Saturday, January 3, 2009

J.M. Hayes' Mad Dog & Englishman series

J.M. Hayes is also the author of The Grey Pilgrim (2000), Mad Dog & Englishman (2000), Prairie Gothic (2003), Plains Crazy (2004), Broken Heartland (2007) and, coming in May 2009, Server Down.

Here he shares some casting ideas for a film adaptation of his Mad Dog & Englishman novels:
A rural Kansas sheriff, his oddball-born-again Cheyenne brother, and their efforts to solve the rare crimes of a small community are the essence of the Mad Dog & Englishman series. But when those crimes hit, it's with a Murphy's Law kind of fury—everything that can go wrong will. I'm delighted to make casting suggestions for the series, especially since I have nothing better to do while I wait by the phone for the Coen Brothers to call.

There aren't many actors who do bald leading men or who are willing to shave their heads the way Mad Dog does since his hair is just too curly for braids. So Bruce Willis gets the nod. Mad Dog was a local football hero. That makes Willis' muscular frame appropriate. And Willis is about the right age for the beginning of the series. Let's just hope he doesn't mind donning a pair of Speedos and slathering himself with body paint for the vision quest scenes.

Englishman, aka Benteen County's Sheriff English, is harder to cast. If we could bring back a middle-aged Jimmy Stewart, audiences would immediately understand the kind of person the sheriff is—a nice guy who'll do his best even when he's in way over his head. Stewart was all wrong for looks, though. Mad Dog & Englishman are both part Cheyenne, but Mad Dog, much to his disappointment, looks pure Anglo. It's the sheriff who got the high cheek bones and dark complexion. Pure blue eyes, though. Jimmy Smits, maybe, with startling blue contact lenses.

The sheriff's wife, Judy, is a drop-dead, knockout, red-head. Nicole Kidman is a little too young and a bit too stunning, but Englishman and I are willing to make do.

The English girls are a cautionary tale for writers who may not plan to do sequels. When Mad Dog & Englishman was going to be a stand alone, the idea of two look-alikes named Heather didn't seem to be a problem. Then they ended up as sisters, one natural, one adopted, and both neck-deep in the action. They've got to be cast as well. They're pretty, upright, honest girls with just a smidge of wild streak. In the first book, they start out as twelve and thirteen, then age into a pair of attractive young women in later episodes. Lindsay Lohan handled roles like this beginning with The Parent Trap. She would have been perfect while audiences still thought her mostly innocent. Now, maybe Miley Cyrus can grow into the roles.

Who else? We don't need many—hey, Buffalo Springs is a really small town. But we've got to have the Sheriff's office manager, Mrs. Kraus. She's a woman of a certain age whose voice has gone beyond whiskey and cigarettes to something more like barbed wire scraped on a blackboard. She carries a Glock, acts tough as nails, and was hot stuff in her day. The role will take a really special actress, someone willing to look less than glamorous in order to own her character. I only have to remember Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to decide Elizabeth Taylor must return to the screen.

Hailey the Wonder Wolf will require top notch special effects. That, or she'll have to play herself.

Perhaps my characters in Buffalo Springs, Kansas can spiff up the Strand Theatre in time for the world premier? I suspect they'll have plenty of time.
Learn more about the books and author at The Words & Worlds of J.M. Hayes website.

The Page 69 Test: Broken Heartland.

--Marshal Zeringue