Saturday, April 26, 2008

Craig Johnson's "The Cold Dish"

Craig Johnson is the author of The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, Kindness Goes Unpunished and Another Man’s Moccasins.

Here he shares some ideas about the cast and director of a film adaptation of the first Walt Longmire mystery, The Cold Dish:
I once got asked on Utah Public Radio who I thought should play Sheriff Walt Longmire in a motion picture version of my novels, and I responded, “Gary Cooper, but he’s not returning our calls.” That’s pretty much the way it is in Hollywood, nobody ever dies; they just stop returning your calls.

I decided in the interest of self-preservation, since there seems to be a current interest from Hollywood in my writing, that I would only cast The Cold Dish from the past, and in that, I’d be hard pressed to come up with somebody better than Gary Cooper. Raised on his father’s ranch near Helena, Montana—feeding 450 head of cattle and freezing his ass off at 40 below, he was what I call, the old-fashioned ideal of the pre-war era; a quiet, self-effacing humor with an eye to the horizon that was evident in The Virginian, Sergeant York, The Pride of the Yankees, not to mention High Noon.

Some of the physical qualities I had in mind when I was constructing Walt were as far flung as Athos from The Three Musketeers, to Jean Val Jean from Les Miserables, specifically the scene where the ex-convict reveals himself by lifting a wagon off of an injured man. Marine investigator and USC offensive tackle, Walt Longmire is a big man simply for the reason that I wanted him to be capable, but not studied. Personally, I’ve had enough of the seventh-degree black-belt types, and just wanted a sheriff who could put a bad guy up against the wall if need be. Cooper was tall enough, and I would have enjoyed telling him that he had to start eating more donuts. The other major ability would be a sense of humor and timing—which Coop showed in spades in such notable features as Ball of Fire, Meet John Doe, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (the good one), and The Westerner.

For deputy Victoria Moretti you’d have to have a phenomenal Italian actress to hold her own against Cooper, so I’d go with a North Carolinian from the same period; Ava Gardner. From all reports, she could out drink and out cuss the Marine 1st Division which makes her perfect for the role of a character with the body of Salome and the mouth of a salt-water crocodile. She was intelligent, down to earth, and oh so easy on the eye. A one-of-the-guys, gal.

Henry Standing Bear would be a sticking point, especially since I confined my selections only to performers who have passed. The history of Hollywood is strewn with very capable actors who’ve portrayed Native American characters without ever having been actual Indians. It’s a shame, but true. I guess I’d go with Jay Silverheels of Tonto fame, and rejoice in the hopes of future productions that there are so many capable, Indian actors working today.

At the helm, it would be hard to resist John Ford; but I will. Instead, I think I’d go with John Sturges. With an oeuvre that includes Gunfight at the OK Corral (the good one), Bad Day at Black Rock, and The Magnificent Seven, Sturges’ clean and uncluttered style would suit contemporary Wyoming, and his taut, tension-ridden pacing would provide the ticking clock that the movie of The Cold Dish would require. One of the only criticisms that I could levy against him would be the weakness of his female characters…. But I bet Ava could bring him around.
Read more about the Walt Longmire mysteries and the author at Craig Johnson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Kindness Goes Unpunished.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Karen Miller's "Empress"

Karen Miller is the author of the bestselling fantasy duology Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, the currently releasing fantasy trilogy Godspeaker, and the bestselling tie-in novel Stargate SG-1: Alliances.

Here she develops some casting ideas should Empress, of the Godspeaker trilogy, be adapted for the big screen:
Hollywood being what it is, the chances of this, or any of my books, being made into a movie are slim to none. But I do have a lot of fun playing casting director when I’m writing – sometimes it helps to have a known ‘face’ in your head when you’re searching for a character’s physicality. Or sometimes once you’re done, you suddenly see a face that fits the face you’ve been writing about for ages. That can be quite freaky, actually. As though your inner dreams are suddenly dressed in flesh.

Empress is my latest book, the first installment of the Godspeaker trilogy. It’s epic, historical fantasy, I suppose you’d describe it. The scope of the trilogy is pretty wide, in a geographical and socio-political sense. In Empress, the reader is introduced to the harsh land of Mijak, where the god isn’t just some theoretical, possibly non-existent being, but a living, breathing, physically manifested presence. Not believing in the god is like saying you don’t believe in trees – even as a tree is falling on top of you. It’s the story of one unwanted girl-child, Hekat, who’s sold into slavery, and rises to the very heights of power … at an enormous cost not only to herself, but the people around her. And it’s about what happens when she sets her sights on giving her bloodthirsty god the whole world.

Initially, thinking of Hekat, Halle Berry came to mind because Hekat’s beautiful and so is Ms Berry. Then I saw an episode of America’s Next Top Model, and my perfect Hekat was on it! I can’t remember which season it was, or the model’s name now, but it was the one where they went to Hawaii to do bikini shots in the season opener. She wore a head wrap and looked so fierce and so beautiful, she was the incarnation of Hekat. She was so how I saw Hekat in my mind it totally threw me.

Nagarak, the powerful and terrifying high priest, is absolutely Carl Lumbly. Not lovely Carl Lumbly, as he was in Alias, but as he was in the Battlestar Galactica episode ‘Hero’, playing Bulldog. I saw that episode and went, Whoah! It’s Nagarak!

With Vortka, the novice priest whose life gets tangled with Hekat’s, I think of Taye Diggs. Vortka is a sweet, sweet man – far too kind and loving for the world he was born into. Taye Diggs has the best smile, and that kind of gentleness in him, I think.

Grown-up Zandakar, Hekat’s son, at least in terms of his physicality, is absolutely Henry Simmons. He does a shirtless scene in NYPD Blue that is eye-boggling, to say the least. I think at some point there’s some full body nudity with him – anyway, his extraordinary physique is totally Zandakar. And there’s the right kind of strength in his face, too. Just give him a pair of blue contact lenses and we’re laughing!

I see Denzel Washington as Raklion, the beleagured warlord and Hekat’s mate. Like Vortka, and unlike Nagarak, Raklion has a great deal of kindness in him. He can be tough and brutal, because that’s what his life requires, but there’s gentleness there too. He’s not devastatingly handsome, but there’s a core of inner strength and purpose to him.

So that’s how I’d cast my book as a film, if ever it was going to be filmed. But it won’t – there’s way too much blood-letting, I think, even for Hollywood!
Read an excerpt from Empress, and learn more about the author and her work at Karen Miller's website and her LiveJournal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jane Cleland's "Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries"

Jane K. Cleland is the author of the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries.

Here she offers a fresh twist to the blog's approach to having the author imagine her novels adapted for the big screen:
I love the idea of thinking about casting the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries: Consigned to Death, Deadly Appraisal, and Antiques to Die For. It’s fun—and it’s relevant because I wrote Josie with one of two actresses in mind. But I’m not going to tell you who they are because I want to know the picture in your head.

Here’s my thinking: I’ll tell you about some of the repeating characters in the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries, and you tell me which actors should play them. You submit your entries to me by July 4, 2008, and I’ll select the winners randomly from all the entries that align with my vision. The winner for each character gets a pair of Josie’s martini glasses and an autographed copy of one of the books in the series. Worth playing for? You bet!

Josie Prescott is an antiques appraiser who uses her knowledge of antiques to solve crimes. She’s a good girl, a nice young woman who’s overcome several bad breaks. Josie’s in her thirties. She grew up in Boston. Her degree is in Art History. She was the whistle blower in a major antiques scandal that occurred a few years ago in New York City, and as a result, she moved to New Hampshire to start her own business. She was shocked that she was shunned by her friends. It never occurred to her that the people she admires wouldn’t appreciate and support her efforts—after all, she did the right thing, and by her standards, that’s all that matters. Who should play Josie?

Josie’s boyfriend is Ty Alverez, formerly the Rocky Point, New Hampshire police chief, and now a regional director for Homeland Security. Ty is tall. He loved his aunt, and when she was dying, he went to California to be with her and help her navigate the medical system. He drives an SUV. We know nothing else about him. Who should play Ty?

Josie’s neighbor, landlady, and friend is Zöe, an Italian firecracker, quick to anger and quick to atone. She’s a single mom of two youngins. Zöe left her no-good-nik husband in Oregon when she inherited her uncle’s estate. She and Josie share martinis and a view of the world. To Zöe, there’s little gray in life; to Josie, there’s plenty of gray, and the fact that they discuss it all the time is what makes them dear friends: they don’t have to agree—they just have to talk. Who should play Zöe?

Sasha is Josie’s chief appraiser. She’s shy and insecure—except when discussing art. She has a Ph.D. in art history and thinks that Josie is the smartest woman she knows. She twirls her lank brown hair when she’s nervous. Who should play Sasha?

Fred is brat pack cool. He’s another appraiser. He works for Sasha. He’s an intellectual snob when it comes to antiques, condemning collectibles, wishing he could only deal with the best objects. Who should play Fred?

Gretchen is Josie’s assistant. She’s 25. She has copper-color hair that cascades below her shoulders and emerald eyes. She’s addicted to celebrity gossip. She’s boy-crazy. She’s also an innate caretaker and as honest as the day is long, and she has a mysterious past. Who should play Gretchen?

Eric is Josie’s back-room guy, a twig-thin high school grad, glad to be done with school. He lives with his mom and his two dogs. He’s an uneasy leader, more prepared to fail than succeed, but determined to do his all to justify Josie’s trust in him. Who should play Eric?

Now it’s in your hands. I look forward to hearing from you.
Visit Jane Cleland's website and her blog.

Watch the Antiques to Die For trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Deadly Appraisal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s "Flash"

L. E. Modesitt, Jr. is the bestselling author of over forty novels encompassing two science fiction series and three fantasy series, as well as several other novels in the science fiction genre.

Here he develops some ideas about the cast and director for a film adaptation of his 2005 novel, Flash, which "delves into the insidious relationship between science, advertising, and politics."
I normally don’t consider who might star if one of my books were made into a movie, because, based on an experience some ten years ago, when a most notable Hollywood director showed an interest in one of my books – and then decided against going further because, despite a high level of destruction, the underlying story was “too complex,” i.e., it actually had significant moral dimensions and questions – it became apparent that whether a book gets to the screen is a form of creative lottery.

Most likely, the book of mine most structurally conducive to being made into a movie, thus far, at least, is Flash, a PI/consultant thriller set three centuries in the future, which features one Jonat deVrai, a former Marine officer who has turned his hand to consulting and analysis of media influence and who is asked to investigate and analyze the use of a new high-tech approach to media in political campaigns. Needless to say, once he discovers what is really happening, everything in his life becomes a target – his occupation, his family, and himself.

Personally, I’d like to see Clive Owen as Jonat deVrai, because he can show integrity in a role, while still holding to a certain grittiness and understanding of just how much grunt-work goes on behind a façade of effortlessness. For Jonat’s very brilliant and capable sister, Aliora, my first choice would be Keira Knightley. For her husband Dierk, a solid man with a quietly humorous side, I’d love to have Kevin Kline. For Paula, the police cydroid who becomes all too human, I’d choose Cate Blanchett. Blanchett has the ability to be whatever role she takes, and she can look so totally different in each role. For Stacia Mydra, the calculating and highly intelligent multilateral director-general [who is the only one of deVrai’s opponents who survives], I’d like to see Meryl Streep, playing the role along the lines she did in The Devil Wears Prada. My second choice would be Kristin Scott Thomas, although she’d certainly take the role in a different direction.

As for directors, my first choice would have been Robert Altman, but given the fact that he’s no longer available, and the fact that the book is somewhat cynical about politics, either Robert Redford or Clint Eastwood would do a good job.

Now… all this is certainly highly improbable, since I doubt any director could afford such a cast, but since we are talking speculative fiction… and this is all highly speculative… why not?
Learn more about the author and his many books at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Louis Ferrante's "Unlocked"

Louis Ferrante's Unlocked: A Journey from Prison to Proust is a memoir about the author’s journey from a life as a Mafia insider and federal prison inmate to that of a professional writer.

Here he shares some reflections on the idea of writing a memoir with a movie deal in mind:
My memoir was recently optioned for a movie by film star Lorraine Bracco. Believe it or not, this came as a surprise.

I never wrote my memoir with thoughts of cinema in mind. In telling my story, I felt it was important to interpret the facts of my life as best as I could. It was necessary to focus on situations, clarity, and the messages I wanted to convey, as opposed to creating chapters that could easily fit onto a Hollywood screen. Had I been thinking in terms of cinema while writing, it may have distracted me from actual events. I might have said to myself, “How will this play out in a scene?” Or, “Who could play this part well?” And then I’d have been jumping far ahead of myself.

At some point toward the end of the book, my girlfriend, who is a librarian, commented that she’d seen many books cross her desk that had gone on to become movies. She expressed with certainty that my book would become a movie. This was the first time I’d imagined the possibility, and yet, I quickly put it out of my head, choosing to take one step at a time.

So, if writing a memoir, let it follow it’s natural progression, and, if it lends itself to the screen, so be it. Nowadays I think any well-written memoir has an excellent chance of becoming a movie given Hollywood’s continuing demand for new material.

In stark contrast to my memoir, when I wrote my novel, which takes place in the antebellum South, I did have an ongoing movie reel spinning in my head. Having to create characters, scenes and situations, I was able to see the whole book as if it were being played out as a movie in my head. So much so, that if I were to see a movie based on my novel for the first time, I couldn’t help but think, “I’ve seen this before.”

In conclusion, I advise anyone writing a memoir to write it without any intention of it being made into a film, and it just may be. When writing fiction, you won’t be able to help but see the movie in your head. Hard work and perseverance will get it to the big screen, and the rest of us will one day see it as well.
Read more about Unlocked at the publisher's webpage and at Louis Ferrante's website.

--Marshal Zeringue