Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Leighton Gage's "Buried Strangers"

Leighton Gage is the author of the Chief Inspector Mario Silva crime novels.
The producers of Buried Strangers have finished packaging the film. Gage took the opportunity to interview one of his characters about the casting.

LG: Claudia Andrade, you’re going to be played by a relative unknown. How do you feel about that?

CA: I’m pissed off. Let me ask you a question. Did you have anything to do with it?

LG: The casting? No, I wasn’t consulted. I only wrote the book, and in Hollywood—

CA: I asked you a simple question. I didn’t ask for one of your long-winded explanations. Stop hogging my air time. Whose interview is this anyway?

LG: Yours. Sorry. Why are you pissed off?

CA: I’m pissed off because they went out and got Tommy Lee Jones for Silva, Leonardo DiCaprio for Hector, Ben Kingsley for Horst Bittler and then chose that (expletive deleted) Fernanda Torres to play me. What’s wrong with this picture?

LG: Ha! Well, to start with, Buried Stangers, the movie, is a picture about--

CA: Don’t be a wise ass. That was a rhetorical question, and you know it.

LG: I wasn’t being—

CA: Where’s mine? Where’s my Oscar winner? Tell me that! I’m so mad I could spit. Fernanda Torres? Spare me! You know what her specialty is? Comedy, that’s what. Seriously, do you see anything comic about me? Anything funny in what I do?

LG: No, Claudia, nothing funny. Quite the contrary. I see you as a warped, twisted and totally ruthless killer.

CA: Thank you. I work hard at it.

LG: Maybe you shouldn’t fly off the handle before you see some results. The producers tell me Fernanda will be terrific.

CA: Yeah? Well, I don’t think so. And those producers have no idea who they’re dealing with.

LG: Whom, not who.

CA: What?

LG: Whom they’re dealing with.

CA: Whom then. And you can take your English-language grammar and stuff it. It’s a lousy language to begin with.

LG: Not so. It’s a great language. And if it didn’t exist, you wouldn’t exist.

CA: Back to that creation myth of yours, are we? Gage as God? Pardon me while I throw up.

LG: I wish you wouldn’t—

CA: They’re going to pay for it.

LG: Wait a minute. Are you threatening the producers?

CA: You bet I am.

LG: Stay away from those producers, Claudia. I don’t want them harmed until they finish the picture.

CA: And then?

LG: And then, if I don’t like it, maybe I’ll let you kill them.

CA: In your next book?

LG: No. Dying Gasp is being copy edited as we speak, and I’m not going to change it. Has it occurred to you they might have chosen Fernanda because none of the big-name Hollywood types wanted the role? Your character engenders hate. Maybe that’s why Oscar winners steered away from it.

CA: Did Fatal Attraction hurt Glenn Close? Did Total Recall wreck Sharon Stone’s career? I don’t think so.

LG: Beautiful women, those two.

CA: And I’m what? Chopped liver? Okay, my nose is a little longer than most, but I look great when I’m photographed head on. Look!

LG: Hm.

AC: I’ve got it! Charlize Theron! Charlize Theron would have been a great choice.

LG: You’re thinking Monster?

CA: With that hair? That makeup? All that extra weight? Are you insane? I’m thinking Mighty Joe Young.
Note to the reader: Despite his character’s protestations to the contrary, Leighton thinks the Brazilian character actress Fernanda Torres would make a wonderful Claudia Andrade. You can see Fernanda at work in this video.

Leighton Gage has been a copywriter, an advertising creative director, a magazine editor, and a writer/producer/director of documentary films and industrial videos. Read an excerpt from Buried Strangers and learn more about the author and his work at Leighton Gage's website and his Crimespace page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lydia Millet's "How the Dead Dream"

Lydia Millet is the author of Omnivores, George Bush, Dark Prince of Love, My Happy Life, a winner of the 2003 PEN-USA Award for Fiction, Everyone’s Pretty, and Oh Pure and Radiant Heart.

And How the Dead Dream, about which she has some ideas for cast and director should the book be adapted for the movies:
The book tells about a businessman, a young real estate developer named T, who runs over a coyote in his car, begins to lose people he loves, and then spins out and starts breaking into zoos to be near animals that are on the brink of extinction. From the pantheon of available faces and styles, I see T as Christian Bale. I like the blank and cold yet soulful handsomeness of Bale's face -- perfect for this character and for the mood of the piece.

There's a mother character, T's mother, fraying and graying at the edges and a little WASPY despite being Catholic, who's suddenly abandoned by her gay husband and begins to disintegrate. Blythe Danner, hands down.

Then there's Casey, a girl in her twenties in a wheelchair, stubborn, foul-mouthed and gutsy. She deserves great casting but she's harder. Maybe someone like Kirsten Dunst. Or that beautiful Natalie Portman, if she can still act. Did the Star Wars movies kill her acting forever? She was great in that Ted Demme movie from the 90s.

The funnest to cast might be the pig of the book, a sexist, dog-hurting cartoon of a guy named Fulton. He's often played by Chris Penn. But you could give him more charm than that if you wanted to, and ask, say, Alec Baldwin to do it. Besides being a perfectly timed comic actor Baldwin can do a great villain.

Directors are harder. Spike Jonze?
Read an excerpt from How the Dead Dream. Learn more about the author and her writing at the How the Dead Dream publisher's website and Lydia Millet's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: How the Dead Dream.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reed Farrel Coleman's Moe Prager Mystery Series

Reed Farrel Coleman, on casting an adaptation of his Moe Prager Mystery Series:

Why I Won’t Play
I was one of those college students who paid careful attention in class because I took terrible notes. In retrospect, I probably would’ve been better served by improving my note taking skills. Much of what my professors had to say blended into a kind of buzzing. Certain lessons, however, have persisted even after thirty years. One lesson in particular, taught by Jim Merritt, my instructor for Romantic Poetry at Brooklyn College, has had a profound effect on my writing. Oddly enough, it wasn’t a writing class, yet I can still hear Prof. Merritt’s voice in my head. We were discussing the life and works of Percy Bysshe Shelley when the subject of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came up. Merritt, a man with a wonderfully expressive face, frowned:

“Okay everyone,” Merritt said, “close your eyes and imagine Frankenstein’s monster.”

After fifteen seconds, Merritt went around the room, selecting students at random to describe what they had seen in their mind’s eye as they conjured up their images of the monster. To a person, we described a gigantic green monster with a flat head, a jagged scar on its forehead, bolts in its neck, dull, heavy-lidded eyes… In other words, we all saw the same thing. Merritt’s point? The movies had robbed readers of the joy of imagining the monster for themselves. The movie image of the monster had taken the romance out of the reading.

That lesson stays with me every day as I write. In the Moe Prager series, I do occassionally give very slight—so slight I can’t recall them—hints about Moe’s looks, but I am very careful not to actually describe him. If I do describe any of the major recurring characters, it’s usually through one or two aspects of their physical appearance. Moe’s wife Katy, for instance, has thin lips and is curvy. Their daughter Sarah has red hair. Mr. Roth dresses well, walks with a cane, and has a number tattooed on his forearm. That, however, is usually the extent of the description of the central recurring characters in the series. Emotion is at the heart of why I take this approach. I want the reader to form, in his or her own mind, the image of the characters. In this way, the reader becomes more emotionally invested in the characters or, to phrase it a bit differently, the reader contributes more of him or herself to the characters. I want a reader to develop a vision of Moe not based upon a set of physical characteristics, but based upon his emotional, philosophical, and moral underpinnings. I want the reader, in the same way I do, to build Moe from the inside out.

None of this is to say I wouldn’t sell the movie rights to the books. I would in a nano second, but there’s no denying a movie would change new readers’ perceptions of Moe. It is also not to say that I don’t have an actor in mind to play Moe. I have all the books cast in my head, but I won’t share my choices. Again, I wouldn’t want my conception of Moe to taint yours.
Reed Farrel Coleman, Brooklyn born and raised, is the former Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. He has written ten novels in three series including two under his pen name Tony Spinosa. His eleventh novel, Tower, co-authored with Ken Bruen, will premier in Fall 2009. Reed has been twice nominated for the Edgar Award, mystery fiction’s most prestigious honor. He has won the Shamus Award twice along with the Barry and Anthony Awards. He was the editor of the short story anthology Hardboiled Brooklyn. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Wall Street Noir, Damn Near Dead, Brooklyn Noir 3, and several other publications. Reed is an adjunct lecturer in creative writing at Hofstra University and lives with his family on Long Island.

The Page 69 Test: Redemption Street.

The Page 69 Test: Empty Ever After.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 15, 2008

Malena Lott's "Dating da Vinci"

Malena Lott is the author of the recently released Dating da Vinci.

Here she lays out some casting ideas for a film adaptation of the novel:
I love movies almost, but not quite, as much as I love books. In writing classes, you often get the tip to find models or actors in magazines to cut out and storyboard for the physical character development of your novel. I tend to choose actors because I may like certain mannerisms or their charisma on screen, just as much as having the "look" I'm going for. I did this with Dating da Vinci, a tale of love, longing and la dolce vita. Bookopolis said that Dating da Vinci, "has all the making of a great romantic comedy." So, with that in mind, here's my cast....

I imagined my protagonist, Ramona Elise, a linguist and widowed mother, as a curvier Kate Winslet, one of my favorite actors, period. She has the acting chops to handle her struggle with grief and joy, with just one look.

For Leonardo da Vinci, my twenty-five year old handsome Italian immigrant, it would most likely be an unknown, someone new to Hollywood perhaps, and even a fresh-from-Italy transplant. Above all, he has to be sexy in that smoldering way, like Gilles Marini, who played Dante in Sex and the City, the Movie.

Ramona's fitness star, narcissistic sis would be played by Jane Krakowski and her evanga-mom by Mary Tyler Moore. Ramona's best friend, the down on love, snarky business woman Anh, who is raising her grand-daughter but is in denial, would be someone like Sandra Oh.

Last but not least, we have the charming doctor, Cortland. He's dating Ramona's sis, but sure gives Ramona a lot of attention, something she's really noticing since she's doing her dissertation on the "language of love." The most charming guy I could think of is Greg Kinnear. Love him! And I have since his early days on E! in the '90s.
Read an excerpt from Dating da Vinci, and learn more about the author and her work at Malena Lott's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dating da Vinci.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rachael King's "The Sound of Butterflies"

Rachael King's debut novel The Sound of Butterflies, which was among the top three bestselling New Zealand fiction titles in her native country for 12 weeks when it was published in July 2006, was released in the U.S. by William Morrow in 2007.

Here she shares some preferences for cast and director for a cinematic adaptation of the novel:
I'm sure that all writers day-dream about who might play their characters in a film; certainly I have been asked enough by my friends, and it's always a fun game to play. I have no interest in the A-list, such as Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie; I'm much more interested in British actors (well, the characters are mostly British) who aren't afraid to get their hair dirty. When I first started writing The Sound of Butterflies, I had recently seen a New Zealand mini-series called Greenstone, and I had a young Matthew Rhys before-he-was-famous in mind for Thomas, but a skinnier, blonder version. The truth is that the exact Thomas I had in my head was a perpetually worried-looking waiter I'd seen at a cricket match. I drew a caricature of him that day in my notebook and will always think of him as my Thomas. Rhys doesn't seem right to me anymore, (too old perhaps), but someone like James McAvoy would be perfect: an atypical leading man who could do intense and awkward well. He's not my waiter, but he will do nicely.

Since Kate Winslet is too old now, I would definitely pick Romola Garai for Sophie. Physically she is perfect, and would do a good mixture of strength and vulnerability. Her modern friend Agatha would be Zooey Deschanel (I love her) if she could pull off an English accent; if not, then maybe Emily Blunt. I had in mind a young Nastassja Kinski look-alike when I was writing.

The characters of Ernie and George, Thomas's companions, would be a good chance for Jude Law and Matthew Goode, respectively, to play it seedy. I have also been impressed by Laurence Fox (the way he made Cecil Vyse in the recent TV adaptation of A Room With A View both sexy and repellent was marvelous), who could play either role. The older, rougher John Gitchens could be played by Rufus Sewell with a beard. I can see Sam Neill (a fellow New Zealander who has just been directed by my brother Jonathan King in Under the Mountain, out 2009) as José Santos, the rubber baron: he does enigmatic and slightly menacing well. His wife Clara could be someone like America Ferrara but older, mid-30s. She needs to be Latin and able to play plain and not thin. As the 'other woman' in the book, I have no doubt that if Hollywood got its hands on her, it would make Clara smouldering hot.

People keep telling me The Sound of Butterflies would make a great movie and I'm waiting for the offers to start pouring in any day now. Obviously it would have to be a big-budget, lavish costume drama, so it's not something that can be tackled lightly. At first my director of choice would have been Anthony Minghella, but then he sadly died. James Ivory seems another obvious one, but I was so impressed with the film of Atonement I would have to ask Joe Wright. Then again, if I were to turn to my fellow countrymen and women, I'm sure Peter Jackson would have the budget and I'm waiting with interest to see what Niki Caro does with my friend Elizabeth Knox's book The Vintner's Luck.
Read an excerpt from The Sound of Butterflies, and learn more about the novel and its author at Rachael King's website and her blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Sound of Butterflies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tony Richards' "Dark Rain"

Tony Richards is the author of five novels—the first was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award—plus many short stories and articles. His work has appeared in numerous venues, including The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Cemetery Dance, Asimov's, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and Weird Tales.

Here he shares some casting ideas for a cinematic adaptation of his latest novel, Dark Rain:
The characters in Dark Rain are many, varied, and in some cases extremely weird. And in a few instances, an actor springs immediately to mind. Ideally, Dr. Lehman Willets, the only African-American in Raine’s Landing -- the town has been cut off from the outside world by a curse for the past three hundred years -- would be played by Morgan Freeman, although I understand that he’s been hurt recently. The short but dignified Judge Samuel Levin? Ron Rifkin would be perfect.

Others are a little harder to pin down. The guy who plays the big bald grouchy cop on CSI:Miami would make an excellent Lieutenant Saul Hobart, who is … well … a big bald grouchy cop. And Rod Steiger would have a fun cameo role as Reverend Purlock. But which actor does insane well enough to portray the rambling master of Raine Manor, Woodard Raine himself? I can only think of Michael Keaton.

As for the two leads? To play Cass Mallory accurately, Angelina Jolie would have to wear her hair Sinéad O'Connor style, cropped to within half an inch of her skull. But who knows, she might think that fun. As for Ross Devries, the usual action movie leads like Hugh Jackman would make a decent job of being him.

But no, I’d rather Ross were played by an unknown. He’d like it that way.
Browse inside Dark Rain, and learn more about the book and author at Tony Richards' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Rain.

--Marshal Zeringue