Here Romano-Lax shares her suggestions for casting a big screen adaptation of the recently released The Detour, a novel set in Italy 1938, about art, adventure, and second chances:
When The Detour opens, in 1938, my young Bavarian narrator, Ernst Vogler, is a little naïve. He desperately wants to be apolitical, to lose himself in the world of classical art. But alas, he works for the world’s most unscrupulous art collector, a.k.a. the Führer. Too bad for Vogler. It’s hard to do the Nazis’ dirty work without a little bit of misfortune rubbing off on you.Learn more about the book and author at Andromeda Romano-Lax's website.
Vogler is sent by the Führer to Italy to retrieve a famous ancient statue, the Discus Thrower. From his first hours in Rome, everything goes wrong. What is supposed to be a simple assignment ends up becoming a rural road trip that changes Vogler’s life.
In terms of casting, we need a man who can pass for young (24) and slightly older (34), a man who is athletic but also intellectual, a man who starts out strait-laced and becomes—finally—more willing to take risks, to pursue passion, to reconsider everything. (And oh yes, we must believe that an Italian woman will fall for him. Yes, this movie gets an R rating.)
I’m thinking Leonardo DiCaprio. Not just because he can play both the anxious waif and the wiser, older man, but because this German role would give him a nice acting workout. Furthermore, consider his first name. The actor’s parents named him after the Renaissance master because DiCaprio’s pregnant German mother first felt little Leo kick in an art museum, while she was looking at a DaVinci painting. That makes him a natural for bringing an art-inspired Italian road adventure to life. Leonardo’s father, George, happens to be a screenwriter, and also half-Italian and half-Bavarian. This would be a nifty father-son project, giving them some connecting time in Bella Italia. (Anyone itching to start an email campaign to the DiCaprios? Please be my guest!)
In truth, I wasn’t imagining DiCaprio when I wrote The Detour, but I was definitely thinking cinematically. In contrast with my sprawling, episodic, Don Quixote-inspired first novel, The Spanish Bow, this second novel is slimmer and more focused, very visual, more sensual, more reliant on landscape and artistic imagery. Chronologically, nearly all of the action takes place over just a few days. It’s a road-trip story, even with some weightier ideas about Nazi art acquisition and body politics thrown into the mix. And it’s also a would-be buddy flick, with two Italian policemen named Cosimo and Enzo—one serious, the other more funny and flamboyant—providing the sidekick roles. In Act III, the buddy story gives way to a love story featuring an expressive and unconventional woman, Rosina. (A Penelope Cruz type, perhaps, but Italian and unknown?) When I wrote the scene with Rosina bathing nude, by lamplight, in an old Italian farmhouse, I was seeing it on the silver screen in my mind.
And while we’re talking about movies, can I squeeze in one other film-adaptation fantasy? My first novel—The Spanish Bow; set in Spain, Germany, and southern France from the 1890s through 1940s—features a Catalan cellist, a stoic little guy, who can be either passionate or pompous, depending on when you catch him. My dream actor for the role? Without a doubt: Paul Giamatti. He has played John Adams and a washed-up writer who loves pinot noir, but as a multilingual, highly political, world-famous cellist, I think he could get some serious Academy attention. Mr. Giamatti, are you out there? Your cello, sir, awaits….
The Page 69 Test: The Spanish Bow.
The Page 69 Test: The Detour.