Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Alex Beam's "Gracefully Insane"

Alex Beam is a columnist at the Boston Globe and author of Gracefully Insane: The Rise and Fall of America's Premier Mental Hospital.

Is there a movie to be filmed based on this work of social history? You bet. The author explains:
My non-fiction book about the storied, celebrity-choked (Sylvia Plath, James Taylor, Ray Charles, et al) McLean mental hospital outside of Boston has attracted the usual eyeball-rolling "film interest." Most of it was of the slavish, me-too variety, with half-literate agents and producers hyperventilating at the thought of optioning the next "Girl, Interrupted," which won an Oscar for Angelina Jolie. (Susanna Kaysen's book, Girl, Interrupted takes place at McLean, where she was a patient in the 1960s.) "Serious" actors, dream of portraying mentally disturbed characters, to prove they can act.

At zero financial gain to myself (Alex -- call your agent), I optioned the story of Anne Sexton's McLean stays several times. Sexton was a gorgeous, suicidal, promiscuous, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who taught poetry to McLean patients for about a year. Unfortunately, she later ended up there as a patient. Worse yet, as they say in the trade, she ended up firing her psychiatrist; she killed herself. Mary Louise Parker and (I'm told) Jessica Lange have expressed interest in portraying Sexton.

I would prefer to see the love story of Katharine McCormick and her husband Stanley up on the screen. T.C. Boyle featured Stanley in his novel Riven Rock, but he played Stanley's plight for laughs in what is far from his best book. McCormick, one of the first women graduates of M.I.T., watched her wealthy husband devolve into catatonic despair, and tried, unsuccessfully, to save his life through psychiatry. His family, the Chicago McCormicks of combine harvester fame and fortune, sued her for custody of their son in the so-called "trial of the century", and lost. She later became an early advocate, and financial backer, of what are now called reproductive rights for women.

Would Susan Sarandon play Katharine? In a heartbeat, I wager. To play Stanley, there are any number of male actors who take themselves very seriously; Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, to name a few.
Read more about Gracefully Insane, and check out its Page 69 Test results.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 26, 2007

Anya Ulinich, "Petropolis"

I asked Anya Ulinich who should star in a film version of her new book, Petropolis.

Her response:
I can't come up with any actors. So my response will be much under 200 words. Actually, it'll consist of just two words: Todd Solondz. He is my dream screenwriter and director for Petropolis the movie. He can pick the actors, too.

Todd Solondz's films include Palindromes (2004), Storytelling (2001), Happiness (1998), and Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995).

Here's how Anya describes her protagonist:
Sasha Goldberg is a biracial, Jewish, socially maladjusted "child of the intelligentsia" from the Siberian town Asbestos 2. Sasha's father takes off for the U.S., leaving Sasha to navigate adolescence under the shadow of her overbearing mother. At fourteen, Sasha falls in love with an art school dropout who lives in a concrete half-pipe in the town's dump. When following her heart gets her into trouble at home, Sasha leaves Russia as a mail-order bride and, with the help of the Kupid's Korner Agency, lands in suburban Arizona. Soon, she escapes her Red Lobster- loving fiance and embarks on a misadventure-filled journey across America in search of her father.
Visit the Petropolis website and check out the Page 69 Test results for the novel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Allison Burnett's "Christopher"

Novelist-screenwriter Allison Burnett on the film version of his novel(s):
The hero of both my novels, Christopher and The House Beautiful, and of my upcoming one, Death By Sunshine, is named B.K. Troop. B.K. is a tall, bald, middle-aged, potbellied, spindly legged, bearded, grey-toothed, dandruff-flaked, chemically imbalanced, erudite, witty, gay alcoholic. Sadly, Bea Arthur is past her prime. I am left with slim pickings.

I have adapted Christopher into a screenplay myself. In my discussions with agents and producers, some names have been bandied about: Kelsey Grammar, Harvey Fierstein, Alec Baldwin, Alfred Molina, Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson, Jon Voight, and a brilliant Australian stage actor, unknown here, named Bille Brown. Other names have been mentioned that I rejected out of hand; namely, actors with great commercial value and talent, but who do not resemble BK: Dustin Hoffman and Ben Kingsley, to name just two. Another aspect of the discussion is should the actor be gay in real life? I tend to think it doesn’t matter. Should any of my readers have a favorite idea for an actor to play BK, I would love to hear it. We are casting now. To be precise, we are casting about for financing and finding the right actor would certainly help.
Visit Allison's official website to learn more about his books and to submit your casting ideas.

See the Page 69 treatment for The House Beautiful.

--Marshal Zeringue