Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Constantine J. Singer's "Strange Days"

Constantine Singer grew up in Seattle and earned his BA from Earlham College and his Masters from Seattle University. He currently lives in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles with his family and teaches history at a high school in South LA.

Here Singer dreamcasts an adaptation of Strange Days, his debut novel:
I live in Los Angeles and I’m married to a screenwriter, so I think about these things a lot. With adult-oriented manuscripts it’s pretty easy to come up with the faces that’ll go well with your names, but YA means finding kids and that means either watching a lot of children’s television or scouring IMDB by birth year.

Fortunately, I have a teenage daughter and I happen to love YA television so I didn’t have much trouble doing this.

My main character was a bit of a puzzle for me when it came to casting because there just weren’t that many Latinx actors in Hollywood yet while I was writing Strange Days. Outside of Jane the Virgin and East Los, there wasn’t much to pick from, but then came On My Block, which is a fantastic Netflix series you should watch. Alex Mata would be played perfectly by Jason Genao. He has the right combination of vulnerability, arrogance, and people-pleasing fear that Alex needs to have.

I would cast Alex’s best friend, Julio Santos, from the same show. Diego Tinoco would be ideal for the role.

Corina Hollifield was a little harder for me, but I finally settled on Skai Jackson. She’s mainly known for being the adorable scamp on Disney’s Jessie, but I think there’s a lot more available in her range and she has the right look and general feel for Corina.

Paul Dunn and Damon Johnson were a lot harder and I ended up just searching IMDB until I found Ty Simpkins and Toby Nichols respectively. By look at least, they fit the bill. Jordan Castle was also difficult but I finally settled on Morgan Lilly for the job.

Cassandra Mitas-Barnes was in many ways the easiest and also the only one for whom a Major Hollywood Star comes to mind. She should be played by Chloe Grace Moretz.

I’ve had Aiden Quinn in mind for Jeffrey Sabazios from the beginning, and I wrote John Bishop for Phillip Seymour Hoffman because he had just died and he was on my mind. I don’t know who would take his place now. Maybe David Morse would be good.

For Richard Beeman, I wanted someone believably smart and who could also be a believable camp counselor. I think Grant Gustin would be perfect.

And obviously President Vincent Castle will be played by Mike Pence.
Visit Constantine J. Singer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Strange Days.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Alan Cumyn's "North to Benjamin"

Alan Cumyn is the award-winning author of several wide-ranging and often wildly different novels. His historical novels The Sojourn and The Famished Lover chronicle the First World War and Great Depression experiences of artist Ramsay Crome. His human rights novels, Man of Bone and Burridge Unbound, follow a torture victim through survival and post-trauma. Losing It is a darkly funny and truly twisted novel about madness, while his Owen Skye books for kids–The Secret Life of Owen Skye, After Sylvia and Dear Sylvia— hilariously trace the calamitous trials of childhood and the pangs of early love. Cumyn’s young adult novel Tilt is a funny, sexy exploration of a teenaged boy’s obsessions as he lives through an impossibly absurd time of life. All Night, a literacy project, follows a young artsy couple through a stormy night of hard truths and romantic dreams. And Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend brings a touch of Kafka to the previously ordered love life of a high school senior who has no idea what might fly out of the primordial past. His latest novel, North to Benjamin, is a psychological thriller that sees a young boy, Edgar, dragged north by his unstable mother, testing his formidable survival skills.

Here Cumyn shares some casting ideas for an adaptation of North to Benjamin:
I see North to Benjamin as a distant cousin to My Life As a Dog. Whoever plays Edgar, however, would not be quite like Anton Glanzelius in that earlier, and marvellous, film. Even though they both end up literally barking for a time, the Edgar who is dragged north by his unstable mother in my story would be a quieter, less rambunctious boy. His survival instincts are honed toward having him disappear, remain unnoticed, staying still and quiet while observing everything.

Who would that actor be? A challenge for the casting director to find! I imagine someone with large eyes that can express everything including mounting panic even within a deep and natural sense of calm.

Another real star of the movie would have to be the landscape of Dawson City, Yukon – the wild rivers coming together, the steep hills, the eccentric town clinging to the edge of the wilderness. So many photographers, filmmakers and visual artists flock there because of the clear northern light and the extraordinary natural beauty. It's a beauty that Edgar picks up on, too, as he experiments with the camera he has been given by his mother's ex-boyfriend. Almost anything is manageable, it seems, if you can look at it through a lens.
Visit Alan Cumyn's website.

Writers Read: Alan Cumyn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 7, 2018

Kitty Zeldis's "Not Our Kind"

Kitty Zeldis is the pseudonym for a novelist and non-fiction writer of books for adults and children. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Not Our Kind:
Almost every writer hopes her or his book will be chosen to leap from page to screen and since I’m no different, I’ve been entertaining myself with such fantasies as soon as the book was completed.

To play Patricia Bellamy I would chose Cate Blanchett; I think she has the looks, the demeanor and haughty composure that masks a turbulent soul.

I imagine Eleanor as played by Rachel Brosnahan because I found her performance in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel delightful. I can also see Anne Hathaway in this role.

To play Margaux, I’d want someone young and unknown—a newcomer seems right for the role of a thirteen year old who has recovered from—but is still scarred by—her grim bout with polio.
Follow Kitty Zeldis on Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Thelma Adams's "Bittersweet Brooklyn"

Thelma Adams is the author of the historical novel Bittersweet Brooklyn, the bestseller The Last Woman Standing and Playdate, which Oprah magazine described as “a witty debut novel.” In addition to her fiction work, Adams is a prominent American film critic and an outspoken voice in the Hollywood community. She has been the in-house film critic for Us Weekly and The New York Post, and has written essays, celebrity profiles and reviews for Yahoo! Movies, The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, AARP.com, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Parade, Marie Claire and The Huffington Post. Adams studied history at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was valedictorian, and received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives in upstate New York with her family.
In honor of Rachel Brosnahan's return in Season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon this week, I'm casting her in my novel Bittersweet Brooklyn:

Brosnahan is my ideal actress to play my leading lady Thelma Lorber, the big-hearted younger sister of the Brooklyn Jewish mobster, Abie "Little Yiddle" Lorber. During the 1920s, she's a vivacious neighborhood girl who loves to go dancing and to the movies. She falls in love, has a son and then tumbles straight into the narrow straits of the 1930s – and the dead body of Pretty Amberg that her favorite brother is chopping up in his kitchen.

The pride of Peaky Blinders, my favorite historical crime drama, Cillian Murphy would be my dream pick for Abie "Little Yiddle" Lorber. He's Thelma's older brother and protector-in-chief. All of five feet two inches, he makes up for his height in chutzpah. Tossed into an orphanage along with his younger brother, Louis, when he was just getting his first whiskers, he's makes the papers for the first time in 1915 under the headline: "'Toughest Kid' Proves It: Newsboy Stabs Lad, Who Doubted Title Given Him."

After binging on Bodyguard with Richard Madden, I'm all in for the Game of Thrones' King of the North Robb Stark to play the quieter middle brother, Louis. Tossed into the orphanage as a boy alongside Abie, he emerges with a love of guns to match his brother's fondness for knives. Although he supports his brother in crime, on his 21st birthday he enlists in the U.S. Army and becomes a hero, a Rock of the Marne, in the famed 38th Infantry that turned the tide of WW1. Strong, silent, faithful, cares for his sisters, looks good in a uniform: I cast the dimpled, buff Madden.

Put Timothee Chalamet, now 24, into a full-grown man's role as Thelma's beloved husband Philip Schwartz. Phil shows Thelma great times – dancing madly to the house band at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan, strolling through Coney Island on a Sunday, snuggling at the local movie palace with Valentino on the screen. The romantic, handsome and empathetic boyfriend-turned-husband has a cavern in his heart. His wife believes she can fill it, and then tries to anchor the family with the birth of a son, but can she?

Saoirse Ronan would crack the code playing Thelma's older sister and nemesis Annie. Annie's the hero of her own story, trying to create a stable future for her mother and children safe from her brother's life of crime. And if his ill-gotten gains pay the mortgage, it's a sacrifice made in the present to protect the family's future. Annie's a powerful character and to make her a stock villain would be a mistake; Ronan would find her humanity and still be true to the character's cruelty.

And, if Brosnahan is busy, Ronan could dance-step in as the lead.
Visit Thelma Adams' website.

The Page 69 Test: Playdate.

My Book, The Movie: Playdate.

The Page 69 Test: Bittersweet Brooklyn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 3, 2018

Nathanael Andrade's "Zenobia: Shooting Star of Palmyra"

Nathanael Andrade received his PhD in Greek and Roman history and has published extensively on the Roman and later Roman Near East along with other topics. His books include Syrian Identity in the Greco-Roman World (2013) and The Journey of Christianity to India in Late Antiquity: Networks and the Movement of Culture (2018).

Here Andrade dreamcast an adaptation of his new book, Zenobia: Shooting Star of Palmyra:
What sort of movie could my book on Zenobia be? A key challenge to portraying Zenobia is that documentation for her is very poor and specific to her reign over the Roman East (268-272 CE). My book confronts this challenge by using material culture to reconstruct experiences that women had at various stages of their lives at Palmyra (Tadmor in Aramaic). From this, we can learn about Zenobia’s family dynamic, upbringing, clothes, religious world, gestures, hygiene, marriage to the dynast Odainath, and life as a mother. A movie would capture these aspects of Zenobia’s world while vividly depicting the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra that framed so much of her existence.

The movie’s echoes of contemporary identity politics will resonate with a contemporary audience. A key point of tension will be the many ways of being Roman expressed by the protagonists locked in civil conflict. Representing the central regime are the emperors Claudius II (Gabriel Byrne) and then Aurelian (Russell Crowe), both native speakers of Latin from the Balkans who are supported by the Senate at Rome. In Syria is Zenobia (Aiysha Hart), more commonly known in Palmyra as Bathzabbai (her Aramaic name). She is a native speaker of Aramaic who has an acquired knowledge of Greek and to a lesser extent Latin. Enmeshed in a cultural and religious life inherited from Arabian and Syrian forebears, Zenobia sees herself and her manner of living to be just as Roman any other. While her rivals try to isolate her as a foreign, barbarian usurper, she defines herself as a figure of Roman authority who protects the Roman East from the Persians, just like her elder husband Odainath (Ghassan Massoud).

The film also emphasizes Zenobia’s identity as a mother. Along with the dangers of childbirth, Zenobia confronts a harrowing situation when Odainath dies. The circumstances of Odainath’s murder are hard to reconstruct and may not have been clear to Zenobia. But in the movie, a local Palmyrene conspiracy, coordinating with the imperial court, has Odainath and his oldest son Herodian Hairan killed in 267-268. Zenobia and Wahballath, her young son by Odainath, are still alive, but the conspiracy is targeting them too. When Zenobia seizes power in Wahballath’s name, she does not only rule as a woman. She protects her vulnerable child.

The dramatic tensions reach their peak with the civil war that Zenobia wages with the imperial court. Responding to its provocations, she occupies many of its Middle Eastern territories, including Egypt. Despite her just rule and efforts to negotiate over the following year, Aurelian invades her realm in early 272. In the first major battle, his cavalry lures Zenobia’s heavy horsemen into a debilitating charge and counterattacks when they are exhausted. In the second, infantrymen brandishing maces batter Zenobia’s charging cavalry and drive it into her army’s own lines. Aurelian’s army invests Palmyra soon after, and Zenobia flees eastward across the desert. She is apprehended while boarding a boat on the Euphrates river. When brought before Aurelian, she feigns having been manipulated by the men of her court. She and her son are spared while they die.

The file scenes of the movie show Zenobia on display in Aurelian’s triumph in Rome in 274. Her hands and feet are bound with gold chains that make her strain to walk. Rumors of her death circulate, but Zenobia lives in peace on a villa at Tivoli, Italy. Aurelian is assassinated in 275. Though defeated and deprived of power, Zenobia has survived the civil war with her children, and she can claim a serious moral victory indeed.
Learn more about Zenobia: Shooting Star of Palmyra at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 1, 2018

G.A. McKevett's "Murder in Her Stocking"

Since publication of her first novel in 1986, Sonja Massie has authored more than 60 published works, including the highly popular and critically acclaimed Savannah Reid Mysteries under the pseudonym G.A. McKevett.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Murder in Her Stocking:
When I began The Savannah Reid Mysteries, 25 years ago, I imagined Savannah looking much the way Delta Burke did on Designing Women. Over the years, that image has slipped away and Savannah has simply become…well…Savannah.

As for Granny Reid, there’s the octogenarian Gran in the Savannah books and Granny Stella, who is in her fifties in the new “prequel” series. I’d love to have Mil Nicholson play the older Granny. She’s a British actress who did a marvelous job of narrating the audio version of Murder in Her Stocking, nailing the Southern accents and down-in-Dixie sensitivities! She has a real “feel” for both the fun and pathos of the story. I’d love to see her perform Granny on screen. For the younger Gran, maybe Diane Lane. She has a wholesome, girl-next-door look about her—if your neighbor happens to be strikingly beautiful.

As far as directors, I’d love to have Ron Howard. Hey, a gal can dream, right?
Visit G.A. McKevett's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Fran Hawthorne's "The Heirs"

Fran Hawthorne spent more than three decades as a reporter and editor (on staff at Fortune and BusinessWeek; as a regular contributor to The New York Times and many other publications), and as the author of award-winning nonfiction books, before finally returning to her childhood dream: writing fiction.

Her debut novel The Heirs was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in May 2018 and sold out its first printing within two months. It’s a story of second-generation Holocaust guilt among soccer families in suburban New Jersey in 1999.

Here Hawthorne imagines the dream cast for the movie version of The Heirs:
Four of the six main characters in The Heirs are women over 40; in fact, one is 72 years old. In an industry where women are ignored after age 30, I figure that my casting call would attract some attention.

I mean, how could Barbra Streisand turn down the juicy part of Rose Ritter, a no-nonsense Jewish grandmother who has refused for 50 years to discuss how she survived the Holocaust in Poland? Rose even lived in Streisand’s native Brooklyn for many years.

Angelina Jolie actually looks more like my vision of Natalie, the cousin -– tall, confident, stylish -- rather than the more fumbling protagonist Eleanor But I don’t suppose she’d settle for a Best Supporting Oscar. Okay, Jolie can be Eleanor; I’ll just rewrite Eleanor’s description a little. (A lot.)

Too bad Mark Ruffalo has gone grey. I picture the sexy, divorced soccer coach, also named Mark, as the version of Ruffalo in the 2010 film The Kids Are All Right.

Obviously, Rosanne Korenberg (co-executive producer of I, Tonya) will produce the film. She says my novel is “a compelling read.”

And might there be a bit part for me? Perhaps Rose’s mother in Poland? After all, I did some acting in community theater about 30 years ago. And I know exactly what the author wants in every character.
Visit Fran Hawthorne's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Eric Rauchway's "Winter War"

Eric Rauchway is a distinguished historian and expert on the Progressive and New Deal eras at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of several acclaimed books on the subject, including The Money Makers, The Great Depression and the New Deal, and Blessed Among Nations, and has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, Dissent, and The American Prospect.

Here Rauchway dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal:
Winter War covers the conflict between Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover in the months between the 1932 election and Roosevelt's first inauguration in March 1933. It was an especially fraught period in US and world history: the depression worsened into a crippling bank panic, Hitler took power in Germany, and Japan rejected the League of Nations—all while the defeated Hoover still held the presidency and Roosevelt remained a private citizen.

If I were making it into a movie, I would write it from the point of view of the aides to the two men, as indeed for the book I relied largely on the diaries and correspondence of their aides. Making the staff the story helps us, I think, to understand what kind of people flocked to these leaders' political agendas—much as The West Wing sometimes did. Roosevelt's aides were, many of them, marginalized figures: Jews, Catholics, disabled people (like Roosevelt himself) and politically active women. Hoover, by contrast, tended to attract and employ middle-aged white men with firm views. Over the period of time the book covers, Roosevelt's people had to learn to move out of the margins, and to wield power; Hoover's men learned that while they had to give up power, they did not have to accept defeat.

So now the fun part: casting; just for fun, keeping myself to living actors. I'd like to see Alec Baldwin and Stephen Root as Roosevelt and Hoover, respectively. They both have great range, and about the right look, and I have tremendous respect for actors who have both comic and dramatic chops, as I think they do. But as I say, if I were writing a movie I'd put the two presidents into important, but not point-of-view, roles.

In the Hoover camp, I'd want to see Garret Dillahunt as James MacLafferty, Hoover's informal liaison to Congress and a real political operator; Kurt Fuller as Edgar Rickard, Hoover's business partner (who, while Hoover was not addressing the bank panic, quietly withdrew the president's money for emergency use); Ray McKinnon as Ray Lyman Wilbur, the pious Secretary of the Interior; Michael Stuhlbarg as Hoover's press officer Theodore Joslin, who was deeply afraid for the president's life; and John Goodman as Ernest Walker Sawyer, a political operative who was sure the Republican Party's future in California lay in forgetting about the black vote and going after the Klan, small businessmen, and white evangelicals.

In the Roosevelt camp: John Turturro as Louis Howe, the loyal aide who began working with Roosevelt in the earliest days of his political career (no slight on Turturro, but Howe described himself as "one of the four ugliest men, if what is left of me can be dignified by the name of man, in the State of New York"); Noah Segan as the fixer Bob Jackson (not the later Supreme Court justice; this Bob Jackson partied with Joe Kennedy and arranged to get illegal liquor during Prohibition); and Cherry Jones as Molly Dewson, the head of the women's division and, as another Roosevelt aide said, the best "she-politician" in the business.

And for good measure, for the First Ladies, Margo Martindale as Lou Henry Hoover and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Eleanor Roosevelt.
Learn more about Winter War and follow Eric Rauchway on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Eric Rauchway's Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 26, 2018

Steph Post's "Walk in the Fire"

[editor's note: this entry was first published January 2018]

Steph Post is the author of A Tree Born Crooked (2014) and Lightwood (2017) as well as a short story writer, reader, teacher and dog lover (among many other things...).

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Walk in the Fire:
Walk in the Fire is the sequel to my 2017 novel Lightwood and therefore many of the casting choices are the same as the list I created for that book. I will stand by Margo Martindale playing Sister Tulah until the day I die…

As with any new story, however, there are additions to the line-up and so here are my actor choices for the characters new to the Cannon saga.

Clive Grant- Seth Gilliam

Gilliam might not be the most well-known actor, but you’d recognize him for sure if you’ve ever seen The Wire (Sgt. Carver) or The Walking Dead (Father Gabriel). I actually had Gilliam’s earnest smile in my head as I writing Clive’s character, so I think he’d be perfect for the role.

Everett Weaver- Javier Bardem

This is hard one, because although I can see Weaver so clear in my head, I didn’t have anyone particular in mind when I was writing the character. Javier Bardem could certainly pull off the creepiness of this character, but I’d give a chameleon actor like Gary Oldman a chance in a heartbeat.

George Kingfisher- Lance Reddick

Reddick is the actor that first comes to mind when I think of Kingfisher. This part needs an actor who could completely control a room just with his eyes and I think Reddick could do so. I wouldn’t say no to Idris Elba, though, if he was interested in the role…

Victoria Lopez- Zoe Saldana

In the novel, we only hear Lopez through her phone conversations with Clive, but I’m sure she’d have screen time in the movie. This role requires a tough, no-nonsense type of woman and I think Saldana would be perfect.

Miguel- Oscar Isaac

It’s a small role, but I’d love to see Isaac take it on.

Lesser- Freddie Highmore

Another small role, but an important one, and Highmore could definitely make the most of his limited screen time.
Visit Steph Post's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Steph Post & Juno.

My Book, The Movie: Lightwood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Simon R. Green's "Murder in the Dark"

Simon R. Green was born in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, England, where he still lives. He is the author of more than fifty science fiction and fantasy novels.

His new novel is Murder in the Dark.

Here Green shares some thoughts on casting an adaptation of the novel for the screen:
I never create a character with any particular actor in mind. They tend to be based on people I know; a bit from one, another bit from another. When it comes to casting, I honestly don’t know. It would depend more on what the take on my material is, and who they’ve chosen as director. My work has been optioned repeatedly, but as yet no one’s actually made anything. Apart from the one film I wrote myself, Judas Ghost. And I couldn’t be happier with how the casting on that one worked out.
Visit Simon R. Green's website.

--Marshal Zeringue