Toxin, his new novel, explores the growing tension between right-wing fundamentalists and secular American culture. Here he shares some ideas for casting a film adaptation of the novel:
Toxin is a book about a senator who gets involved in a plot to alter the United States. Because so many people have been so paranoid about this kind of thing in recent years, it seems like a prime time to make a movie about it.Read more about Toxin at New Books.
There are problems, of course: for the most part, senators are boring middle-aged, rich white guys, so it is not often that they figure in novels. Jake Telemark, the protagonist of Toxin, is an unrich, unpedigreed middle-aged guy who just happens to be a senator. He is also an assassin, which makes him interesting.
Who to play Jake? He is a thoughtful guy, capable of reflection, but he is also willing to take action and put plans in motion. A rumpled guy like Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Sean Penn would do well because both of them have the range and complexity to pull this off. If Harrison Ford were fifteen years younger, he would have been ideal.
Now Isadore Hathaway, the love interest and fellow conspirator, needs to be tall, beautiful, bright, and ruthless. Nicole Kidman comes almost immediately to mind, especially in light of her performance in The Interpreter, where she was all of the above. But other talented women, such as Gwyneth Paltrow or Renée Zellweger, could also do a competent job.
There is a very serious FBI agent who plays a pivotal role, and I confess that I had Anthony LaPaglia in mind when I wrote the book. Mr. LaPaglia knows how to play an FBI agent (Without a Trace), and he’s naturally serious. It would be shameless pandering to cast Denzel Washington as the President of the United States; but, then again, we’re talking Hollywood here.
Another great reason for Toxin to be filmed is because of its subject matter. There are actually people out there who think—as the plotters in the novel do—that a theocratic government would be a good thing for the US and who would be willing to use unscrupulous means to bring that about. Witness the recent murder of a physician who did perfectly legal abortions or the hatemonger who shot up the Holocaust Museum. But these people are regarded as so fringe that few people take them seriously, and many people dismiss them as crackpots. This lack of attention, of course, enables them to gather power, much as the Nazis did in Germany between the wars. A movie highlighting these fanatics would nudge them out of the shadows a bit and contribute to the national discourse.