Monday, December 31, 2012

Fiona Deans Halloran's "Thomas Nast"

Fiona Deans Halloran teaches history at Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Here she shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of her new book, Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons:
Because this book treats Thomas Nast’s life – not just his work or an episode in his era – it requires someone whose acting exhibits the same sense of dislocation, the same observant and socially jaundiced wit, and the same tendency to mulish obstinacy in the face of opposition.

To be honest – I think first of John Leguizamo.

Hear me out.

Leguizamo played Toulouse-Lautrec in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. In that role, Leguizamo appeared as a short, hot-tempered, rather bizarre artist. You begin to see why I thought of him. But add to that Leguizamo’s comedy, his interest in politics, especially the politics of immigration and culture. Add his awesome capacity for channeling anger into humor. Finally, consider his self-deprecation and love of family.

Eh voila. Thomas Nast.

Having cast the leading man, the question of tone rises to the fore. I argue that Nast’s primary professional legacy lies in his assertion of an independent role for cartoonists. Not mere employees, they should be political thinkers and actors – men whose knowledge and judgment makes them as expert as any editorialist. Nast spent his career establishing his own power as a political commentator and resisting efforts to shape his opinions or his cartoons.

Thus, the movie of his life has to appeal to an audience willing to ask questions about the role of art in politics and the role of the artist in commercial media. This is not The Avengers (though Nast would love the idea of his pencil as an avenging, heroic force). Instead, it seeks an audience like that of the film Capote. People willing to consider a quiet story about a man whose work brings him into contact with worlds very different from his own, and who must reconcile his sense of self with his attempts to please others, could easily enjoy Thomas Nast.

And for drama, after all, there are the times. A young man during the Civil War, Nast covered the Draft Riots of 1863 while worrying about the safety of his wife and baby daughter. He parlayed a successful campaign cartoon from 1864 into a minor career in illustration, then used his love of Ulysses S. Grant to insert himself into the 1868 presidential campaign. Having helped elect a president, he brought down Tammany Hall, fought to re-elect Grant, then toured the nation drawing chalk cartoons and raking in more than forty thousand dollars! And all that before he protested the end of Reconstruction, mourned Garfield, objected to Blaine, and quit his job in a huff. Perhaps his only anti-climactic moment was his tragic early death (of yellow fever in Guayaqil, Ecuador).

So John Leguizamo as Nast. A director who loves silence and ideas. An audience composed of thoughtful, observant lovers of politics and art. And a background of unprecedented change to highlight the talents and ideas of a man long underestimated.
Learn more about Thomas Nast at The University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mary Jane Clark's "Footprints in the Sand"

Mary Jane Clark's novels include the KEY News media thriller series and the Wedding Cake mystery series. A veteran writer and producer for CBS News, Clark worked for almost three decades at the network’s New York City headquarters. Her books are published in twenty-three languages.

Here Clark dreamcasts an adaptation of Footprints in the Sand, the latest of the Wedding Cake mysteries:
How thrilling it would be if Footprints in the Sand were made into a movie! And while I’d be thrilled to sit in a movie theatre and watch Piper Donovan played by any in an array of wonderful young actresses, the biggest kick would be to see my own actress daughter, Elizabeth Higgins Clark, in the role.

I constantly think of Elizabeth as I write about Piper, a youthful and dedicated actress whose scarcity of theatrical roles leads to her other job making wedding cakes which subsequently entangles her in murder mysteries. Elizabeth vets my pages for accuracy and makes sure that Piper’s voice is authentic and appropriate for someone her age. She has followed Piper’s development throughout the series and I know she could bring Piper to life on the big screen.

In fact, Elizabeth, with the aid of a long blonde wig and photo-shopped green eyes, is already playing the role of Piper on the internet. Check out Piper Donovan on Facebook and see what you think.
Learn more about Footprints in the Sand at Mary Jane Clark's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gil Troy's "Moynihan's Moment"

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, The New Republic, and other major media outlets. His books include The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction, Leading from the Center, Morning in America, and Why I am a Zionist.

Here Troy dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism:
Funny you should ask about my book the movie, because from the start I have been convinced this book has Broadway and Hollywood potential. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a larger than life character. He viewed every letter he wrote, every interaction he had, every move he made, as a performance. To bring this performance artist back to life would be a great public service – especially at this time, when we need a Moynihan to inspire us, to stir us, to stand for great ideals.

Smart money would say cast Daniel Day Lewis, so he can keep himself busy for another two years studying a character with fascinating verbal tics and a love of language – but my first thought, even though it is an act of ethnic cross-dressing, is Al Pacino, because his manic energy could be channeled and become Moynihanesque.

One of my fantasies is a two-man Frost-Nixon type Broadway show, capturing the elaborate dance between Henry Kissinger – played by Anthony Hopkins or Jeremy Irons recreating his Claus von Bülow, just a little more Teutonic. The Moynihan-Kissinger two step was fascinating. Both were Harvard professors used to being the smartest man in the room. They had this mixture of mutual respect and loathing that made every interaction fraught. Initially, Moynihan defeated Kissinger when, as America’s Irish Catholic UN Ambassador, he parlayed his ardent defense of Israel and democracy into rock star status to a nation hungering for inspiration. “We are conducting foreign policy, this is not a synagogue,” Kissinger, the first Jewish Secretary of State grumbled. Round one, Moynihan. But within months, despite this star turn, Moynihan was out, felled by Kissinger’s bureaucratic maneuverings. Round two, Kissinger. And although Kissinger has so far outlived Moynihan by ten years, Moynihan probably got the last word. Moynihan publicized State Department Counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt’s devastating line about his boss and friend. “You do not understand,” Sonnenfeldt would say when Moynihan insisted he would not serve if the Secretary of State lied to him. “Henry does not lie because it is in his interest. He lies because it is in his nature.” Moynihan by a knockout.

But here is where I am torn. Much as I can see this as an extraordinary, delightfully excruciating, two-man-duel, maybe the movie version would have to go more sweeping. And here, despite my historian training, I would be tempted to fudge – I wouldn’t but it doesn’t cost to dream, so here goes. Moynihan’s Moment, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan says grandly that the United States “does not acknowledge, will not abide by, will never acquiesce in this infamous act” – meaning passing the Zionism is racism resolution of 1975 -- takes place in the staid UN General Assembly. And it would in the movie too. But the next day, 100,000 Americans, Jews and non-Jews, blacks and whites, liberals and conservatives, massed downtown to denounce the UN and the resolution at a rally. It would be so tempting to put Moynihan in front of that crowd and give him an Evita moment.

Instead, we will have to have Morgan Freeman playing the aging but heroic civil rights pioneer Bayard Rustin, a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., who rose up, denounced this new tendency to use the word “racism” so broadly it basically means any SOB you dislike, and then, overwhelmed by the crowd’s energy, burst into song. “When Israel was in Egypt’s land….” Rustin thundered – and a hundred thousand replied as one “LET MY PEOPLE GO!”
Learn more about the book and author at Gil Troy's website and blog.

Writers Read: Gil Troy.

The Page 99 Test: Moynihan's Moment.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Magnus Flyte's "City of Dark Magic"

Magnus Flyte, who spends much of his time criss-crossing the globe following the migratory patterns of carnivorous butterflies, does not get to the movies much, but we managed to reach him by satellite phone to ask him about his dream casting for his debut novel City of Dark Magic, a comic caper set in Prague.
Q. Magnus, whom do you see in the role of Sarah, who is unashamed to take pleasure in both sex and history?

A. In another era, it would have been Barbara Stanwyck. But I do like that Emma Stone. You would believe her as a woman who knows how to get herself in – and out – of trouble.

Q. And what about Max, the California-born prince who has inherited more than he can handle?

A. Since I don’t spend much time fixating on young heartthrobs, I leave that one up to my literary executrixes, who say they fancy Ben Whishaw, but are open to holding lengthy and exhaustive casting calls.

Q. Charlotte Yates is a great comic villainess-- who should play her and her sidekick, the scheming Italian socialite Marchesa Elisa Lobkowicz DeBenedetti?

A. Lily Tomlin is a must for Charlotte, and Sofía Vergara for Elisa. I would pay extra to see those two side by side onscreen.

Q. Slate has already accused you of writing Nico with Peter Dinklage in mind, but what about everyone’s other favorite character, blind prodigy Pols?

A. Are there any more Fannings?

Q. What about the crew of eccentric academics who inhabit the palace?

A. My executrixes say they will not sign off on any cast that does not include Paul Rudd, so I would say he has to play Miles. It would be delicious to see him tangle with Lily Tomlin. The rest of the academics should be played by “unknown” actors and actresses, or people who haven’t worked in a while, because it would be nice to be the cause of someone being extremely excited about getting a job.

Q. Prague is such an atmospheric location.

A. Yes, only Prague can play Prague. Nowhere else will do.

Q. There are some racy outdoor sex scenes in the novel. What sort of a rating do you think the movie would get?

A. I don’t care, as long as the popcorn is fresh and people are quiet during the film. Nudity is preferable to violence in my mind. As in life.
Learn more about the book and author at Magnus Flyte's website.

The Page 69 Test: City of Dark Magic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Keija Parssinen's "The Ruins of Us"

Keija Parssinen (pronounced Kay-a) was born in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia in 1980. In 1951, her grandparents, Floyd and Willette Teel, arrived in Saudi Arabia aboard the Flying Camel to work for the fledgling oil company, ARAMCO (now Saudi ARAMCO), and so began the family's decades-long relationship with the country. For twelve years, Keija lived in the Kingdom's Eastern Province, first in Ras Tanura, then in Dhahran. Writing The Ruins of Us, which is set in the Eastern Province, enabled Keija to return to that home through imagination.

Here Parssinen dreamcasts an adaptation of The Ruins of Us:
Because he’s the character I started with when I began writing The Ruins of Us, sad-sack expat divorcé Dan Coleman is who I’ll cast first. Though my mother-in-law called a few days after the book’s release to suggest Brad Pitt (!), nothing about Mr. Pitt seems very sad-sack, even when he tries his hand at hobo chic by sporting that Unibomber beard with beads braided into it. No, for the role of Dan, who spends the lonely hours on his one-horse residential compound in Saudi Arabia pining for his ex-wife, Carolyn, and getting drunk off contraband booze, I see Mr. Pitt’s good buddy, George Clooney, stepping in. Not the fast-talking alpha Clooney of Ocean’s 11, with his well-cut suits and million dollar face, but the rather more bearish Syriana iteration of him. And his performance as the downtrodden cuckold in The Descendents proved to me that he can mute his good looks and charisma enough to make him a believable Dan.

But Dan isn’t the book’s central character; that title belongs to Rosalie, the flame-haired American wife of Saudi billionaire Abdullah Baylani who discovers after 25 years of marriage that her husband has taken a second bride, beautiful Palestinian Isra. At first, I thought Nicole Kidman would make a stellar Rosalie—she’s got the hair and the experience with a frustrating, egotistical, controlling husband to draw on (ahem, Mr. Cruise). But when my husband suggested Connie Britton, who played Coach Eric Taylor’s smart, fiery wife, Tami, in both the movie and television versions of Friday Night Lights, I knew he’d nailed it. Transplanted Texan Rosalie must grapple not only with her conflicting feelings of love for and anger with her husband, but also with the frustrations of living in a patriarchal society that condones Abdullah’s behavior. In FNL, Britton does an excellent job conveying the struggles of a woman operating within an old boys’ network (the Texas football establishment), and she can talk Texan like a natural.

As for who would play Abdullah, Rosalie’s charming but arrogant husband, and Faisal, their son, that’s a bit trickier. There seems to be a paucity of Middle Eastern actors in Hollywood, leading studios to cast Brits Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog) or Mark Strong (Syriana) in big roles requiring any amount of swarth. Antonio Banderas would be a sexy, if ethnically suspect, choice for dashing playboy Abdullah, but I also like the idea of Alexander Siddig, the Sudanese actor of Arab descent who played Saladin in Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. He’s just regal and just slippery enough for the tricky role of the conflicted husband. For the teenaged Faisal, who finds his bi-racial, bi-cultural identity troubling in the post-9/11 Kingdom, perhaps Reza Sixo Safai, who did a chillingly good job playing the louche-turned-zealot brother in the Iranian movie Circumstance. Safai would certainly be able to capture the nuances of the pure-hearted but misguided Faisal’s character as he searches for his place in the new world order, throwing himself passionately into his Quranic studies and growing increasingly distant from his family.

When I visit book clubs to discuss The Ruins of Us, someone inevitably mentions that the book would make a great movie. This always delights me because what that translates to is that the person has been engaged by the story and believes it to be entertaining enough for the silver screen. So Madam Director, whoever you might be, I’ll just be here by the phone if you need me.
Learn more about the book and author at Keija Parssinen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 21, 2012

Howard Andrew Jones's "The Bones of the Old Ones"

Howard Jones’s debut historical fantasy novel, The Desert of Souls (Thomas Dunne Books 2011), was widely acclaimed by influential publications like Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, where it was labeled “a splendid flying-carpet ride.” It made Kirkus’ New and Notable list for 2011, and was on both Locus’s Recommended Reading List and the Barnes and Noble Best Fantasy Releases list of 2011. Additionally, The Desert of Souls was a finalist for the prestigious Compton Crook Award, and a featured selection of The Science Fiction Book Club. Its sequel, The Bones of the Old Ones, hit bookstores this month.

Here Jones shares some insights on casting an adaptation of the new novel as well as a suggestion for the director:
I’d like to say that I was torn over which great Persian and Arabian actors would be cast as the scholarly Dabir and stalwart Captain Asim, because Hollywood had so many great Persian and Arabian actors on call to choose from. But then that would be an even more fantastic world than the one Dabir and Asim are adventuring in during their 8th century exploits. Should I be so lucky as to actually see my characters on screen someday, I hope that some charismatic unknowns of middle-eastern heritage will be cast, rather than some Anglos in brown face.

Directors, though… given the sort of Sherlock Holmes and Watson in 1001 Nights vibe of The Bones of the Old Ones, I could surely imagine Guy Ritchie taking the reins. I think he has a fine sense of pacing with his Sherlock Holmes films, and I was quite pleased that he not only ensured Sherlock was intelligent, but that his deductions made sense. He paid special attention to the unveiling of the plot and the relationships of his characters. Whoever directs my movie, I hope they remember those tips as well!
Learn more about the book and author at Howard Andrew Jones's website.

Writers Read: Howard Andrew Jones.

The Page 69 Test: The Bones of the Old Ones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Laura DiSilverio's "Swift Run"

Laura DiSilverio spent twenty years as an Air Force intelligence officer, serving as a squadron commander, with the National Reconnaissance Office, and at a fighter wing, before retiring to parent and write full time.

Swift Run is the latest novel in her Swift Investigations mystery series.

Here DiSilverio dreamcasts an adaptation of the series:
When I think about casting a Swift Investigations movie, I am somewhat hampered by my lack of knowledge of the upcoming crop of actors. The actors who most easily come to mind are those who were on the silver screen back when I saw fifty movies a year ... before I had children. So, if I fall back on casting so-and-so “back when he was young,” you’ll understand why.

The two main characters in the series are Charlotte “Charlie” Swift, a 37-year-old former Air Force investigator who drinks too much Pepsi and likes to work alone, and Georgia “Gigi” Goldman, a mid-fifties divorcee and former socialite who turns to investigating after her husband Les embezzles from all his companies and runs off to Costa Rica with his personal trainer, leaving Gigi with nothing but the house, the Hummer and half-interest in Swift Investigations, a business not doing well enough to bother stealing from.

I see Charlie as a younger Holly Hunter as she played Grace in the TV series Saving Grace. Charlie’s petite, dark-haired, and abrasive, doesn’t suffer fools well, and calls it like it is—frequently rudely. If forced to pick someone currently age appropriate, I’d go with Reese Witherspoon, hair dyed mink-brown, Marion Cotillard or Rachel McAdams.

The inspiration for Gigi was always Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes. Alas, she has aged out of the Gigi role. Perhaps Kathy Najimy, as a blonde, or Kirstie Alley in her heavier days. The more I think about it, the better I like Kirstie Alley in her pre-Dancing with the Stars shape. She’s got the wide-eyed look of innocence that Gigi employs to great effect and is a great comic actress.

I can totally see Whoopi Goldberg as Albertine.

The men I’ve got to cast are police detective Connor Montgomery and Father Dan Allgood, the Episcopalian priest who lives next door to Charlie. I essentially cast Montgomery by comparing him to Clive Owen in the books. The other male role, Father Dan Allgood is harder. He’s in his mid-forties, blond, 6’5”, and conveys a sense of danger under his priestly alb and gentle exterior, a sense of a former life that was lived on the edge and probably involved automatic weapons. Liam Neeson could have been Fr. Dan ten years ago, by I think he’s too old for the part now. Daniel Craig’s not big enough and is probably committed to the James Bond franchise for the next two decades. I don’t know how tall any of these dudes are, but I could see Matthew Fox (Lost), Hugh Jackman, or Ralph Fiennes as Fr. Dan. Given how long it takes Hollywood to make a movie, maybe Ryan Gosling will grow into the role.

I realize my casting choices have probably set the producers back about fifty mil, but if they film on location in Colorado Springs they can probably save a few bucks. Anyone out there have other casting ideas to offer?
Learn more about the book and author at Laura DiSilverio's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Laura DiSilverio (December 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eileen Cook's "The Almost Truth"

The Almost Truth, Eileen Cook's latest novel, is about a teenage con artist named Sadie who might be in over her head.

Here Cook shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of the novel:
I am terrible at this because I never remember actor's names. It's not just actors, I can remember titles, but rarely the author's name. Since I could cast anyone I would have a young Katherine Hepburn in the role of Sadie. She has the grit and snark that would do well in the roll. For my bad-boy Brendan I would go with James Dean and for the wealthy and charming Chase, Clark Gable.

Although I can't remember names, I am a huge movie nut. I've recently started writing screenplays. I am fascinated by the format. There is something so delightfully clear about a screenplay structure that forces you as a writer to pay attention to the turning points and pacing. Even if I never went anywhere with the screenplays the process of writing them has made me a better writer.
Learn more about the author and her books at Eileen Cook’s website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood.

My Book, The Movie: The Education of Hailey Kendrick.

Writers Read: Eileen Cook.

The Page 69 Test: The Almost Truth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Philip Sington's "The Valley of Unknowing"

Philip Sington is the author of The Einstein Girl and Zoia’s Gold.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest novel, The Valley of Unknowing:
The Valley of Unknowing, which is usually tagged as a ‘literary thriller’, is an intense, almost claustrophobic story, leavened by the humorous delivery of the narrator, the determinedly unserious Bruno Krug: writer, womaniser, People’s Champion of Art & Culture, and occasional freelance plumber. It has only two leading characters and three supporting characters, one of whom is dead and buried (well cremated, actually) by the end of the first act, and who lives on in the story mainly on account of a troubling legacy.

The tale unfolds in a region of East Germany out of reach of western television (popular nick-name: ‘The Valley of Unknowing’), where self-censorship has become second nature, and where people have turned inward – to their allotments, to their families, to their plumbing – rather than face the reality of how unfree they really are. In form it is essentially a love triangle, with one side of the triangle suffering an untimely death (see above).

Since this is a fantasy exercise, my ideal director would be Alexander Payne. Surely nobody does character-based drama better than him. I loved About Schmidt and Sideways, and The Descendants, all of which were adapted from novels and all of which drew performances of extraordinary depth and detail from their leading men.

The protagonist in The Valley of Unknowing, Bruno Krug, is about fifty years old: urbane yet inwardly insecure, crumbling but attractive, cynical yet thoroughly decent in a small-scale kind-of-way. His journey through the story is a hard one, and probably a hard one to act. (But then have you seen what movie stars earn these days? At least let’s make them work for their money…!) Coincidentally, the star of The Descendants, George Clooney, is the requisite age this year, but Clooney is perhaps too much of a heartthrob to be afflicted with jealousy the way Krug is; and besides, I think Mr Payne is the kind of director who would like to work with a new cast every time. So instead I would go for Robert Downey Jr. You could believe he has demons, you could believe in him as a writer, and you could believe he’d fall in love where he shouldn’t.

Of course, this is assuming an All-American cast. If this were a British cast, I’d be hoping Hugh Laurie would step up to the plate. If he could shed the slight aura of poshness, which he seems to have done with great success in House, Krug might be a role he’d rather enjoy.

The object of Krug’s affection is an Austrian music student called Theresa Aden. Twenty-five-years-odd, Theresa is a complex little package in her own right: pretty, modest but with an inner core of dissatisfaction and self-doubt. Is she capable of betraying a lover in return for riches and fame? Maybe. I have to admit to being slightly out of my depth in this category, but purely on the basis of general on-screen demeanour, I would plump for Julia Stiles.

Finally there’s Bruno’s old friend and editor, Michael Schilling. Myopic Michael keeps just about everything bottled up, but inside he’s a seething mass of conflicting fears. Without him, there’d be no story at all. One strong candidate for this lynchpin role: William Fichtner.

Of course what I’d really like is for a casting director to decide all this, rather than me. I’m told they’re pretty good at it. But then if a casting director were involved, I suppose it wouldn’t be a fantasy any more. (I could probably live with that…)
Learn more about the book and author at Philip Sington's website.

Writers Read: Philip Sington.

The Page 69 Test: The Valley of Unknowing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Louis Mendoza’s "A Journey Around Our America"

Louis G. Mendoza is a professor and Chair of the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies, as well as an Associate Vice Provost in the Office for Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He is the author and editor of numerous essays and several books, including, Conversations Across our America: Talking About Immigration and the Latinoization of the United States, raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen, and Crossing into America: The New Literature of Immigration.

Here he shares some ideas about adapting his latest book, A Journey Around Our America: A Memoir on Cycling, Immigration, and the Latinoization of the U. S., for the big screen:
A Journey Around Our America is premised on a non-athlete, non-cyclist (me) spending 5 months and 19 days riding around the perimeter of the US through 34 states talking to people about immigration and the Latinoization of the country. Though it revolves centrally around one person’s experience, it’s really a story about the country as a whole through the lens of these two issues. If it were made into a movie, it would need a director who knows people in all their variety and quirkiness—because no one individual is the main character, rather the collectivity as a whole embodies the persona of what it is to be American in these times. Two possibilities would be John Sayles and Jim Mendiola. Much more established but still very much the Indie filmmaker, Sayles has an ability to insert deep, local histories and the way this manifests within individuals into his films. He understands the idiosyncrasies of regional dynamics, the good and evil in humanity, the strength and resilience of survivors, and how all these dynamics play out among social groups. While Mendiola’s craft isn’t as finely honed, he has shown that he can capture a story with wit, subtlety, and irony. Either of these directors could take on a topic as unwieldy and controversial, and many-sided as immigration, but I suspect they would have very, very different takes on it, with Sayles capturing the pathos of our collective inability to resolve this issue with any compassion or sense of responsibility, while Mendiola would highlight the dark humor of the cast of characters a la David Byrne’s True Stories.

I could see cameo experiences by a number of recognizable Latina/o actors and actresses, but in many respects, this book is about everyday people who’s voices we don’t ordinarily hear from, so star power isn’t as important as authenticity of character. Of course, we would need a middle aged, Latino, professorial type to play the protagonist. Ruben Blades, Luis Guzman, Jesse Borrego, or Jacob Vargas, in order of age, could all fit the bill. Though there is quite a variety of age among these actors, I think that the precise age matters less (I was 47 when I took the trip) than an actor who can convey sincerity, thoughtfulness, humor, and introspection by externalizing the emotions that accompanied the spiritual, political, personal, and psychological challenges of the journey. For the audience’s sake, someone who is nice to look at and listen to would be a bonus!
Learn more about A Journey Around Our America at the University of Texas Press website.

The Page 99 Test: A Journey Around Our America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ian Worthington's "Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece"

Ian Worthington is Professor of History at the University of Missouri and author of Alexander the Great: Man and God and Philip II of Macedonia.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece:
Demosthenes was the most powerful politician of ancient Athens and Greece's greatest orator. The movie should not portray his entire life (as my book does), from the boy who was poked fun at for his stammer and sickly disposition to the most powerful man in Athens, but focus on one aspect of his career, a defining moment against all odds, which I'd suggest was the lead up to the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. Here, Philip II of Macedonia (Alexander the Great's father) defeated a coalition of Greek states to end the centuries-long autonomy of Greece and plunge the country under the rule of foreign powers – from Macedonia, to Rome, to the Turks – until 1832, when Greece was proclaimed an independent and free country.

Chaeronea is one of history's most significant battles. It took place because of Demosthenes' anti-Macedonian policy, which saw him publicly ridiculed and attacked, but which he steadfastly maintained as he strove to unite his countrymen against Philip's imperialism and tyranny. The movie would focus on Demosthenes' policy at this time and his great speeches to rouse the people to war – and of course re-enact the battle with all its blood and guts. Flashbacks would show Demosthenes' emergence into politics and his initial lack of success and despair. A flashforward to 330 BC, when he was brought to trial for failing Athens, but justified his cause so persuasively that his opponent (Aeschines) lost the case and quit Athens, could round off the film. How did Demosthenes defend his unsuccessful policy? By arguing that it was the right and only policy to advocate against a tyrant. The Greeks lost, but they were still heroes and to be emulated because they had fought and died for the noblest ideal: freedom. Isn't that argument just as powerful today?

Demosthenes in the movie would therefore be portrayed as a man in his mid forties by the time of Chaeronea. For me, the best actor would be Kim Coates. That choice may come as a surprise to some, but I think he is vastly under-rated as an actor. He has a tough presence that diverts people's attention to him, just as Demosthenes had to have had when speaking before the assembled Athenians and laying out his plans to resist Philip, despite the fierce opposition and attacks he faced. Demosthenes also tried to move the people to action by striking fear into their hearts about Philip's intentions to destroy Athens – Coates as Tig Trager on Sons of Anarchy is a genuinely scary individual. Moreover, add to Coates' gaunt features and piercing eyes that straggly beard and unkempt hair as Tig and he even looks a lot like Demosthenes (just google Demosthenes' statue!). In the flashbacks, I have no idea who could play a sickly, stammering young boy. For the young adult Demosthenes I think Jim Parsons would surprise. Demosthenes was overwhelmed when he first entered politics; his early speeches were failures, he was mocked, and there is a story that he was in tears when he bumped into an actor who taught him about delivery. Many of the mannerisms Parsons brings out in Sheldon Cooper would perfectly fit Demosthenes at this time, but swapping the humor for pathos.
Learn more about Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 9, 2012

William C. Dietz's "Andromeda's Fall"

New York Times bestselling author William C. Dietz has published more than forty novels. Andromeda's Fall is the latest volume of Dietz's long running Legion of the Damned® series which has sold more than half a million copies in all.

Hundreds of years in the future, much has changed. Advances in medicine, technology, and science abound. Humanity has gone to the stars, found alien life, and established an empire. But some things never change...

All her life, Lady Catherine Carletto (called Cat) has lived for nothing but the next party, the next lover, the next expensive toy. Until, in a bloodthirsty power grab, Imperial Princess Ophelia and her cadre of synth assassins murder her brother the emperor, and go on to purge the galaxy of his friends and supporters—including Cat’s family.

Now Cat, the only surviving Carletto, is on the run. And, like countless others before her, she finds her sanctuary in a military outfit that's home to society's most dangerous misfits. The Legion of the Damned.

Cat Carletto vanishes and Legion Recruit Andromeda McKee appears in her place. A woman with a mission—to bring down Empress Ophelia—or die trying.

So how would Dietz cast a movie based on Andromeda's Fall? He's ready and waiting:
Although Andromeda starts out as a party girl (think Paris Hilton with brains) she's forced to deal with robotic assassins, survive boot camp on a dangerous planet, and learn to kill. So the actress who plays the main character has to be tough and capable of being a bad ass. Oh, and she's blond... So I'm thinking Uma Thurman. Anyone who can make me want to watch Kill Bill three times has got the right stuff. Yes, I know she isn't 25 anymore, but in case attitude trumps age. I think she can pull it off.

And for Desmond Larkin, Andromeda's muscular sidekick, the beefed up version of Chris Hemsworth (Thor.)

I think Alex Pettyfer (Stormbreaker) would do a wonderful job as Captain John Avery-- Andromeda's hunky love interest.

Then there's our villain to consider... The ruthless, cold blooded Ophelia. I'm thinking Salma Hayek here, as in Savages. Could she play the kind of woman who would put thousands of people to death just in case they might conspire against her? Yup, Salma's ready.

There, all done. Now all I have to do is sit by the phone and wait for my agent to call.
Learn more about the book and author at William C. Dietz's website.

The Page 69 Test: Andromeda's Fall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 7, 2012

Joy Fielding's "Shadow Creek"

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Now You See Her, The Wild Zone, Still Life, Charley’s Web, Heartstopper, Mad River Road, Puppet, Lost, Whispers and Lies, Grand Avenue, The First Time, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels.

Here she shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of her new novel, Shadow Creek:
Some books are very easy to cast in my head. For example, I always pictured Michelle Pfeiffer as Marcy in Now You See Her, and James Gandolfini seemed a natural for the Sheriff in Heartstopper. Shadow Creek is harder to cast, as it's more of an ensemble piece. There are so many interesting parts for actresses and actors in this book, that it's hard to narrow it down. I try to create characters of all ages and types, so that the book will appeal to readers at different stages of their lives. Hollywood has its own ideas anyway. (Just look at the casting of Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. Huh?!!!) But if I were given free rein, I'd like first-rate cast of actors and actresses, and also a director who truly understands the genre, and is more interested in suspense and actual character development than in shocking the audience with lots of blood and guts, although there's plenty of both those things in my book. So, someone like Jennifer Garner, Julianna Margulies or Julie Bowen would be perfect as Val - amazing how many actresses around 40 are on TV and hardly any can be found on movie screens - Ariel Winter would be great as Brianne, and Jessica Biel would make a great Jennifer, although if I were doing the actual casting, I'd give that part to my daughter, Shannon Micol, who is equally gorgeous and a great actress to boot. (For proof, please check out her website. She also has a brilliant CD, available on i-tunes and Amazon.) Hey, what's Hollywood without a little nepotism?
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Fielding's website.

The Page 69 Test: Shadow Creek.

Writers Read: Joy Fielding.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Teresa Rhyne's "The Dog Lived (and So Will I)"

Teresa Rhyne is a lawyer, writer, dog lover and breast cancer survivor (though definitely not in that order). She loves wine, books, coffee and dogs (still not in order) and loathes exercise, Christmas, and chocolate (probably in that order). She has lived in Southern California (it’s like its own state) for her entire life but only recently has she lived in any one house longer than five years. She shares said house with her boyfriend Chris and their irrepressible, diabolically cute beagle, Seamus (the Famous).

Here Rhyne dreamcasts an adaptation of her new memoir, The Dog Lived (and So Will I):
Since my book is a memoir, my friends and family have great fun casting the imaginary movie (everybody loves to cast themselves). Suggestions for who would play me have pretty much been every tall blonde in Hollywood (e.g. Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow), plus Diane Lane (because she’s been in Under the Tuscan Sun and Must Love Dogs? Or simply because my boyfriend Chris would love to see his character star with Diane Lane). I’m flattered of course by all of these picks. My personal choice though is Lisa Kudrow—I think she’s just the right mix of smart and funny.

As for who would play Chris, the male lead, I lean toward Corey Monteith (currently playing Finn on Glee) or Channing Tatum—his abs are just like Chris’s (ahem. That’s my reciprocation for Chris thinking Charlize or Gwyneth or Diane should play me).

As for Seamus, well, at home (and, all too frequently in public) we do his voice as a mixture of Irish brogue and Carl SpacklerBill Murray’s character in Caddyshack. So it only makes sense Bill Murray would do Seamus’s voice. And naturally it would be Uno, Westminster Kennel Club champion beagle from a few years back, that played Seamus in the movie—nothing less for Seamus Luxury Leisure Danger Trouble Rhyne-Kern (the Famous).

Okay, that was a lot of fun. How do we get this movie made??
Learn more about the book and author at Teresa Rhyne's website and The Dog Lived (and so Will I) blog.

See--Coffee with a Canine: Teresa Rhyne & Seamus.

Writers Read: Teresa Rhyne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hillary Bell Locke's "Jail Coach"

Hillary Bell Locke graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, worked for a prominent New York law firm, and now practices law in a city far from New York but not under that name.

Here he shares some suggestions for casting a big screen adaptation of his new novel, Jail Coach:
Matthew McConaughey would be perfect for Jay Davidovich, the 6'4" blond-haired/blue-eyed Jewish Loss Prevention Specialist. I would have no trouble believing McConaughey putting a thug to sleep by stuffing a condom with quarters and using it as an improvised blackjack; and then, when the condom breaks, not saying, "Keep the change" on his way out (although in the movie version he probably will say that).

I like Dakota Fanning for Katrina ("like the hurricane") Thompson, a fundamentally decent high-school drop-out/ex-con artist familiar with jail, the Marines, and "cheap-ass Russian pistols." Thompson will bind your wounds and tear up if you say something sweet -- but before you threaten her little girl, glance in the mirror and make sure that's the way you want to look on the day you die.

The third key character is Kent Trowbridge, a talented actor with "a smile that could launch a million ships if women between 15 and 55 ever amass that many." He's basically a good guy but, as Thompson tells him when she explains why he needs a jail coach, "There's something about you that makes people just wanna kick the living shit outta you. That's your problem right there." So the obvious choice is Bradley Cooper.
Learn more about Jail Coach at the Poisoned Pen Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Marjorie Senechal's "I Died for Beauty"

Marjorie Senechal is the Louise Wolff Kahn Professor Emerita in Mathematics and History of Science and Technology, Smith College, and Co-Editor of The Mathematical Intelligencer.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, I Died for Beauty: Dorothy Wrinch and the Cultures of Science:
A movie, or an opera? One thick thread in this complicated story -- Dorothy Wrinch's epic battle with Linus Pauling, the famous chemist -- demands the stage. "Two brilliant, arrogant, competitive antagonists with a flair for publicity and a touch of the devious! And what a plot!"(See Chapter 16 for a synopsis.) But I'd opt for the movie if Emma Thompson plays Dorothy. Emma, please say yes! Dorothy was beautiful, brilliant, charming, courageous, dismissive, imperious, infuriating, vivacious, witty, and fatefully stubborn, all in a British accent. This could be the role of your career.

That settled, let's try to cast the other 75-plus colorful characters in Dorothy's fascinating life. I'll suggest a few. Hugh Bonneville, lately Lord Grantham, is Dorothy's father, the tough engineer-boss of a London waterworks company, and Meryl Streep is her mother, a tough cookie. (But would they take these roles? Both die early on.) Judi Dench is Miss Procter, the terrifying headmistress of the Anglican day school Dorothy attended from 4 to 16; "Proc" haunts her to the end. For Dora Black, Dorothy's best friend at Girton College, I nominate Ellen Maddow, the New York actor. Ellen's husband, the actor Paul Zimet, must play Bertrand Russell, the great philosopher and logician. Russell was Dorothy's close friend and mentor even after he ran off with Dora.

D'Arcy Thompson, the eminent but grandfatherly naturalist, is crucial: he lured Dorothy from math to biology in the early 1930s, before molecules gleamed in biologists' eyes. Dorothy set out to decipher the living cell and in short order proposed the first-ever model for protein architecture, a symmetrical cage of Platonic beauty. Chemists on both sides of the Atlantic rushed into proteins, some to defend her, some to refute her, and a few to determine the truth. Dorothy was soon the eye of a storm; D'Arcy stuck with her to the end of his life. I'm not sure who could play him, or Dorothy's two (successive) husbands. But Jodie Foster is surely Pamela, her conflicted daughter.

Linus Pauling had little use for math and thought symmetry was nonsense. And he was powerful. To banish Dorothy and her model once and for all, he published a list of her errors and laughed her out of the field. (Few noticed that his arguments were as wrong as King James I's against the evils of smoking.) Who better to play Linus than the great man himself? True, he died in 1994, but artfully cutting and pasting the many documentaries made in his lifetime would bring him back to life. We'd still need an actor for scenes played out of the public eye, like turning down her grant proposals and so on. Who?

Dorothy found haven in a small New England college, where she taught generations of students that beauty is truth and truth will out. She defended her model in the face of mounting evidence; partial vindication arrived too late. Curiously, in his old age Linus too crawled out on a limb, promoting vitamin C as a cure for colds and cancers. Just as Dorothy believed that geometry trumps chemistry, Linus believed that chemistry trumps medicine. He defended his views against the mounting evidence to the end of his life.

My word count is up, with 66 characters -- Joseph Needham! Irving Langmuir! Dorothy Hodgkin! Niels Bohr! -- still uncast! Suffice it to say that I Died for Beauty, the movie, needs a highly gifted casting director. And perceptive scriptwriters. The book is a swirl of ideas, dreams, ambitions, philosophies, and prejudices, scintillating in sync like gemstones in a kaleidoscope. The movie must be too.
Learn more about I Died for Beauty at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 30, 2012

Anne Lawrence-Mathers's "The True History of Merlin the Magician"

Anne Lawrence-Mathers is senior lecturer in medieval history at the University of Reading.

Here she shares some ideas for the leads and director of an adaptation of her new scholarly book, The True History of Merlin the Magician:
When I wrote The True History of Merlin the Magician I had no real visual image of Merlin in my mind – how can you tie down someone who ‘lived’ from the 5th century to the 16th, and took the forms of boy-prophet, scholar, doctor, hermit, Welsh warrior-prince and half-demon, to one physical incarnation or appearance? The one thing I was clear about was that the historical Merlin was not the aged sage in a pointy hat seen in Disney’s version.

But, once I started to think about Merlin as a movie, the actor to play Merlin was obviously Johnny Depp. A blend of Edward Scissorhands, Captain Jack Sparrow and The Mad Hatter is about as close to the Merlin of medieval chronicles and prophecies as I can imagine – though adding to these the hermit who can see to the very end of time and understands the secrets of the earth might be a stretch even for Johnny Depp. Of course, since Merlin can change shape, and take on the appearance of any person he chooses, this movie would not need to be restricted to just one lead actor. Yet the versatility of an actor like Johnny Depp is so impressive that it’s a form of magic in its own right, and I think it would help to get across the message that Merlin was truly believed to be a real person.

One of the chapters of the book looks at how Merlin the historical figure became so famous that courtly romance (the equivalent of historical novels, in a way) were written about him and became best sellers. It was these romances which imagined an explanation for Merlin’s disappearance from the histories after he’d brought about the birth of King Arthur. The story was that there were two things even more powerful than Merlin’s magic: love and feminine cunning – and the two were embodied in the character of Viviane. Here is a powerful character, but one who is also a misogynist stereotype. Viviane starts out as a young girl sent to entice the great magician, grows into a powerful enchantress as she learns Merlin’s magic, and ends as a ruthless killer (in some versions at least). I am going to cheat slightly and go for a younger Helen Mirren, in her incarnation as Cleopatra, blending into her role in Prime Suspect. That may sound surprising, but to Viviane, Merlin is a villain.

Finally, the director should be Sam Mendes. It’s not that I think Merlin is an early James Bond (though the fictional Merlin was a Brit who travelled the globe, settling political, diplomatic and even religious crises, so I might be on to something). It’s more that I enjoy the idea of Merlin as a musical, with all the doomed romance of Cabaret.
Learn more about The True History of Merlin the Magician at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Timothy Hallinan's "Crashed"

Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of numerous widely praised books—twelve novels and a work of nonfiction—including the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers and the Junior Bender mysteries.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his newest book, Crashed:
Crashed is the first in a series featuring Junior Bender, a San Fernando Valley burglar who moonlights, usually reluctantly, as a private eye for crooks. I've been fascinated for years with the shadow world of crooks, which exists in the same towns and on the same streets as the world most of us inhabit. But let me tell you, a block of nice houses is a different landscape for a burglar than it is for someone who lives there.

The books are funny, although the mysteries are real, people actually get killed, and there's nothing “cozy” about them. If I were a film director pitching the idea (which has, in fact, been bought for movies) I'd describe them as “Monty Python noir.”

In addition to being a burglar, Junior is an unhappily divorced man and the father of a thirteen-year-old daughter, Rina, whom he loves more than anything else in the world. He's eminently plausible as a straightforward middle-class, middle-thirties guy, and he can easily muster a convincing semblance of innocence. The other thing about him that matters (for casting) is that he's nearly always the smartest guy in the room.

I've always been drawn to actors who seem to have a dozen things going on in their minds beyond the words they're saying. My first thought for Junior was Robert Downey Jr., who constantly gives the impression that he might walk through a door onscreen and come out into a completely different movie. And then my wife, Munyin, fell in love with a two-season television series from 2008-2009 called Eli Stone starring Jonny Lee Miller, now playing Sherlock Holmes in a modern-day TV reboot opposite Lucy Liu. In Eli Stone, Miller was so convincingly American that I was stunned to hear his British accent in the DVD extras. He'd be the ideal Junior Bender.

For Junior's best underworld friend, Louie the Lost, a former getaway driver whose lack of a sense of direction finally cost him his job, I'd want the younger Danny DeVito. (I often hear DeVito's voice when I write Louie.)

In the book, Junior is forced into preventing the sabotage of a big-budget x-rated movie that's being produced by the San Fernando Valley's leading gang figure, the beautiful and effortlessly lethal Trey Annunziato. Trey inherited the job by killing the person who held it before she did, Deuce Annunziato, who happened to be her father. Her natural habitat would be the Vatican under the Borgia pope, and to play her (since I can have anyone) I'd approach Angelina Jolie. There's some history here, too, because Jonny Lee Miller was Jolie's first husband.

And finally, the “adult” film is supposed to star a drug casualty named Thistle Downing, now impoverished and barely sentient, but once the most beloved child actress on television, a brilliant natural comedian who gradually lost her talent and her confidence over the course of several years in full view of half of the American public. I'd love to have one (or, for that matter, both) of the Olsen Twins play her. They could do alternating scenes. I think they, or one of them if the other is busy, would be brilliant.

There are lots of good short parts, many of them very vivid crooks, and what I'd love to do it bring Preston Sturges and his entire stock company back to life and just hand the film to them—as long as they'll accept my stars, I mean.

And I have no idea what direction Lionsgate, who bought the film rights, will actually take, but I hope they read this.
Learn more about the book and author at Timothy Hallinan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Crashed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Karen Engelmann's "The Stockholm Octavo"

In Karen Engelmann's The Stockholm Octavo, Emil Larsson is a self-satisfied bureaucrat in the Office of Customs and Excise in 1791 Stockholm. He is a true man of the Town—a drinker, card player, and contented bachelor—until one evening when Mrs. Sofia Sparrow, a fortune-teller and proprietor of an exclusive gaming parlor, shares with him a vision she has had: a golden path that will lead him to love and connection. Set against the luminous backdrop of late eighteenth-century Stockholm, as the winds of revolution rage through the great capitals of Europe, the novel brings together a collection of characters, both fictional and historical, whose lives tangle in political conspiracy, love, and magic.

Here Engelmann shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of the novel:
Here’s the weird thing: a few weeks ago I actually had a phone conversation with a producer interested in optioning the book. “What actress do you think should play Mrs. Sparrow?” he asked.

It took me a few seconds to reply, surprised he wanted my opinion. “Well, I always imagined Kristin Scott Thomas. She’s a fabulous actress, the perfect age, looks Swedish and speaks French.”

“She is fabulous,” the producer noted. “I just did a movie with her. Ryan Gosling played her son.”

Ryan Gosling!!!???” I squealed, serious novelist dissolving into tabloid junkie. “Ryan Gosling can have any part he wants…”

That ended the discussion, and rightfully so. I love going to the movies, but otherwise have a ridiculously limited and naive view of the film business. Let the professionals do their job! However, this does not mean that I cannot create my fantasy cast from the daydreaming comfort of my sofa, bowl of popcorn at hand. Here is my Seeker, the Eight from his Octavo, and several other key roles.

Emil Larsson — narrator, customs officer and man of the Town: Ryan Gosling, of course!

Mrs. Sofia Sparrow — card shark and cartomancer: Kristin Scott Thomas.

The Uzanne — Baroness and villainess: Laura Linney.

Johanna Bloom — runaway apothecaire: Emma Watson.

Anna Maria Plomgren — tempestuous army widow: Noomi Rapace.

King Gustav III — monarch of Sweden: Stellan Skarsgård.

Duke Karl — the king’s younger brother and rival: Michael Nyqvist.

Master Fredrik Lind — calligrapher and social climber: James Callis.

Captain Hinken — smuggler: Peter Stormare.

Christian Nordén — fan maker, refugee from the French Revolution: Simon Baker.

Margot Nordén — Christian’s French wife: Marion Cotillard.

Lars Nordén — Christian’s younger brother: Alexander Skarsgård.

Mrs. Murbeck — Emil’s landlady: Lena Olin.

Old Cook: Beryl Patmore, of course.

I cannot wait to get their autographs!
Learn more about the book and author at Karen Engelmann's website.

Writers Read: Karen Engelmann.

The Page 69 Test: The Stockholm Octavo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Derek Haas's "The Right Hand"

Derek Haas is the co-writer of the films The Double, Wanted, and 3:10 to Yuma, and author of The Assassin Trilogy: The Silver Bear, Columbus and Dark Men.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Right Hand:
Since I've already sold the rights to Universal and producer Scott Stuber, this is an intriguing question. My book centers on a middle-aged spy trying to get a nineteen-year-old Russian girl out of her country and out of harm's way. I'd love to see someone like Bradley Cooper, who has yet to really conquer an action movie tackle the role… and I'd pair him up with a beautiful, young talent such as Jennifer Lawrence. As far as directors go, I'd like someone who has proven as adept at handling character as he has action with a real visual style, like Rian Johnson or Chris McQuarrie. Give us a year and we'll see who rises to the challenge!
Learn more about the book and author at Derek Haas's website.

Writers Read: Derek Haas.

The Page 69 Test: The Right Hand.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 23, 2012

Stacey Madden's "Poison Shy"

Stacey Madden holds a BA from the University of Toronto and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph. He lives in Toronto.

Here he shares some ideas for casting a big screen adaptation of Poison Shy, his first novel:
Poison Shy is full of unattractive characters, so any actors I mention here would have to ugly themselves up a bit for their roles in the film.

I think Poison Shy would make a great low-budget, grindhouse-type movie. It’s full of sex, violence, and people doing horrible things to each other, and what better way to emphasize the book’s gritty nature than by adapting it into a deliberately grainy film with dim lighting and poor sound quality.

For the role of Brandon Galloway, my hapless narrator who works in pest control, I would cast Joshua Jackson, of Dawson’s Creek fame, and ask him to come to the set each day on three-or-fewer hours’ sleep. Brandon’s a hard-on-his-luck kind of guy, and I think Josh Jackson would do a good job portraying Brandon’s pessimism and paranoia.

The real star of the show, however, is Melanie Blaxley, Brandon’s femme fatale paramour. Melanie, a pale and freckled redhead, is described in the book as “beautiful in a trashy kind of way”, causing Brandon to suspect that she could be “the surprisingly attractive offspring from an incestuous marriage” – a character description I’m sure is every young actress’s dream to be told they’re perfect for.

In any case, there is no shortage of flame-haired beauties who, with the help of trick camera work and a talented costume designer, could summon just enough of their inner-bitch to tackle the role of Melanie. The first one who comes to mind is British starlet Natalie Press, who is best known for her role as Mona opposite Emily Blunt in the 2004 film My Summer of Love. Other options are: the raspy-voiced Emma Stone, the doll-like Lily Cole, and short-lived pop star Lena Katina, who was the redheaded half of the fake lesbian duo t.A.T.u.

If none of the aforementioned beauties want to stoop to play the likes of Melanie, there’s always Lindsay Lohan.

As for the supporting roles, I would love to see the man with the best name in Hollywood, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, in the role of Darcy Sands, Melanie’s vile roommate whose unwashed hair smells like gravy. I think playing a scumbag like Darcy would help Mr. Mintz-Plasse to break free from being typecast as a “nerd”. Other options for Darcy are Seth Green, Shawn Ashmore, and Dominic Moynihan. (Sorry guys.)

For the role of Bill Barber, Brandon’s overweight and gassy co-worker, there’s really no other option besides superstar John Goodman.

Brandon’s schizophrenic mother, Eileen, is a difficult role to cast, but I think Diane Wiest, who is probably best-known for her role as the cosmetic saleswoman Peg who ventures into Vincent Price’s castle in Edward Scissorhands, could pull it off.

For the role of Detective Basil Darvish, who is probably the noblest character in the book, I would cast Brian George, who most people would recognize as the finger-waggling Babu Bhatt from Seinfeld. All he needs is a trench coat.

Ewan Bremner, who played Spud in Trainspotting, would be perfect in the role as Viktor Lozowsky, the skeezy bar owner who wears thick-rimmed coke-bottle glasses and shaves his head with razor blades.

Finally, in the roles of Brandon’s dead (and deadbeat) father, Jack, who we see only in flashbacks, and his wrong-side-of-the-tracks mistress Gloria, I can see nobody else but Nick Nolte, circa his mug shot days of 2002, and a haggard-looking Kim Basinger.

My sincerest apologies to any of the aforementioned celebrities who stumble upon this post.
Learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website and Stacey Madden's Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Poison Shy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

R. Kent Newmyer's "The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr"

Kent Newmyer is Professor of Law and History at the University of Connecticut School of Law. His books include The Supreme Court Under Marshall and Taney, John Marshall & the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court, and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story: Statesman of the Old Republic.

Here Newmyer shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of his latest book, The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr: Law, Politics, and the Character Wars of the New Nation:
I've been telling friends, jokingly of course, not to buy my book on the treason trial of Aaron Burr until they see the movie. But now the moment of truth has come. The action takes place in the House of Delegates in Richmond, which during the trial looked every bit like a makeshift Elizabethan theater where the lawyers and the parties in the case were almost indistinguishable from the spectators. Former Vice-president Burr is in the dock, accused of treason (without benefit of even a grand jury indictment) by President Jefferson, who undertook to micro-manage the prosecution from the White House--a fact that brought him face-to-face with his old enemy Chief Justice John Marshall who sat as trial judge. The character of the main players figured largely in the trial, so casting is crucial.

Aaron Burr: short, handsome, piercing dark eyes that captivated the women in (and out of) the courtroom. A Revolutionary war veteran: a gifted New York politician in hostile territory in Jeffersonian Virginia; a brilliant lawyer who directed his own defense; a good play actor, as he confessed, who found it easy to play the innocent victim of a vengeful president (which was easy to do since it was largely true). Burr finds it hard to contain his contempt for Jefferson, the government's lawyers, and their witnesses--and occasionally even John Marshall. Since Richard Burton is no longer with us, nor Paul Newman, and Richard Gere is too old, I would suggest Tom Cruise.

Thomas Jefferson was all over the case, but worked his magic back in Washington, letting his minions in Richmond take the heat. During the trial Jefferson was vindictive, self-righteous, and harshly judgmental. He hated his cousin John Marshall and truly believed that Burr was an enemy of the Republic who had to be eliminated. Jeremy Irons gets the role hands down.

John Marshall, a young-looking 52 at the time of the trial; tall, loose-jointed, and handsome, with dark eyes to rival Burr's. Has to have gravitas without arrogance. The best lawyer in a room full of gifted lawyers. Cool under fire. An aristocratic democrat. Jimmy Stewart would have done brilliantly just playing himself. George Clooney gets the first offer.

The animated lawyers and the extravagant Wilkinson will be cast later, along with Burr's beautiful daughter Theodosia, who also played a part in the melodrama. Finally, the cast of many hundreds who flocked to Richmond to see the action can be recruited as extras from Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard.
Learn more about The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 19, 2012

David Carnoy's "The Big Exit"

While David Carnoy lives in New York City with his wife and children, his novels take place in Silicon Valley, where he grew up and went to high school (Palo Alto). His debut novel, Knife Music (2010), was a Top-10 bestseller on the Kindle and also a bestseller on the Nook. More medical thriller than high-tech thriller, to research the novel Carnoy spent a lot of time talking with doctors, visiting trauma centers, and trailed a surgeon at a hospital in Northern California to help create the book's protagonist, Dr. Ted Cogan.

The Big Exit (2012) isn't a sequel to Knife Music per se. However, a few of the characters from Knife Music figure prominently in the story. His second novel has more of a high-tech slant and reflects Carnoy's experiences as an executive editor at, where he currently works and is trying resolve his obsession with consumer electronics products.

Here Carnoy dreamcasts an adaptation of The Big Exit:
A blogger recently asked me who I'd cast as my protagonist in the movie version of The Big Exit and I drew a blank. The truth is I didn't really have anybody in mind as I was writing the character of Richie Forman. In my first novel Knife Music, I really saw my lead, the surgeon Ted Cogan, as George Clooney or Bradley Cooper (Cooper would be my first pick today). But Forman was just Forman.

The irony is that when I was creating him I thought some big actor would want to play him, even if I didn't have one in mind. That's because he's a Sinatra impersonator and I suspect that plenty of actors would want to play Sinatra without actually playing him.

So after flailing with that first blogger, I decided to think about it some more. Luckily, of course, there's been a lot of talk about Scorsese doing a Sinatra biopic, and the Web is filled with lists of actors who might play Sinatra in that film if it ever comes to fruition.

I'm a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, the guy who tops most Scorsese Sinatra lists. But I think Matt Damon might be better for the role of Richie Forman. That's because Forman, who's fresh out a prison in the book (he did time for vehicular manslaughter), is a former dot-comer, and Damon probably fits the bill a little better as a Silicon Valley guy. Of course, it's unclear whether Damon can sing (DiCaprio has apparently been taking lessons). I also think Jake Gyllenhaal would probably work, but he doesn't have blue eyes. Bring on the contacts.

As for the secondary roles. I like Kevin Spacey for Detective Madden, who's also in my first book. Madden is an older detective who has a drop foot (from a bout of polio as a kid) and walks with a limp. As we know, Spacey does a mean limp. Earlier this year I saw on stage in Richard III and who can forget him as "Verbal" Kint/Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects.

My lead female character is Carolyn Dupuy, a troubled lawyer "coping with an off-and-on doctor boyfriend and a ticking biological clock," according to Kirkus Reviews. She's on a cycle of IVF while helping to solve the murder and I think Jennifer Aniston would be good in the role. Dupuy's sexy, tough, vulnerable, manic, and a bit comedic at times. She's got more of a Mediterranean complexion, so Aniston would have to go with dark hair (she does come from partial Greek/Italian lineage).

I also have Richie's ex-fiancee, Beth (that image on the cover of the book is supposed to represent her). I see her as a younger version of Madeleine Stowe. Maybe Jennifer Garner?

Who knows. My agents are trying to sell the Fi/TV rights now. We'll see if anything pans out. I'm pessimistically optimistic.
Learn more about the book and author at David Carnoy's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Big Exit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Courtney Miller Santo's "The Roots of the Olive Tree"

Courtney Miller Santo grasped the importance of stories from listening to her great-grandmother. She learned to write stories in the journalism program at Washington and Lee University and then discovered the limits of true stories working as a reporter in Virginia. She teaches creative writing at the University of Memphis, where she earned her MFA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Irreantum, Sunstone, and Segullah.

Here the author shares her ideas for director and cast of an adaptation of her latest novel, The Roots of the Olive Tree:
I’ve heard it said there are no good parts for women over the age of forty, but Roots of the Olive Tree has four parts. Each of the Keller women has complexities and secrets that would be rich material for some of the great actresses. The women I’ve met in bookclubs are clamoring for their favorite actresses to play the Keller Women. So I’ve taken their thoughts into consideration in selecting the perfect cast.

Director: Nancy Meyers would be perfect. She did such wonderful work with Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated. I’d love to see her take on the challenge of directing this ensemble. She understands the complexities of older women and how to bring them to a compelling way to film.

Anna: Vanessa Redgrave has the stubborn but humorous presence needed to bring the role of Anna, the 112-year-old Keller matriarch, to life on the screen. Vanessa knows how to breathe full-throated life into a character whether it is Clarissa Dalloway or Edith in If These Walls Could Talk.

Bets is the most crucial member of the cast. She ties so many of the stories of the women together and she has such important interactions with each of the women; Helen Mirren would bring the grace and resignation needed to adequately convey the situation Bets finds herself in.

Cybill Shepherd would be brilliant as Callie. She has exactly the sort of older woman sex appeal that is needed for the part and she knows how to be laughed at, which is crucial for this role. I love Cybil because she is from Memphis and because she’s never been shy about her life. I also know she’d bring exactly the right sort of vulnerability and anger that Callie has over the injury from her plane crash.

Deb made a terrible mistake of passion and of anger when she was young. I’d like to see someone with the range and sympathy needed to play this part. Beth Grant, a wonderful character actress comes to mind. Her work in so many roles—especially Little Miss Sunshine is terrific. She inhabits a role so exactly that she disappears into it and you don’t remember what a terrific actress she is until you see her in something else.

Erin, at twenty-five, is the youngest of the Keller women, but she has a wise soul. Ginnifer Goodwin is exactly the sort of old soul, young actress to play the role. Her work on television is extraordinary and she always manages to fill the screen with life—the sort of rosy presence needed to contrast against the age of the rest of the Keller women. I love how she plays a mother to someone nearly her own age on Once Upon A Time and manages to make it exactly believable.
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.

--Marshal Zeringue