Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times called Ward's latest novel, Four Kinds of Rain, "Fiercely funny ... as sharp and nasty as a paper cut."
Here he shares some ideas about the casting for a film adaptation of the new novel:
In my novel Four Kinds of Rain the main character is a 50-something-year-old shrink named Bob Wells, who was once a radical. He's spent his life living in the ghetto trying to help relieve the mental and spiritual pains of the poor and dispossessed. At one time years ago he had a group of other young idealists who lived with him. But when the group hit 30 the others left the rad lifestyle to start families and cash in. Only Bob and his then wife Meredith stayed on. However, as the book opens we find that Meredith has left Bob to live with one of his old communards, Rudy Runyon, now a touchie feelie talk radio shrink with a show called Ask Dr. Rudy. Plus Bob is about to lose his clinic altogether. Desperate, he drinks all day and takes Ambian to sleep at night. Finally, he gets a break and meets a great girl named Jesse Riordan who is trying out to be the lead singer in his oldies band The Rockaholics. She tells him she digs him but can't go with another broke guy. Been there, done that. Thus Bob switches from good guy to felon. He hears of a valuable artifact, a mask, from one of his patients, and decides to steal and sell it, thus financing his retirement and his new life with Jesse. This decision leads him down a pathway which could either lead to riches or to a very dark corner.Ward's first novel was the critically acclaimed Shedding Skin, winner of the National Endowment of the Arts award for first novel of exceptional merit. He has since written seven more novels, including Red Baker, which won the PEN West prize for Best Novel of 1985.
So, who could play such a guy? He's got to be weak, and strong, charming, and yet underneath he's filled with fury, the fury of being left out of the great American sweepstakes of money and fame. He was ready to be poor, but not ready to be laughed at by a world where all values except market values are considered passé.
My actor would have to be both strong and pathetic and then finally enraged in a way that the audience can't predict. In short, Bob Wells will take a great actor. Someone who is old enough to recall the former Zeitgeist of peace, love and revolution, and also capable of a wide swing of emotion ... not to mention humor. Much of the humor of the novel comes from Bob's rationalizations as he heads down the path of greed and self-deception. He lies to the reader and to himself, at every false step. So our actor must have wit as well. And he must be able to play mid 50's. And it would help if he could sing a little for the rock scenes.
So who is our guy?
There are only a few actors who can do it all. My number one pick would be (trumpets blare) Kevin Spacey. Yeah, he's too young but we can make that work. In my mind he's one of the great film actors ever. He's got the sensitivity and the mean wit. And when he does blow up, well, we know he'll get there in short order. Plus, he's verbal, and fun. He would make a great Bob Wells.
As for the girl lead, Jesse ... I'd go with Deborah Kara Unger, a great actress who doesn't near enough work. She's blonde, beautiful and can really act. There you go, and may God send this little dream directly to the top producers and heads of all the major studios.
Visit Robert Ward's website and read an excerpt from Four Kinds of Rain.
The Page 69 Test: Four Kinds of Rain.