Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Julie Luongo's "The Hard Way"

Julie Luongo has worked as a university instructor, freelance writer, researcher, editor, reporter, and business consultant. She’s written about theater, fishing, and entertainment.

Her new book is The Hard Way.

Here she develops some ideas about the cast and director should her novel be adapted for the big screen:
When I imagine The Hard Way based on the novel by Julie Luongo coming to a theater near you, I generally think of it as a rich romantic comedy with a who’s-who ensemble cast and a top director. And I’m no literary snob. I have no problems at all with the Hollywood elite.

But The Hard Way would also work as a dark and/or quirky indie film with soon-to-be famous actors. What I mean is that I could imagine—I do imagine—a lot of different directors handling the subject material well. Judd Apatow would make it young and light; Sofia Coppola brooding and layered; Wes Anderson quirky and beautiful; Ron Howard fun and Oscar-worthy.

However, if I were directing my movie, I’d probably go with a Robert Altman style a la Short Cuts to mimic my book’s novel-in-stories structure. (Incidentally, I think Richard Linklater would pull this off well.) I’d give each vignette its own cast, tone, and style.

Nooo, I haven’t wasted a ton of time on this fantasy. Nope, not much time at all.

The Hard Way takes place over the span of 30 years (1970-2000) and is about one woman’s journey toward self-awareness and personal fulfillment. Lucy has a long road though. Her childhood was spent as the reluctant subject of a painter her parents were supporting when she was born.

In the vignette of her childhood, I’d cast Lucy as Miranda Cosgrove (Summer in School of Rock). Her self-involved parents would be played by Catherine Keener and Harold Ramis. The painter, a smug artist who occupies the bulk of her time, would be played by Johnathon Schaech (Jimmy in That Thing You Do).

When Lucy is in college, she goes on a tropical vacation with her mother, her mother’s new boyfriend, and his unhappy adult children. In this story, she’d be played by Alia Shawkat (Maeby in Arrested Development). Lucy’s sister Nancy appears here as a shrill, tense, and jealous woman. I think Judy Greer would pull off nicely (another Arrested Development actress – she was Kitty, the secretary). There is also a great male character, a moody man-child, which would be an excellent part for Jason Schwartzman.

After college Lucy stumbles through some ill-chosen careers. In her first one, as a freelance reporter, Lucy would have to be played by Lauren Ambrose (Claire in Six Feet Under). Probably in a misguided attempt to mourn her father, she dates a self-possessed older man who is distracted by his own issues. Bill Murray is my top pick for this character.

Lucy makes more than one misguided choice in love and leaves a number of discarded boyfriends in her wake. One of my favorite boyfriend characters is Keith, a wacky guy with a lax work ethic and a penchant for retro slang. I think Owen Wilson would have fun with this role (opposite Kate Winslet as Lucy).

Lucy’s least favorite boyfriend is Todd, who tells her what to do, what to eat, and how to act, which is amusing to her at first and eventually annoying then exhausting. Todd also suffers from road rage. People who don’t give the courtesy wave beware! I think Matt Damon could expertly reveal Todd’s suppressed fury.

Everyone’s favorite boyfriend of Lucy’s is Ben. He’s a Dean Martin with a little Jerry Lewis, which means he’s confident and sweet; handsome and goofy. I imagine that Paul Rudd or even James Franco could do a lot with this character.

If nothing else, The Hard Way, The Movie has range with cheek to rival Juno and depth enough to kill a mockingbird. (This synopsis rated H for Humble.)
Read more about The Hard Way at Julie Luongo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Julie Klam's "Please Excuse My Daughter"

Julie Klam graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and was an intern at Late Night with David Letterman. She went on to write for such publications as O, the Oprah Magazine, Rolling Stone, Harper’s Bazaar, and Glamour. She was also nominated for an Emmy as a writer for VH1’s Pop-Up Video.

Her new book is the memoir, Please Excuse My Daughter.

Here Klam develops some ideas about the cast and director should her memoir be adapted for the big screen:
As a former NYU film student, I’m pathetically proficient at imagining my life as a movie. When I stand on the prescription line at Duane Reade, I think, “If Sean Penn was the pharmacist this wait would be so dramatic, so compelling.” That said, my book Please Excuse My Daughter (Riverhead) is a memoir, it’s about my life, a life that I think sounds very much like a movie (if you like the kind of movies where people wait on line at Duane Reade).

When I was on my book tour, my hands-down favorite question anyone asked me was “Who’d play you in the movie?” My response was always, “Is Ethel Merman dead?” But really? For real? Well….

The constellation of the plot of Please Excuse My Daughter revolves around six key figures; me, my mother, Marcia; my father, Paul; my therapist, Margot; my ex-convict/Mafioso ex-boyfriend, Joe; and my fabulous husband, Paul.

Here’s the cast as I wish it:

Me, Julie - Jennifer Aniston or Kate Winslet (I love them both each in different ways, maybe they could share the role like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in Full House)

My mother, Marcia - Cher

Margot, the therapist – Michelle Pfeiffer

Joe, the bad guy – Colin Farrell

My husband, Paul – Vince Vaughn (I think Jennifer would like that, maybe if Kate did it we’d have Daniel Day-Lewis)

My father, Paul – Alan Arkin at his most Arkinesque

In terms of direction, I’d love to see it in the hands James L. Brooks.

[Disclaimer: If anyone options the book, I’d change my submission in a heartbeat and swear that you’re who I always wanted.]
Learn more about the book and author at Julie Klam's website and her blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Adam Gittlin's "The Deal"

Adam Gittlin is the author of The Men Downstairs and The Deal.

Here he develops some ideas about the cast should The Deal be adapted for the big screen:
No matter what book I’m writing, I always see it playing out as a film as quickly as the words hit the page. The Deal was no exception. It is a complex financial thriller in which New York City commercial real estate power-broker Jonah Gray thinks he’s been given three weeks to orchestrate the deal of a lifetime. But soon one of the world’s rarest antiques is planted in his briefcase, and he learns quickly that nothing in his professional or personal life is quite what it seems.

The Deal has a lot of characters, so for sake of keeping this exercise relatively simple I’ll touch on the main players. From day one I thought Jonah Gray presented a great opportunity for one of two actors, Jonathan Rhys Meyers or Leonardo DiCaprio. I know—they’re very different. But each brings formidable attributes to the table that would benefit the part. For Rhys Meyers, we got a glimpse of how he would look and feel as a polished business young gun in Match Point. This coupled with the intensity he shows in everything from his portrayal of Henry VIII in The Tudors to his Golden Globe-winning, Emmy-nominated turn as Elvis shows me he has both the fire and ice Jonah would require. With regard to DiCaprio, it’s a bit more obvious: he has the skill (The Departed), he has the versatility (Blood Diamond) and he has the star power (any film he’s called upon to headline).

As for the three other members of Jonah’s brokerage team—Perry York, Jake Donald and senior partner Tommy Wingate—I would love to see if either Rachel McAdams or Anne Hathaway could harness the toughness and maturity to play the sassy Perry York, though I feel Maggie Gyllenhaal or Vera Farmiga may be more natural at pulling her off. Jake Donald’s character combines serious business sense with some of the novel’s comic relief; I see this as a chance for Seth Rogan to begin expanding his range but can also envision Peter Sarsgaard fitting comfortably into the role. Tommy Wingate, the seasoned high-rolling senior partner, would round out the team nicely if played by either Kevin Spacey or Alec Baldwin.

The book’s ultimate villain, Andreu Zhamovsky, is mysterious, crafty, intimidating and stylish. He’s also Russian raised therefore the ability to capture his accent would be vital. Assuming this was a non issue (these guys are professionals, right?) either Matt Damon or Jason Statham would be a strong fit.
Read an excerpt from The Deal, and learn more about the book and author at Adam Gittlin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Brent Ghelfi's "Volk’s Game"

Brent Ghelfi's Volk's Game was recently nominated by the International Thriller Writers for Best First Novel, and his new book, Volk's Shadow, is set for release on July 8.

Last year, he applied the Page 69 Test to Volk's Game. Here he shares some thoughts on the cast should the book be adapted for the movies:
Volk’s Game tells the story of the theft of a long-lost Leonardo Da Vinci painting from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The story takes place against the backdrop of post-Soviet Russia, a country still captured in the flaming embrace of change.

The novel was recently optioned, so I suppose now is as good a time as any to dream about the cast and director for the movie.

The title character, Volk, is both a Russian army colonel and a gangster, one of those men perfectly positioned to take advantage of Russia’s latest economic model: capitalism sucked through the filter of a police state. But Volk wants something more from his life and Da Vinci’s painting gives him the chance to obtain it, to find something good amid all the evil that surrounds him. Brooding, conflicted, violent, and passionate about the painting—Volk is deep, but definitely not the expressive type. The actor who plays him will have to possess a menacing on-screen presence and the ability to reveal his emotions through action instead of words. My nominee is Jason Statham.

Valya, Volk’s lover and guardian angel, is a refugee from Chechnya, a small corner of hell ravaged by two wars brought by Yeltsin and Putin. Forged like white-hot steel, Valya burns across the pages of this novel. The perfect actress to play her—to show both her vulnerability and her strength—is Olga Kurylenko (although I suspect she’ll be busy in the next few years as the new Bond girl). Valya’s secret lover, the darkly seductive Yelena, has a hidden agenda and the ruthlessness required to execute it. My pick for that role is Milla Jovovich.

Volk’s patron, the General, is an aged survivor of Cold War Russia and hot war Chechnya who has transformed himself into a covert oligarch. Brilliant and manipulative, the General could be played beautifully by Peter Dinklage, assuming a makeup artist adds a few decades to his appearance.

Crime boss Maxim? Well, what with all 300 pounds of twisted steel of him, just the sheer size of the man presents a casting problem. Not to mention his emotional mix of raw fury, unrestrained violence, and cold calculation. If I could I would cast Gerard Butler in this role.

And, finally—we are still dreaming here, right?—I’d choose Paul Greengrass or Alejandro González Iñárritu to direct.
Visit the Volk's Game website, read Chapter One, and watch the video trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Volk's Game.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 2, 2008

Leslie Schnur's "Late Night Talking"

Leslie Schnur is the author of The Dog Walker and, new in paperback this month, Late Night Talking.

Here she develops some ideas about the cast and director should Late Night Talking be adapted for the big screen:
My most recent book, Late Night Talking, is about a late night radio talk show host who vents with her listeners about the everyday aggravations of modern life, from rude cell phone users and poor gym etiquette, to bad drivers and people who don’t clean up after their dogs. Jeannie Sterling is passionate about making the world a better place, one annoying person at a time.

Jeannie is me.

Or I am she.

Except I spend my days writing books and am usually too intimidated to ask someone to get off her cell phone in a restaurant or wipe his sweat off the bike at the gym.

Jeannie gets into some trouble with her best friend, Luce, who is also me, and has poignant memories of her mother, long dead, who is also me. Except for the dead part.

When I write, I imagine the actors who could play the roles. But since all the female characters are me, this is very difficult and depends on how much chocolate I ate the night before and how I feel about the writing I’ve done that day, or whether it is a big budget production or an indie. Should Jeannie be played by Reese Witherspoon or Catherine Keener? Should Luce be played by Emily Blunt or Joan Cusack? And the mom: is she Meryl Streep, Frances McDormand, or that woman in the Paxil commercials?

The point is that I have a very difficult time casting myself. So the female characters are open to interpretation and, actually, to anybody interested. Reese Witherspoon optioned my first novel, The Dog Walker, and would’ve been perfect for the snooping, ethically-challenged protagonist, if only … well, you know Hollywood, if only everything.

But the men. Now that’s a different story. I like to imagine the actors who would play the men in my books. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because if the protagonist is me and the male lead is, say, Clive Owen, why, that is me making out with him!

Late Night Talking
was written for one person and one person only: George Clooney. And I don’t understand why he hasn’t called. I pictured him from page one until the end, as the older, tree-climbing media mogul with a social conscience. I saw him in every scene Jeannie (or I) was in, and was certain he’d snatch the book up for his production company. Anyway, George, if you’re reading this: I’m waiting for you. Although if Clive Owen called, I’d be open.

Jeannie’s father is definitely Paul Newman. He’s not as Jewish as the character in the book, but I just can’t see Jerry Stiller in the role. And Tommy, the sexy, Vespa-riding journalist boyfriend is Matt Damon. (I was you-know-whating Matt Damon long before Sarah Silverman, trust me.) And if Matt’s too busy to play the jilted man, I wouldn’t turn down Bradley Cooper.

Also, for the record, it would be a lot of fun to cast Bruce Willis as Moss, Ashton Kutcher as Tommy and Demi Moore as me, I mean Jeannie. There’s publicity value in that, don’t you think?

The director and screenwriter could be Richard Curtis (Love, Actually, Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral.) But if Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) are looking for work, they might be good too.

As for the book I’m working on now, Everything in Sight, there is a romantic leading role for Javier Bardem or Johnny Depp. But I guess if George Clooney begged me, he could maybe have the job as well. Oh, and Clive Owen too.
Visit Leslie Schnur's website and read an excerpt from Late Night Talking.

Read the "backstory" to Late Night Talking.

The Page 69 Test: Late Night Talking.

--Marshal Zeringue