Monday, June 27, 2016

Jessica Anya Blau's "The Trouble with Lexie"

Jessica Anya Blau's books include The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, Drinking Closer to Home, and The Wonder Bread Summer. Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Trouble with Lexie:
I’m a big daydreamer. Maybe most writers are. Often when I’m in the car, I’ll turn off the radio and just tune in to a daydream. In this way, hours can pass unnoticed. My daydreams run like movies in my head. It’s not surprising since the simplest way to describe my writing process would be to say that I watch a movie I’m creating in my head and then write it down as I see it.

When I was writing The Trouble with Lexie, I was also binge-watching Friday Night Lights. So, of course, I was thinking of Kyle Chandler for Daniel. Daniel doesn’t have Coach Taylor’s wholesome goodness. But he has his looks, his charisma, his confidence.

Lexie is a version of me—younger, prettier, taller, blonder, a much smaller nose! But she’s neurotic and a worrier like me. She’s 33, and I have no idea how old any Hollywood star is but I like Kristen Stewart and think she would be the perfect Lexie. She has a certain mysteriousness to her that makes her appealing. And you don’t read about her everywhere—I have no idea what she is like, I only know what her characters are like.

Dot, the 80-year-old tap-dancing English teacher who curses like a truck driver could be played by Betty White. Or by my mother, who isn’t a star except in her own home with her human-sized sheep dog and her cross-eyed, obese cat to whom she sings.

Peter needs to be played by someone who can do that sort of boneless, hipster, low-slung jeans thing. Maybe Armie Hammer, but scruffed out, unbathed, sans underwear.

Amy could be played by Anna Chlumsky. I love her in Veep. And she has the perfect look for Amy: together, pretty, but not overly-groomed and not-overly thin. Amy/Anna looks like someone who eats carbs without thinking Oh mah gawd, I’m eating carbs!

Dream directors . . . oh, you know, Steven Soderbergh would be the ideal. I like his sensibility: he sees the humor in life, in reality. And he has a good sense of women and how real and strong they are. Also, he understands the importance of plot and tension. High-stakes things happen in his movies; something changes by the end.
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Anya Blau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Anya Blau and Pippa.

The Page 69 Test: The Wonder Bread Summer.

My Book, The Movie: The Wonder Bread Summer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Joy Callaway's "The Fifth Avenue Artists Society"

Joy Callaway’s love of storytelling is a direct result of her parents’ insistence that she read books or write stories instead of watching TV. Her interest in family history was fostered by her relatives’ habit of recounting tales of ancestors’ lives. Callaway is a full-time mom and writer. She formerly served as a marketing director for a wealth management company. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and Public Relations from Marshall University and an M.M.C. in Mass Communication from the University of South Carolina.

Here Callaway dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Fifth Avenue Artists Society:
I don’t often think of actors when I’m writing, but there are many times when I’ll see someone in a particular role and think, wow, if there’s ever a movie, I’ll need them in mine. So, here we go!

For the role of Ginny, I’d cast Michelle Dockery. She plays a strong, driven female lead so well and I think she would be just perfect.

I’d choose Rachel McAdams as Ginny’s older sister, Bess. She’s a milliner with a prickly personality, and McAdams is so versatile and compelling.

You can’t have a proper period drama without including Keira Knightley, and I think she’d be phenomenal as Ginny’s level headed sister, Mae.

Zac Efron is an incredibly talented actor and strangely looks like my vision of Ginny’s twin brother, Franklin. I have no doubt Zac would do the role justice.

Caitriona Balfe would play the perfect Alevia, Ginny’s youngest sister. Alevia is an elegant, soft-spoken woman with unwavering determination to become a celebrated pianist.

I’d swipe another Downton actress, Lily James, for the role of Franklin’s spirited violinist beau, Lydia.

I’ve always been a huge Tom Welling fan, so I think I’d cast him as Ginny’s first love, next door neighbor, and fellow artist. But, if I could choose any actor from any era, I’d choose Jimmy Stewart.

John Hopper is a classy, wealthy, talented Society man who has a sort of magnetism about him, and I don’t think anyone plays that type of man better than Leonardo DiCaprio.
Visit Joy Callaway's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Walter Shapiro's "Hustling Hitler"

Walter Shapiro has covered every presidential campaign since 1980. A columnist at Roll Call, he is also a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU and a lecturer in political science at Yale. He is the winner of the Sigma Delta Chi Award, given by the Society of Professional Journalists, as the best 2010 online columnist for his work for Politics Daily. In recent years, Shapiro was the Washington bureau chief for Salon, twice weekly political columnist for USA Today and monthly columnist for Esquire. In prior incarnations, he was on the staffs of Time, Newsweek and the Washington Post. He was also a White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter.

For a decade, Shapiro performed standup comedy at clubs in New York and claims that his on-stage career is merely on hiatus. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, writer Meryl Gordon.

Here Shapiro shares some thoughts on adapting his new book, Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Führer, for the big screen:
Since I know the status of a book writer in Hollywood (somewhere between a pool boy and a valet parking attendant), I have no illusions that anyone would ever listen to my casting suggestions for Hustling Hitler. Though, in idle moments, I do imagine movie posters and TV commercials proclaiming, "George Clooney Is Freeman Bernstein."

While writing my book, I did indulge in a wild fantasy about casting. In a perfect universe, I could bring back Zero Mostel to impersonate Freeman Bernstein. For Hustling Hitler was written to be a real-life counterpart to The Producers.
Visit the Hustling Hitler website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bill Schutt and J. R. Finch's "Hell’s Gate"

Bill Schutt is a vertebrate zoologist and author. He is a research associate in residence at the American Museum of Natural History and a professor of biology at LIU Post. Schutt’s first book, Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures, was critically acclaimed by E. O. Wilson and the New York Times. His forthcoming books include Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. J. R. Finch is a painter, history buff, and cave explorer.

Here Schutt dreamcasts an adaptation of their new thriller, Hell's Gate:
I’ve been a huge movie buff for as long as I can remember so I guess it’s no surprise that when I wrote my first novel it would be highly cinematic. There are certainly scenes and dialogue in Hell’s Gate that were inspired by Apocalypse Now, Mimic and especially, The Thing (1951). I’ve always been impressed by the wonderful overlapping dialogue in the latter film and we both worked many long hours to get the dialogue in Hell’s Gate to sound natural. These are witty, intelligent people (good and bad) who are thrown into some extremely strange situations and where they face some ‘things’ that no character has ever faced in a novel before. As such, we had a ball imagining how they’d react. Our book also has a very dark tone and I listened to a great deal of Bernard Herrmann while writing Hell’s Gate (especially soundtracks to films like Psycho and Vertigo). Happily, both Mr. Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock show up as characters in the Hell’s Gate sequel we’re currently finishing. It’s an honor to pay homage to these giants.

As for who would play our characters if Hell’s Gate were made into a film, well, that’s a dream question for a film lover like me. I can certainly see Ryan Reynolds playing our smart talking hero R. J. MacCready and I think Zach Galifianakis would be perfect for Mac’s long-lost, and slightly warped best friend, Bob Thorne. The part of Yanni Thorne (Bob’s indigenous Brazilian wife) is a bit tougher for me to pin down. I think Eva Green would bring a perfect combination of kick-ass and mystery to a very important and multi-layered role. As for the villains, I can easily picture Christoph Waltz and Michael Fassbender in the respective roles of Sänger (our German rocket expert) and Colonel Wolff (the German officer leading his men on an extremely unique mission).

Finally, our dream director, without a doubt, would be Guillermo del Toro. As we wrote many of the big scenes in Hell’s Gate, both my co-author and I did so with daydreams of what theses scenes (with their WWII rockets and lethal non-human characters) would look like if they had been composed and filmed by Mr. del Toro.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Karin Salvalaggio's "Walleye Junction"

Born in West Virginia and raised in an Air Force family, Karin Salvalaggio grew up on a number of military bases around the United States. Her novels include Bone Dust White, Burnt River, and Walleye Junction. She now lives in London with her two children.

Here Salvalaggio dreamcasts an adaptation of Walleye Junction:
Walleye Junction, the third novel in the Macy Greeley mystery series, is set in a rural community in northern Montana. Tucked beneath the majestic peaks of the Whitefish Range, the Flathead Valley is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Given this richly visual material it’s hardly surprising that my readers often ask if my novels will ever be made into films. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for Hollywood to call, but in the meantime it’s fun to fantasize. I recently sat down with a friend who works in the film industry to discuss who would be ideal to play the various roles in Walleye Junction. It was only after drinking an entire bottle of wine and some serious soul-searching that we agree on a cast list. Hard work but someone has to do it!

Macy Greeley, the special investigator central to the series, isn't ever described as attractive yet people are drawn to her. I like to think it boils down to a healthy mix of intelligence, charisma and tenacity. Though I'd originally chosen Jessica Chastain for the role, my girlfriend convinced me that Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Luther) would be the better choice.

Emma Long has returned to her hometown Walleye Junction following her father's murder. She is a woman who I'd describe as elegantly detached - even when devastated her actions are carefully contained. We agreed that Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager, The Great Gatsby) has the perfect balance of beauty and intelligence to play this role.

Gina Cunningham is a long serving patrol officer who struggles to balance career and family life. I see her as someone who uses humor to smooth the way. Maya Rudolph (SNL, Bridesmaids) would definitely bring this character to life.

Ryan Marshall is the top crime scene investigator in the state and one of Macy's closest friends. Every scene she has with Ryan jumps off the page. Their conversations are laced with dark banter and innuendo. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Walk) would be ideal.

Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone, The Bigger Splash) is the only actor who can play Aiden Marsh, a police chief who also happens to be Macy's boyfriend. Be still my beating heart.

Nathan Winfrey is Emma's frustrated former boyfriend who longs for the 'glory days' of high school when he was the star quarterback and facing a future full of promise. Now in his early 30s and running his uncle's cherry farm, he's unable to hide his disappointment. Tom Hardy (Mad Max, The Revenant) would bring the right mix of physicality and intensity.

The rest of the cast in no particular order:

Philip Long - Hugh Laurie (House, The Night Manager)
Emma Greeley - Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise, The Calling)
Police Chief Lou Turner - Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Ray Davidson - Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men, Sicario)
Caleb Winfrey - Malcolm McDowell (Clockwork Orange)
Kyle Miller - Robert Pattinson (Cosmopolis, The Rover)
Sean Spencer - Tye Sheridan (Mud, The Tree of Life)
Francine Long - Lindsay Duncan (Le Week-End)
Dr. Whitaker - Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom, The Martian)
Dot Whitaker - Mary Steenburgen (The Help, Parenthood)
Visit Karin Salvalaggio's website.

The Page 69 Test: Burnt River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 17, 2016

Doreen Mattingly's "A Feminist in the White House"

Doreen Mattingly is Associate Professor of Women's Studies at San Diego State University.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, the Carter Years, and America's Culture Wars:
A Feminist in the White House details the political life of a real person, Margaret “Midge” Costanza, the first female assistant to a president. For the first 20 months of the Carter Administration (1977-81) she was Carter’s “window on America.” Midge was a feisty, funny, big-hearted, short (5’) Sicilian-American politician from upstate New York. Casting her is more an issue of capturing her likeness than of interpreting her character, so she would have to be played by an Italian-American actor who shares her fighting spirit and diminutive height. Janeane Garofalo is my first choice, given her progressive politics and acerbic wit (also she is just 5’1”). If we leave aside the height requirement, Marisa Tomei shares the Sicilian roots and is famously capable of talking tough and Edie Falco is a strong Democrat and a great actor. My friends assure me that the perfect person is Lady Gaga, for whom this could be a breakout role. Gaga shares Costanza’s commitment to LGBTQ rights (and she is only 5’1”) but would she be filmed wearing short black hair and sensible shoes?

Casting President Jimmy Carter is even trickier, since his face is so well known. The book shows Carter in a mixed light; he and Costanza were close friends, and in the end they let each other down. Except for the hilarious impressions by Dan Aykroyd and Joe Piscopo on Saturday Night Live, Carter has rarely been featured in movies or television, so it could really be a defining role. Of course my first choice is Michael Keaton, just so that I might be able to meet him at the opening. Personal fantasies aside, the man for the role is James Spader (who also goes by Jimmy in his personal life). He has the piercing blue eyes and could capture the nuance and complexity of Carter as a leader and a friend.
Learn more about A Feminist in the White House at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: A Feminist in the White House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Steven Rowley's "Lily and the Octopus"

Steven Rowley has worked as a freelance writer, newspaper columnist and screenwriter. Originally from Portland, Maine, he is a graduate of Emerson College. He currently resides in Los Angeles.

Here Rowley dreamcasts an adaptation of Lily and the Octopus, his first novel:
Before I wrote Lily and the Octopus, I had been working on and off as a screenwriter for years. When I decided that Lily would be a novel, I removed my screenwriter’s cap and threw myself into the medium entirely; it was incredibly freeing. Not once did I have to think about a set being too expensive to build, a role being too hard to cast, or an action sequence being too impossible to film. My only limits were those imposed by my own imagination. Talking dog as a main character? Sure. Octopus stuck to dog’s head? Why not! Expansive battle at sea? Yes, please. I’ve always enjoyed writing dialogue, which lends itself to screenwriting. In the course of writing this book, I became really taken with crafting prose and the pace and depth at which you can really explore what’s going on inside a character’s head. Screenwriters have to externalize the internal, show what’s going on through action and dialogue, and that can be difficult. But none of this is to say that I wouldn’t welcome seeing a stirring film adaptation!

I can see several different films being made from my book, depending on the director. I can see everything from a quirky Woody Allen/Wes Anderson-ish version with delightful flights of fancy and character studies, to a full scale big-screen adaptation with jaw-dropping sequences, like what Ang Lee did with Life of Pi.

There are particular actors I imagine in the role of our narrator Ted, actors who have an inherent sadness to them and can convey a lot by doing very little. A certain stillness is important. Ewan McGregor and Jake Gyllenhaal are two actors who I think are wildly underappreciated. Paul Rudd, I think, has untapped dramatic range. Jude Law. I keep naming incredibly handsome actors. Hmm. The voice of the octopus as I was writing was always Eddie Izzard’s—and I mean that as the highest compliment. I am a huge fan and cannot imagine a more polished, brilliant, or formidable foe. I don’t picture a film version where Lily actually speaks, as so many of her conversations with Ted are imagined. But I can’t imagine a happier process than sitting with a casting director in a room full of dachshunds of all ages. I hope to see that happen.
Visit Steven Rowley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 13, 2016

Peter Newman's "The Vagrant"

Peter Newman lives in Somerset with his wife and son. Growing up in and around London, Peter studied Drama and Education at the Central School of Speech and Drama, going on to work as a secondary school drama teacher. He now works as a trainer and Firewalking Instructor. He sometimes pretends to be a butler for the Tea and Jeopardy podcast, which he co-writes, and which has been shortlisted for a Hugo Award.

Here Newman dreamcasts an adaptation of his novel, The Vagrant:
This is far too much fun!

Firstly, the film version of The Vagrant would need a director that could handle epic battle but also moments of silence, slowness, with the ability to tell the story through small gestures. Ideally, I’d have Akira Kurosawa.

The Vagrant himself is a tough one to get right. The actor needs to have physical presence and be able to give a powerful non-verbal performance. They also need to be paternal, warm, and do a good line in frowns, as well as being able to handle action scenes. I’d love to see a young Idris Elba or Robert Downey Junior in the role (mainly because of what he did in that Elton John video). In terms of younger actors, then either John Boyega or Jack O’Connell would be interesting.

Someone suggested Meryl Streep for the goat, which might be a little cruel. Casting the right goat would be critical though and I’d insist on a real one. No CGI goats for me!

I’d like Gina Torres to play Lil, the surgeon and one of the only decent people in Kendall’s Folly, as she has the requisite strength of personality mixed with likability.

I’d have Mark Hamill voicing the strongest of the infernals, the Usurper. I’m not sure what voice he’d do but I know it’d be wonderful!

Michael Ironside for the Knight Commander/commander because Michael Ironside.

Not sure who I’d cast as the Verdigris’ troubled rebel, Harm, but someone suggested DJ Qualls, and he certainly looks right for it.

I’d want Gwendoline Christie for the Hammer that Walks (a giant green mutant armoured in tank plating) and Lena Headey for Tough Call (Verdigris’ rebel leader). And, at the risk of being predictable, Tilda Swinton as Gamma of The Seven (a winged silver skinned immortal - she could do it in her sleep).

I’d happily do this all day but I’m going to be good and stop there. Please feel free to continue the conversation online with your own suggestions!
Visit Peter Newman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 12, 2016

John Farrow's "Seven Days Dead"

John Farrow is the pen name of Trevor Ferguson, who has written numerous novels and plays, all to extraordinary acclaim. His Émile Cinq-Mars crime series has been published around the world and cited by Booklist as "one the best series in crime fiction today", while Die Zeit in Germany suggested that it might be the best series ever.

Here he shares some thoughts on adapting his work, including Seven Days Dead, the newest novel in the Émile Cinq-Mars series, for the big screen:
Actually, I’ve had a “literary” novel made into a film. The Timekeeper, written under my real name, Trevor Ferguson, taught me that, when it comes to casting, be careful what, and who, you wish for. We ended up having a pair of actors switch roles, which was a godsend, but going into the process, despite all our preparation, who knew? Director and producer were also tickled pink with an actress, and the fact that she was so unbelievably attractive was a bonus. Trouble is, once we got her out to the far northern woods, she was too pretty to be believed in the harsh reality of that environment. Her role had to be deleted, I had to rewrite scenes to make it so, and her image was digitally removed from scenes we’d already shot. Again, be careful what you wish for.

We had a German shepherd who was wonderful: in fact, we needed two dogs to play the role. One for the aggressive King, and another for when he was friendly. And our bear was super. The actors needed time to adjust playing alongside a bear, but give the beast a marshmallow and he became, well, a marshmallow. Troublesome, however, were the wolves. They were described as “half-wild”. I’m not sure that any “half-tame” side ever came out, and we lost days in the shoot because they wouldn’t play their parts on cue. Eventually, they came around. At least no one watching the movie will think of them as anything but wild.

Oh, and the bugs were incredible. The ones you see on screen were not digital.

If there’s ever a movie based on my crime novels—and options have been taken out; scripts written—I opt for no animals. And no great beauties. I want actors who, like last time, know how to seize a role, even when they weren’t cast for it. And this: we employed extras from the area who were First Nations people, and they had a look and a made a contribution that helped the film immensely. I’d like that in any future movie: real people, even in the lesser speaking roles, who look and speak as though they descend from generations of folk married to the soil. That level of authenticity can do so much for a film.
Visit Trevor Ferguson's Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Seven Days Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 10, 2016

Gina Wohlsdorf's "Security"

Gina Wohlsdorf was born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota. She triple majored at Tulane University. Following graduation, she lived in northern Florida, southern France, and Minnesota. She held a variety of jobs that afforded her time to write, including bookseller and massage therapist. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. She currently lives in Colorado.

Here Wohlsdorf dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Security:
The Head of Security is trickiest. Without him, the movie doesn’t work. I need an actor who can convey an entire performance of widely varying contrasts without the use of his voice or his body. Pretty much all he has is his eyes, so I’m asking the impossible. Luckily, I can think of two actors who could do it.

1) Bradley Cooper had scenes in American Soldier where he got a feeling across in perfect stillness. He excels at seemingly minor shifts in emotional tone — they view as human and organic rather than actorly and forced — and they add up incrementally, so you don’t even realize how good he was until the movie’s over. He’d see the Head of Security as an interesting exercise in craft, I think. He’d for sure make it fascinating to watch.

2) Nestor Carbonell of Bates Motel. In Season 4’s penultimate episode, his character had a moment that was his absolute apex of emotional experience. We’d never seen Sheriff Alex Romero behave in this particular way, though we’d watched 38 episodes that made the behavior inevitable. Calibrating a years-in-the-making reaction like that correctly (not overdoing, not under-doing) is practically asking an actor to jump off a cliff and fly. And Carbonell soared.

Tessa needs a strong, intelligent actress with a marked, acerbic practicality about her. I’ve got a two-way tie here, too.

1) Megan Fox did a stint on New Girl recently, and her comic timing is incredible. She comes at really tricky material with a preternatural self-assurance, a fierce self-respect. You cannot shake her. I saw it when she starred in Jennifer’s Body as well— she’s got this dry, wry, droll (but never dull) delivery that bespeaks almost spooky competence. That’s Tessa: spooky competent.

2) Anna Kendrick has this wonderful ability to communicate her work ethic without making the performance appear effortful. She’s sly, wily, and tough with her readings — she doesn’t have a B-game. You get the feeling that anybody who got in a fight with her, even if they won, they’d lose a vital body part in the process. That’s Tessa, too.

Brian’s a good guy, but it’s unwise to push him. The danger with casting this role is getting the good-guy part but missing that edge underneath. Two ideas:

1) Joseph Gordon-Levitt could play basically anybody, but what makes him great for Brian is, he can take a line and get it to do any of a thousand different things. This character is a lot of talking. He’s got a long expositional speech. Those can get boring very, very easily — but it must not; it’s a pivot point for all three principles. Gordon-Levitt wouldn’t shrink from the challenge.

2) Grant Gustin plays The Flash with a lot of heart, a deeply resonating likability. But he also played a sociopath on Glee. And in the few episodes of The Flash where he’s gotten to skew the superhero evil, he sells it so eerily well it gets your head tilting at the screen: who is this guy? That’s a savvy choice for Brian — wild card, mysterious stranger.
Visit Gina Wohlsdorf's website.

The Page 69 Test: Security.

Writers Read: Gina Wohlsdorf.

--Marshal Zeringue