Friday, March 27, 2009

Rachel Cline's “My Liar”

Brooklyn native Rachel Cline lived in Los Angeles from 1990 to 1999. During that time she wrote screenplays and teleplays, designed interactive media, and taught screenwriting at USC. Her first novel, What to Keep, was published in 2004.

Here she shares her thoughts about the above the line talent for the film-within-the-book-within-the-movie of her latest novel, My Liar:
My Liar is about the struggle for dominance between two women who are working on a movie together in Los Angeles. One of them, Laura, is the director and therefore the boss. Annabeth, a young film editor, admires Laura from afar and then befriends her in the hope of getting hired to cut her next film. And Annabeth gets her wish, but of course things don’t turn out the way she expected them to. Annabeth is an outsider, she comes from northern Minnesota, is too pale to genuinely enjoy the sunshine, and too “nice” to let her ambition and competitiveness show. In my dreams, she is played by Lauren Ambrose—the redhead who was the daughter, Claire, on Six Feet Under, and also the shrewdly seductive literature student in Starting Out in the Evening with Frank Langella. (That was such a good movie!)

Laura’s character is in many ways Annabeth’s opposite. She is urbane, forthright in her drive to succeed, and almost as contemptuous of weakness in others as she is when she sees it in herself. She also spends more money than she makes and lies about her age. I like to think of Famke Janssen playing her. Janssen is probably best known as one of the X-Men (she was also a Bond girl), but she’s a tremendously intelligent actress, which she demonstrated in the 2005 independent feature The Treatment. She has a vulnerability that makes her extreme beauty fall away the more closely you look at her.

Because it’s about working filmmakers, My Liar often required me to describe the making of the movie-within-the-novel, Trouble Doll. There are passages of Laura directing multiple takes of the same scene, of both characters watching the same footage more than once, and of Annabeth re-arranging segments of film in different ways to achieve different effects. These were difficult to write. Wondering how to convey the sensory experience without getting bogged down by technical jargon, I often thought back to films like Antonioni’s Blow-Up and Francis Coppola’s masterpiece The Conversation, both of which make technical activities (photography, audio surveillance) part of the story in elegant ways. I also read two books by Walter Murch, a mad genius who was Coppola’s editor on The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.

So, on the day it occurred to me that Sofia Coppola might be looking for a new project right around the time the book was going to be published, I felt her involvement with My Liar was destined. Totally. With her exquisite sense of the relative scale of emotions and events, her subtle wit, her bombastic genius father, and feminist-writer mother, I knew she would see the possibilities inherent in my novel. I was even willing to let her write the screenplay!

I went to some length to send her the galleys. As the author of a book about the inevitable disappointments of Hollywood I should have known better, but as a dreamer who sometimes gets obsessed with talented women, and who secretly believes she’s written something pretty great, well, let’s just say I haven’t given up hope. It’s only been a year!
Read an excerpt from My Liar and learn more the author and her work at Rachel Cline's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Liar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2009

David Hewson's "Dante's Numbers"

David Hewson is the author of the Nic Costa series of novels set primarily in contemporary Rome. A former journalist with the London Times and Sunday Times, his work has been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai ... and Italian.

Here he shares his preference for director and the major roles in a big screen adaptation of the latest Nic Costa novel, Dante's Numbers:
Dante's Numbers is a book that mixes The Divine Comedy with Hitchcock's wonderful classic movie Vertigo on the -- doubtless spurious grounds -- that Dante's obsession with his dead muse Beatrice Portinari resonates with Scottie's morbid love of the mysterious Madeleine Elster. The book is the seventh in the Nic Costa series, the first to be set mostly inside the US, in San Francisco, and very much set in the unreal world of the movies, since it involves an apparent bloody vendetta against the stars and crew of an adaptation of Dante's Inferno.

To be honest I see this exercise more in terms of director than cast. I tried to imitate Hitchcock in some ways by introducing a story that's more than a little outre, with characters - two identical twin San Francisco firemen in particular - to match. If I had the choice there really would only be one director for this piece, and that would be Martin Scorsese, a Hitchcock nut who can emulate the master's visual style to a tee as his wonderful spoof for Freixenet, The Key to Reserva, proved in spades.

The key to this story is, it seems to me, the two worlds it inhabits, that of the movie business and the San Francisco of the 1950s -- the Palace of Fine Arts, the Legion of Honor, the area around the Golden Gate Bridge -- which Hitchcock used to such effect. Scorsese could walk into both with ease.

As to actors? I constantly get bombarded with people wanting to know who would play Nic Costa if I ever go the movie route (and it may happen, who knows?). My current favourite, based on his work in Spider Man and Milk, is James Franco. He looks like the Nic of my imagination, he can act, and he's brave in the choices too. The female lead in the movie would have to be someone who could hold down the slightly sleazy class of Kim Novak, an actor who was rooted in the present day but owed what she was to the classic sirens of the past. Think The Black Dahlia. Yeah, Scarlett Johansson. I think that would work very well indeed.
Learn more about the author and his work at David Hewson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Seventh Sacrament.

The Page 99 Test: The Garden of Evil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Edward Hardy's "Keeper and Kid"

Edward Hardy's short stories have appeared in over twenty different magazines including: Ploughshares, GQ, Epoch, The New England Review, Witness, Prairie Schooner, Ascent, Boulevard, Yankee and The Quarterly, and his short fiction has been listed in The Best American Short Stories. Geyser Life, his first novel, enjoyed wide acclaim.

Here he proposes a number of actors--and one favorite director--for a cinematic adaptation of his novel Keeper and Kid:
For certain writers I know the instant they start thinking of a character, some actor will kindly pop up on the imaginary horizon and help fill in the outline. For me it rarely works that way and with my most recent book, Keeper and Kid, it certainly didn’t. The novel is the story of Jimmy Keeper, who is blissfully living in Providence with his girlfriend Leah and running an antiques store/salvage yard empire with his best friend Tim, when Keeper’s ex-wife dies and he suddenly inherits Leo, his three year-old son. And the whole time I was writing no actors’ faces ever materialized, even when I could have used some help.

But something else did happen. Lately a lot of productions have been filmed in Providence, or at least it seems that way because Providence isn’t all that big and those gleaming production trailers are hard to miss. All of Brotherhood has been filmed here, 27 Dresses, Underdog, Little Children, there’s a list. And as you’re driving around town now it almost feels semi-normal to find a street you planned to park on blocked off with huge white trucks, cables running down the sidewalks and lights hanging from big red cranes. So for me, driving by on the way to work, the fantasy always went like this: What if they were filming my book? And I already know the locations! They wouldn’t even need to hire a scout!

Therefore, let’s say this all came to pass and beyond the question of where - who would play who? For Keeper: John Cusack or Mark Ruffalo? For Leah: Minnie Driver or Rachel Griffiths? For Tim: Patrick Wilson or Jake Gyllenhaal? Ah, to have such dilemmas. But for a director I’d want Richard Linklater. He’d just let the characters all talk and talk and talk. It’d be great.
Read an excerpt from Keeper and Kid, and learn more about the author and his work at Edward Hardy's website.

The Page 69 Test: Keeper and Kid.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jennifer Boylan's memoirs

Jennifer Finney Boylan is a widely praised author and professor. Her memoir, She's Not There, was one of the first bestselling works by a transgendered American and is currently in its eighth printing. Her 2008 memoir, I'm Looking Through You, is about growing up in a haunted house.

Here she shares her thoughts on the cast for a film adaptation of the memoirs:
Any memoirist who says she hasn't thought about who'll play her in the movie is lying. But then, maybe all memoirists are liars anyhow. Writers who are overly dedicated to truth-telling are usually writing fiction.

I have to say that the thought of a film of my two memoirs, She's Not There and I'm Looking Through You, has long delighted me, considering the fact that both of these books have a male-to-female transsexual at their center. It seems to me that the chief delight in making a film of either of them would be the initial, before-the-main-titles credit: Starring Brad Pitt AND Gwyneth Paltrow AS--

The My Book, The Movie game is sort of a relative of the "What Celebrity Do You Look Like?" game, at least if you're a memoirist. Back when my band used to play in bars, occasionally I'd get, "Did anyone ever tell you you look like Laura Dern?" I think this is a come-on version of "You have a big nose," and ought not to be given a whole lot more credence than the other line I once got in a bar, "Hey was your daddy a Thief?" (No, why?) "Cause someone must have stolen the stars and put them in your eyes!" Oh baby!

(It is a sad fact of life that, back when I was a guy, I might imagine such a line to be a sweet, kind, lovely, flattering thing to say to a woman. Now, on the other side of the divide, I know that the only possible response to such an inquiry is, "Say, why don't you go fuck yourself?"

There is a line in She's Not There, "I was born on June 22, 1958-- the second day of summer. It was also the birthday of Meryl Streep and Kris Kristofferson, both of whom I later resembled, although not at the same time."

Meryl Streep would make a fine Jennifer Boylan, but then, Meryl Streep would make a fine anything, wouldn't she? Young James Boylan was not really very Kris Kristoffersonesque; he was more John Lennon. Or, to be quite honest, Peter Tork.

(This seems a good place to mention that, as a child, when I heard about pirates hauling someone off to "Davy Jones' locker" I presumed they were talking about the short, English member of The Monkees. These days, I think of my young transgender boy self as having been carried off to "Peter Tork's locker." And what would you find in Peter Tork's locker? Four inch heels? A copy of The Feminine Mystique? I don't know, man, you tell me.)

Back to She's Not There, the movie. My friend Richard Russo could be played by my former roommate, Charlie Kaufman. As Charlie Kaufman: Richard Russo.

(Let us interrupt the narrative once more to note that recently Russo and I were at a party at Don McLean's house. When things broke up, I went inside (this was a garden party) to check out the house, which was gorgeous: one of the most jaw-droppingly tasteful and beautiful places I'd ever seen. There was a bust of Don McLean inside a parlor, which made me smile, and later, when Rick and I were out to dinner, I noted that there wasn't a bust of Russo in HIS house. I said, "Russo, some day soon, you're going to say to yourself, "I gotta get a bust!" Without pause, our man raised his glass and said, "Well, Boylan. You did.")

As my loving and long-suffering spouse: Peggy Lipton. As my resolute, charming mother: Blythe Danner. As my judgmental, cruel, unforgiving sister: Oh, I don't know. How about Willem Dafoe?
Visit Jennifer Boylan's website.

The Page 69 Test: I'm Looking Through You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 9, 2009

Peter Watts' Rifters trilogy

Peter Watts is the author of the Rifters trilogy, the Hugo Award-nominated Blindsight, and numerous short stories.

Here he develops some ideas for director and cast for the major roles in a big screen adaptation of the trilogy:
Let's talk about the Rifters trilogy (Starfish, Maelstrom, Behemoth). This is not a complete cast list-- it would take forever to come up with actors for every role in the trilogy, and I've already taken far too long to do this as it is-- but if someone were to cinematically adapt the Rifters books, I'd like to see these folks in the credits:

Ellen Page as Lenie Clarke: back in the day, it would have been Carrie-Anne Moss, but she has since aged out of the demographic. Katee Sackhoff certainly has the moves down-- she does abused, fragile, raging, and ass-kicking to a tee-- and she'd give a terrific performance. Still, physically, she's a bit too robust; Lenie Clarke is a waif, with attitude. And when I saw Ellen Page in Hard Candy, I could see why so many people said she'd be a perfect Lenie Clarke. Forget the precocious loveable smart-aleck from Juno: Ellen Page knows how to rage.

Callum Keith Rennie as Karl Acton: Twitchy, charming, idiosyncratic-- and liable to beat the shit out of you if you let your shadow fall on his boot.

Katee Sackhoff as Judy Caraco: Sackhoff's consolation prize for being outwaifed by Ellen Page. Caraco is not a major character, but she's got a real take-no-shit-kick-your-ass attitude that doesn't crack until they strip out her eyes. Plus, Katee Sackhoff in hot girl-on-girl action! Tell me that wouldn't sell the movie right there.

Daniel Craig as Ken Lubin: Daniel Craig. That's easy. But you'd have to scar him up some on the outside, first.

Michelle Forbes as Patricia Rowan: Forbes' portrayal of Admiral Caine in the Galactica reboot is Pat Rowan without a conscience: someone forced to make too many of the heartless kill-ten-to-save-a-hundred decisions that are all that's left when your back's to the wall. Caine has almost become a psychopath through necessity; she can't afford to have a conscience. Rowan still does, Rowan keeps her conscience up to the day she dies-- but it's a bruised and mangled thing, and if she'd had to keep making those decisions she would have had to turn into Caine or broken down completely. You can still see echoes of the Pat Rowan stage in Forbes' eyes.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Achilles Desjardins: Donnie Darko with a PhD in catastrophe theory. Behind the lopsided loner's grin, you can just see the monster waiting to come out.

Grace Park as Alice Jovellanos: Repressed, lovesick, and secretly subversive. Someone so convinced of Human decency that she infects the unwitting object of her desire with a retrovirus that gives him back his free will. Too bad that underneath it all, the object of her desire turns out to be a sexual psychopath.

Carrie-Anne Moss as Taka Ouellette: here's a role Moss hasn't gotten too old for-- a widow whose whole family was cut down by Behemoth (possibly due to her own negligence), wandering the infested wildlands in a militarised mobile infirmary, desperate for redemption. Even in the goat-blowing Matrix sequels, the lines in Moss's face conveyed a world-weary fatalism that would be right at home in the ravaged hellscape of the trilogy's third act.

And I see I have just enough space left to name one dream director: James Cameron. The Abyss proved that he could pull off a movie in a deep-sea setting. Aliens proved he could blow shit up. And Terminator 2 proved that he could navigate the tortuous, all-too-human paths to redemption.

What an author's wet dream these people could build, if they all got together...
Visit Peter Watts' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Jacqueline Fullerton’s “Piercing the Veil”

Jacqueline Fullerton is a successful businesswoman and attorney living in Ohio with winters in Florida.

Here she proposes the cast--and location--for a film adaptation of Piercing the Veil, the first novel with more in the series to follow:
Piercing the Veil is a light murder mystery that introduces the unlikely duo of Anne Marshall, a part time court reporter and part time law student, and her dearly departed father’s ghost. As the novel unfolds, Anne and her father work together to bring a murderer to justice and stop a despicable businessman from bilking his wife out of millions.

Piercing the Veil is the first in a series of novels that will feature Anne Marshall. I think that every author probably has an image of the characters as the book unfolds. And of course, most authors – myself included – picture the books as the perfect mini-series.

If Piercing the Veil were to be made into a movie, here are some of my ideas for what I think would be the perfect cast.

Piercing the Veil is set in a sleepy Midwest college town. Picture Oxford, Ohio, the home of Miami University. Okay, if you can’t picture it because you’ve never been there, think of gently rolling hills, tree lined streets, and well maintained Victorian homes surrounding a bustling campus with stately Georgian red brick buildings.

The main character is Anne Marshall, who is independent, single, and in her mid-twenties. Anne is intelligent but has a runaway imagination. When her father’s ghost appeared to her, seeking her help, Anne never batted an eye. (Well, she did spill her diet soda all over the floor and almost fainted, but Anne is one of those wonderful, roll-with-the-punches type women.) In my mind, there is only one person who could truly capture Anne’s effervescent personality, her spunk, and her charm: Katie Holmes.

Anne’s departed father, James Marshall, is a retired attorney turned law professor. He devoted his last years to pro bono cases. He died suddenly of a heart attack at the early age of 62. He is quite handsome with a touch of grey. Alan Alda would be the perfect person to capture his compassion and almost obsessive sense of justice. I think the combination of Katie Holmes and Alan Alda could convey the bond between Anne and her father that even death couldn’t break.

Anne’s boyfriend Jason, the Assistant Attorney, is tall, blond and should be played by the good looking Simon Baker who portrays Patrick Jane in the new CBS show The Mentalist. His Robert Redford smile and sense of humor is precisely what I pictured. (And now you understand why I so enjoyed writing the love scenes. Who says being a writer isn’t fun?)

Anne’s law school study group features a host of characters, who would surely love to come to life on the big screen. This group is where Anne turns to when all else fails. She relies on these friends to obtain supposedly unattainable information, and occasionally breaking into houses. Bryan, an accountant, would be perfectly cast by Nathan Fillion. He can be serious but is willing to take a risk. Remember, I said they occasionally break into houses.

John Carr and Clark Meadows are a gay couple who have been together since college. John should be played by Eric McCormack and Clark by Jason Bateman.

Maria Gomes O’Malley, a feisty Latino homicide detective should be none other than Eva Longoria Parker with short hair.

Tim Sherman, an unsavory, older businessman could be William Shatner at his womanizing best. His wife Isabelle, who is the poster child for class and poise, should be none other than Judith Light. I have always pictured my character Stephanie Meyer, the sexy, manipulative other woman, as Nicollette Sheridan. She is so delicious in that love-to-hate-her way, it’s almost a shame she gets murdered in the story.

The movie should be a big hit in Oxford, Ohio. I know I would sure love to see it!
Learn more about the book and author at Jacqueline Fullerton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Steve Carlson's "Final Exposure"

Steve Carlson has been a working actor and screenwriter for more than thirty years. In his varied career, he has been a series regular on General Hospital, Young and the Restless, and A New Day in Eden on Showtime. He has also guest-starred in hundreds of hours of television and starred or costarred in ten feature films. Carlson has written feature films, television episodes, and books on working in acting.

He has applied the Page 69 Test to his novels Almost Graceland and Final Exposure.

Here he proposes a few stars for the cast of a big screen adaptation of Final Exposure:
It's strange how compartmentalized the brain becomes. My background, for the last 38 years, has been in the film industry primarily as an actor but, over the years, I drifted more into writing. My first writing endeavors were screenplays (Emergency, Love Boat, Hart to Hart, etc.) Actually my first novel, Almost Graceland, was first written as a screenplay. I had very definite ideas on who should play what in that one, even after I made it into a novel. (I still expect a film to made of that, which would be great fun - to see it come full circle.)

Final Exposure started as a screenplay only in its rough concept. Keeping the main theme, I strayed considerably in formatting the novel. As a result, I thought very little about casting it. It has been interesting reliving it all and going Hmmmmm?. By the way, here's a short synopsis so you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about.

Life looked great for David and Rebecca Collier as they moved into their beach house and changed occupations in mid-life to pursue something they were each more passionate about. All seemed fine until the day a stranger came to the door, calmly raised a silenced pistol and shot Rebecca in the face.

David also was wounded but the gunman tried again before he even got out of the hospital. What did he think David knew? Getting into the world that had gotten Rebecca killed took David much too close to one of the largest crimes of the century.

My main character, David, is an ex lawyer who is led by revenge and love to right a horrible wrong. I could see Richard Gere or Edward Norton in that role easily. I realize they are both very different but they're both such good actors, they would each make it their own and, I think it would work in either case.

The story centers around the death of Rebecca. We therefore need an actress who can make us fall in love with her quickly, and have our heart ache every time we see her picture, which also dominates. Someone like Diane Lane, Naomi Watts or Ashley Judd would do nicely.

The other main character is a swarthy, Italian cop, David's best friend, who goes in and out as a candidate for the bad guy until the end. I see him as a younger Tommy Lee Jones. I don't know who exactly would fit that bill, but someone like that.
The Page 69 Test: Final Exposure.

Read more about the book and author at Steve Carlson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue