Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ron Currie, Jr.'s "God Is Dead"

Ron Currie, Jr.'s prizewinning fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, The Sun, Other Voices, and Night Train. He has been shortlisted for the Fish International Short Story Award and Swink magazine's Emerging Writer Award.

In June 2007, he applied the Page 69 Test to his acclaimed debut novel, God Is Dead. Here he shares some thoughts on the cast should the book be adapted for the movies:
When I was approached about contributing to MBTM, my first instinct was to try to dodge the specifics of the site’s premise—namely that I should choose the actor(s) I thought would best portray the book’s characters—because I couldn’t for the life of me think of who could play the titular character. God, in the book, is a young, slender Dinka woman on the run from marauding packs of Janjaweed militia. If the role were straight tragedy there are probably a dozen actresses who’d fit the bill, but the tone of the story requires a slight yet palpable element of humor from the character, one that would need to be conveyed subtly, without the aid of any dialogue cues, a challenge not many actors are equal to.

So instead I turned to a few of the book’s other characters. First to mind was Colin Powell, who dominates the first chapter. This is not the stern, measured soldier and statesman you see on the evening news, though—he’s a furious, foul-mouthed race warrior who obsessively watches Samuel Jackson movies to learn how to speak “black.” I’ve got Terrence Howard in mind for this role—he’s somewhat young, given, but versatile enough to pull off both the over-the-top pimpspeak and the deep sorrow and resentment eating at the character’s soul.

Then there’s the talking dog who narrates the sixth chapter, “Interview with the Last Remaining Member of the Feral Dog Pack Which Fed on God’s Corpse.” Like Adam with the apple, this dog eats the Creator and is filled with a tremendous and terrible knowledge, something that he is not, for obvious reasons, equipped to deal with. This sudden omniscience drives him from the Eden of his existence within the pack, and the story then follows his doomed efforts to find a new home among human beings. They’re doing incredible things with CGI these days, but I’d be worried that visually a screen adaptation of this character would end up looking a lot like that live-action Scooby Doo debacle a few years back. That aside, as far as voicing the character goes, given my druthers it’d be Djimon Hounsou in a landslide—he’s got the accent, the timbre, the resigned solemnity (and hopefully by the time God is Dead hits movie screens everyone will have forgotten about Never Back Down).

Okay, I’ve avoided it long enough—given the title of the book I suppose I’m obligated to float at least a couple of possibilities for who should play God. Not too long ago someone suggested Halle Berry, and while she’s always nice to watch and has proven her acting chops, I just can’t get past Catwoman. Not that I ever saw it. Two other possibilities, off the top of my head: Thandie Newton, maybe, or Kerry Washington, who was terrific in Ray and The Last King of Scotland. Still, neither of them is ideal for the role. Perhaps I’m being too picky. But then again, it is God we’re talking about here, and keep in mind: whoever steps up is going to have to compete with both George Burns and Morgan Freeman.
About God Is Dead, from the publisher. Visit Ron Currie, Jr.'s MySpace page.

The Page 69 Test: God Is Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gayle Brandeis's "Self Storage"

Last March, Gayle Brandeis applied the Page 69 Test to her novel, Self Storage.

Here she develops some casting ideas should the book be adapted for the big screen:

The day after I received the email asking me to participate in this blog, I received an email from a producer asking if my novel Self Storage had been optioned yet. The timing still makes me smile—it's almost as if the invitation to cast my book ushered in the possibility of a real movie. I know the film world is just as unpredictable and uncertain as the publishing world, if not more so, so who knows if an adaptation will actually come to light, but it's great fun to dream about the potential cast.

The main character of Self Storage is Flan Parker, a young mother who goes to self storage auctions and sells the winnings at yard sales in her family student housing community at the University of California in Riverside. Flan is a searcher, guided by Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," and a bit of a daydreamer. Her life is forever altered when her path collides with Sodaba's, her Afghan neighbor who wears a full burqa. I promised my friend Dewi Faulkner (doesn't she have the greatest name?) the role of Flan if the book were ever to make it to the screen, but in the event that Dewi is unavailable, I can easily picture a couple of other actors as Flan: Maggie Gyllenhaal would bring a wonderful wistfulness to the role, and Mary Lynn Rajskub would capture both Flan's humor and her frustration. As young mothers themselves (in Mary Lynn Rajskub's case, a young mother-to-be), I think they would connect with Flan's heart.

I'd love to see Peter Sarsgaard (Maggie Gyllenhaal's real life partner) as Shae, Flan's stoner husband who should be writing his dissertation but spends the day watching soap operas. Other possibilities would be Ryan Gosling, Brendan Sexton III, maybe Paul Rudd. Someone who can be scruffy and exasperating but charming all at once.

Patricia Clarkson would be perfect as Julia, the artist who Flan tracks down after she finds the word YES inside a self storage box. If Ms. Clarkson's not available, Frances Conroy would be great, too (yes, I do miss Six Feet Under.)

Even though Sodaba is under a burqa the whole time, and we barely hear her voice, I'd love for an Afghan actor such as Parwin Moshtael to play her. I'd also love for an Afghan actor such as Fahim Fazli to play her husband, Raminullah.

I lived in family student housing at UCR when my kids were little, so it would be a treat to see the place immortalized on film, especially since it's slated to be razed in a few years. Plus, if the movie were filmed on location, it would give my daughter, a budding filmmaker, the chance to watch a production in action. If we could shrink her back to her two year old self, she'd be a perfect Nori, but that's probably not possible (even though we're dreaming wildly here)—I'm sure there is an adorable curly headed girl out there ready to step into the role, and a six year old boy with long blond hair ready to play Noodle. I hope I'll get to meet them some day.

Learn more about Gayle Brandeis and Self Storage at her website, at her blog, or at one of her MySpace pages or the other.

The Page 69 Test: Self Storage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Corey Redekop's "Shelf Monkey"

Corey Redekop applied the Page 99 Test to his novel, Shelf Monkey, in October 2007.

Here he develops some ideas about the cast and director should Hollywood come calling about an adaptation:
Shelf Monkey is about obsession and the perils inherent in becoming too emotionally attached to any one point of view. Any cast member would have to have that certain mania which accompanies that extreme viewpoint of everything I believe in is right, and everything you believe in is wrong.

The lead character Thomas at one point opines on who should portray him in the eventual movie, laying out Jake Gyllenhaal and Ewan McGregor as his favored candidates. Nice try, but Thomas as a personality does not have that kind of Hollywood heft, and should not get played by a personality that would overwhelm the character (although Ewan would be a good choice in any event). He’s kind of a sarcastic milquetoast, and Paul Rudd would be a fine choice, if possibly a little too old (sorry Paul). In a few years, Michael Cera would be absolutely perfect. And seriously, how good is Cera anyway? I can’t get enough of the guy. Also, he’s Canadian, and as Shelf Monkey is a shaggy little Canadian novel, it would be nice to get an actor with that je ne c’est quoi sensibility. Or Topher Grace.

Aubrey (portrayed by Freddie Prinze Jr. in the television movie - *shudder*) is the true driving force behind the Shelf Monkeys – think Sean Penn but younger. Also must not look ridiculous in red dreadlocks, if such a thing is at all possible. Heath Ledger would have been great, but dammit he left too soon. I think Joaquin Phoenix would have both the physical and emotional strength for the weird bi-polar craziness Aubrey eventually manifests. If he’s unavailable, let’s go completely out there and get Seth Rogan. Again Canadian, and I think he’s got a dramatic edge that rarely gets used. Or get Robert Downey Jr.; I firmly believe the man can do anything. Oh, Iron Man, you'd better not suck.

Munroe, the true bad guy, is a very large man who emits generosity and lovability (a la Leo Buscaglia by way of Oprah), but underneath the televised image lurks a confused and embittered individual with a great deal of hatred toward the world at large. John Goodman may be too obvious a choice, but look at Barton Fink, and you’ll see a comedic talent with a huge reservoir of untapped dramatic potential. The lesser-known character actor John Carroll Lynch would also be a great choice, as his turn in Zodiac was truly chilling, and his lovability in Fargo is a perfect counterpoint.

Danae would be ideal for Reese Witherspoon, the crazy Reese from Election and Freeway before she went mainstream. The part demand an actress with indie cred, and Reese has simply gone too far the other way. I want to say Parker Posey, but as much as I love her, she’s simply the wrong age. Maggie Gyllenhaal is my choice; she has the edge, the talent, and the offbeat looks. Perfect.

All that being said, I’d love to know how others might cast my novel. If Shelf Monkey ever becomes a movie (holding breath begins now), I’d put in my two cents, but it would be fascinating just to watch how another person approaches the same material.

As for directors, I’d accept any of the following: Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Jake Kasdan, Judd Apatow, Greg Mottola, or Jason Reitman. With my luck, however, it’ll be Walt Becker or Andy Tennant. Augh.

Read more about the novel and author at the Shelf Monkey blog and listen to podcasts of two excerpts.

The Page 99 Test: Shelf Monkey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tara McKelvey's "Monstering"

Tara McKelvey is a senior editor at The American Prospect and author of Monstering: Inside America's Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.

In June 2007 she applied the Page 69 Test to Monstering. Here she puts the book to the My Book, The Movie challenge:
My book Monstering is about Abu Ghraib, which is not a topic that an American moviegoing audience would naturally gravitate toward. But Abu Ghraib, and the use of so-called "enhanced" interrogation techniques, is an important subject, and I think Americans should have a chance to talk about these issues In fact, it seems that Americans are ready to examine the subject of torture and to look at this dark chapter in our history, especially since a documentary film on the subject, Taxi to the Dark Side, has just won an Academy Award.

Here are the actors I would like to see in the film version of Monstering. Angelina Jolie. She is gorgeous, and fascinating, and she has even been to Iraq. Or Embeth Davidtz. She starred in June Bug, and she plays Amy in the HBO show In Treatment. I met Davidtz long ago while she was promoting the Steven Spielberg film Schindler's List (she played a Jewish maid who was saved by Schindler). Davidtz is smart and sophisticated, and she speaks eloquently about things like the nature of evil. Or Salma Hayek. I spent the day with her in Washington, DC, in 2002 when she gave a speech at a march against domestic violence on Capitol Hill. (I even wrote her speech!) She is passionate about human rights, and she is something of a perfectionist in her work, and she would be great in the film.
Read more about Monstering, including excerpts, reviews, and interviews, at Tara McKelvey's website.

McKelvey is a frequent reviewer for the New York Times Book Review and a contributing writer for Marie Claire. She is also a research fellow at New York University School of Law’s Center on Law and Security. She has edited a collection about female soldiers and torturers called One of the Guys.

The Page 69 Test: Monstering.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series

Deanna Raybourn is the author of the Lady Julia Grey series, including Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary.

Here she shares a few thoughts about the cast and director of a potential film adaptation of the books:
The funny thing about imagining the late Victorian Julia Grey series as a movie is that nobody ever picks anybody to play Lady Julia Grey, the aristocratic amateur sleuth. I blame Nicholas Brisbane. He’s Julia’s partner in detection and more, a mysterious private inquiry agent, tall, dark, handsome, and enigmatic — a devastating combination. Women like to cast his role endlessly, and they have very strong opinions on the matter. Just this week I got an e-mail from an Australian reader who included a picture of “local boy Hugh Jackman” as her pick. (Not that I would have any say whatsoever in casting, but it was nice to have a little eye candy at my desk.) The top choices to play Nicholas are — in no particular order because otherwise there would be a serious catfight — Hugh Jackman, Gerard Butler, Clive Owen, James Purefoy, and most recently, Javier Bardem.

When I really, really press women for an answer on who should play Julia, I get a half-hearted, “Oh, I suppose Scarlett Johansson would do,” and then they go back to debating how many times Nicholas should take his shirt off in the movie. (I always pictured her looking a little more like Eva Green myself, although the voice is totally wrong.)

I’m not sure that any author, having seen what Joe Wright did for Atonement, wouldn’t happily make some small human sacrifices to get him on board as director. (And if I’m going to ask for the moon, I’d pretty much take anybody who ever touched Atonement, but that’s just greedy isn’t it?)

But if I’m completely honest, I don’t actually care all that much about the particulars of casting because once I turn loose the film rights, the story is no longer mine to tell. I would love to see what a different kind of storyteller, working in a different medium, would do with these characters. If you’re a producer and you’re reading this, it means I am the LAST girl to take an ad out in Variety telling you you’re doing it wrong. All I ask is a visit to the set, and maybe a little one-on-one time with Gerard Butler.
Learn more about Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary at the publisher's website.

Visit Deanna Raybourn's website, Blog A Go-Go.

--Marshal Zeringue