Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ben Tanzer's "Lucky Man"

Ben Tanzer's debut novel Lucky Man hit bookstores in March.

Here's the author on who might tell his story on the big screen:
If they make my new book Lucky Man into a film, I'd like to think it will be reminiscent of those movies where a new group of young actors seems to emerge fully formed on the scene - like Diner or The Outsiders, and that Diane Lane will be so excited about the writing after she sees it, that she will finally return one of my calls.

That said, let's start with the actors, and it really is mostly actors, because the story follow four friends - Gabe, Jake, Louie, and Sammy - during their waning days of high school through their first few years out of college. They struggle with substance abuse, anger, sex, and adultery. They go on road trips and listen to the Grateful Dead. They don't or can't communicate with their fathers. And when not enjoying cocaine fueled bouts of deer strangulation, they make sense of the world by deconstructing The Greatest American Hero.

So, who then? Gabe is beautiful and confused, a young god, and I'm picturing Channing Tatum. You can skip She's the Man, though I do love Amanda Bynes and picture her as Sammy's girlfriend Tara, but go see A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and you'll know what I'm saying is true. Shia LaBeouf is super hot right now, but we need him as Sammy, funny and removed, insecure and always observing, he's our guy. Louie is the stoner, lover, Deadhead, and I'm thinking Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I know you agree, but if you have any doubt see Mysterious Skin. Brilliant. Jake is Gabe's best friend, and he's so angry, and drinks too much, but still kind of charming, and I'm liking Emile Hirsh in this role, he's got the right glint in his eye.

I would have one requirement for all the characters before filming - study River Phoenix in Running on Empty. There have been many great actors who portrayed teenagers in ways I loved - Sean Penn in Bad Boys for example, and that's the prison movie with Esai Morales, not the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence joint - but everything I want them to know about playing these characters is in his performance in this movie - sensitive, smart, funny, conflicted, and struggling, always struggling to make sense of what's going on inside his head.

There are a lot of directors I could see running with this, but it is important to find someone who could recognize the humor that's constantly fighting for air time with the bleakness permeating much of the story. I think Larry Clark or Gregg Araki would be great, and Sofia Coppola for sure, but my top three would be Gus Van Sant, if he could recapture the My Own Private Idaho vibe, Noah Baumbach, if you have seen The Squid and the Whale you know why, and Todd Field, because between In the Bedroom and Little Children whatever he's on to I want to be part of it.

Finally, and if it's okay, we need to talk music for a moment. The Grateful Dead for sure, but there's some period music that's just key - The Violent Femmes, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, U2, The Ramones, Blondie, Pink Floyd, and Billy Joel, the original angry young man. Also, as doable some current bands that tell the kinds of stories that these characters know, or want to know - The Hold Steady, hands down, but Ike Reilly and The Assassination as well, and then Be Your Own Pet or Avail for when we need some noise, and with this movie we will definitely need some noise.
Visit Ben Tanzer's blog and MySpace page, and read more about Lucky Man at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue