writing from Brown University and has worked as a freelance book reviewer for The Village Voice and New York Newsday.

Her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, The Voice Literary Supplement, Conjunctions, and The International Quarterly.

She lives in Philadelphia with her family.

Here Eve dreamcasts an adaptation of Henna House:
My book takes place far from Hollywood in an early twentieth century community of Jews in Northern Yemen. For authenticity, I would cast Yemenite Jewish actors in Israel in all the main roles. My characters would look like the singer Achinoam Nini, who is widely known as Noa. She is one of the most beautiful, talented people in the world. Unfortunately, she is too much a woman to play the girls in my book, but if she had a niece, a daughter….that’s who I would pick for Hani.

As for the director, I would choose Anthony Minghella, who unfortunately passed away in 2008. His film, The English Patient, based upon Michael Ondaatje’s novel breaks my heart every time I see it. And if Minghella could make the Saharan desert work as the backdrop for that film, the hillside villages of North Yemen would be a piece of cake. The sun-burnished vistas of that film are the self same colors of my characters’ lives.
Visit Nomi Eve's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Courtney Miller Santo's "Three Story House"

Courtney Miller Santo teaches creative writing at the University of Memphis, where she earned her MFA. She is the author of the novels The Roots of the Olive Tree and the newly released Three Story House.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Three Story House:
Given the importance of setting in Three Story House, any adaptation of the novel would need to be set in Memphis on the bluffs that overlook the Mississippi river. Once that was in place, it becomes a perfect vehicle for an ensemble of female actresses. (Of course I’d also love to see a female director, like Anne Fletcher who would put her trademark zaniness into the production).

Jessica Biel would make a near perfect Lizzie. Not only does she have ties to Memphis (thanks to that hunk J.T. she hangs around with), but she also played soccer in high school. Lizzie’s identity as an athlete is what protects her from her family secrets and yet at the same time also prevents her from moving forward with her life.

Elyse, who is in some ways in the middle of the other two cousins needs an actress who is warm and loud and irreverent. For me, that would have to be Kat Dennings. She is an actress, like Lucille Ball, who understands how to throw her whole self into a role. She is brilliantly witty on her sitcom, Two Broke Girls and I’d love to see her apply that same energy to Elyse, who is so unsure of herself except when she’s with her cousins.

I love thinking about where people I grew up watching are now. I always loved Madylin Sweeten on Everybody Loves Raymond, especially in the show’s last years when we all got to see how beautiful and talented she’d become. She’d be perfect in the role of Isobel, who is a former child actress trying to decide if she should keep pursuing her dream of acting or find another path. In what Madylin has done it is clear that her talents go beyond playing a cute kid.
Learn more about the book and author at Courtney Miller Santo's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Roots of the Olive Tree.

Writers Read: Courtney Miller Santo (November 2012).

My Book, The Movie: The Roots of the Olive Tree.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Carys Bray's "A Song for Issy Bradley"

Carys Bray completed an M.A. in creative writing at Edge Hill University in 2010. That same year she won the M.A. category of the Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story, and her stories have since been published in a variety of literary magazines. She was awarded the Scott Prize for her debut collection, Sweet Home. She lives in Southport, England, with her husband and four children.

Here Bray dreamcasts an adaptation of A Song for Issy Bradley, her first novel:
I didn’t have any actors in mind as I wrote A Song for Issy Bradley, so it was a somewhat tricky task to look back and pair the characters with actors. Having said that, it was also quite fun!

A clean shaven, bespectacled Jude Law would make a good Ian Bradley, but David Tennant would also be great – in fact, my children are ardent Doctor Who fans and would be immensely impressed if David Tennant appeared in the film of my novel, so I’ll plump for him. Suranne Jones would be perfect for Claire Bradley (she has appeared in a number of British television shows including Scott and Bailey, The Secret of Crickley Hall and the Crimson Field). I’d like to see Robbie Coltrane as the rather eccentric but very kind-hearted Brother Rimmer. He’s the right shape and size, and I think he’d do a great job of playing a character who is ever-so-slightly bonkers.

The other important characters are children, and I found it difficult to select child actors - when I checked online, they were all much older in reality than they were in my imagination. So I decided to cheat and pick actors who might need to borrow the Doctor’s TARDIS and undertake some time travel in order to appear in the movie. I’d have Holly Bodimeade as Zipporah Bradley, Bill Milner as Alma Bradley and a very young Asa Butterfield as Jacob Bradley.

While I’m in charge of the film I’d also like to stipulate that the beach scenes are filmed in Southport, where the novel is set. And I’d like David Tennant to pop round to my house for tea at least once during filming – that’s not too much to ask, right?
Visit Carys Bray's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tom Leveen's "Random"

Tom Leveen is the author of Sick, Party, Zero, and manicpixiedreamgirl. Zero was named to YALSA’s list of Best Fiction for Young Adults.

His latest novel is Random.

Here Leveen dreamcasts an adaptation of Random:
Man, she’s way too old now, but Jennifer Lawrence would be awesome as Tori. Tori’s tough because she is not a likeable protagonist, nor was she ever meant to be. So having someone who could visually portray her weaknesses and vulnerabilities with the kind of understated strength that Lawrence has would be great. For a closer age, I’d like to see Valerie Tian (Words and Pictures) give it a whirl. She was fun in that.

For Noah, Chandler Riggs (Walking Dead) might be a fun choice. It’d be great to get him before anyone else does once WD is over!

And for Andy, how about Josh Ssettuba, also from Words and Pictures. Or better yet, put Riggs and Ssettuba in a room together and make ‘em read for both parts, see who’d be better for which.

A cool cameo would be Kiefer Sutherland as Tori's dad. Just so I could meet him.
Learn more about the book and author at Tom Leveen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Zero.

My Book, The Movie: Sick.

The Page 69 Test: Sick.

Writers Read: Tom Leveen.

--Marshal Zeringue