Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kelly Simmons’ "Standing Still"

Kelly Simmons is a former journalist and current novelist/advertising creative director.

Here she explores the possibility of some A-list talent adapting her debut novel Standing Still for the big screen:
After the hardcover of Standing Still came out, and good reviews started popping up, my L.A. agent called me with what I like to call a “Hollywood review” (i.e. something that sounds great but means nothing.) “Mel Gibson loves it and wants to direct Nicole Kidman in it because she’s looking to star in a juicy psychological thriller after giving birth.” Ooooh! Who needs to be reviewed by The New York Times! Nicole & Mel called me juicy!

The next week, more exciting news: “Gus Van Sant is going to look at it as soon as he’s done editing Milk.” My favorite director? Ready to read it as soon as he decides how long to hold the close up of James Franco & Sean Penn? Nirvana!

Then it hit me . . . Are these things connected? Did Nicole take my book from Mel and gave it to Gus, the genius who directed her to greatness in To Die For? Scandal!

What was next, I wondered? Would Nicole pass her copy on to Naomi Watts, who would hide it from her husband, Liev, because he’d want to direct her and she’d rather work with Gus? Or would Gus give it to Sean Penn to give it to his wife Robin Wright, who would be so wonderful in the lead role?

Then I realized I was doing it again. Novelizing. My terrible habit of weaving everything around me into a twisty drama. If I continued thinking like this, then Nicole would give it to her ex Tom who would give it to his ex Penelope who would give it to her ex Javiar who would be so freaking good playing the kidnapper!

Hmmmm, I thought. Robert Downey Junior would be fabulous as the husband – maybe I could give the book to my former co-worker Denise who used to date Steve Lopez, who wrote The Soloist which RDJ is starring in?

Yes, folks, this meaningless pursuit is what I’m doing instead of editing my next novel, The Bird House. Some play Guitar Hero; I play Six Degrees of Novelization.

And if you purists are wondering if am six degrees separated from Kevin Bacon, I assure you, I am not. I am four degrees –I once worked with Brooke Shields who fought with Tom Cruise who starred with Kevin in A Few Good Men. Plus, Kevin grew up in the town I live in. I probably slept with him in the late ‘80s and forgot.

NOTE: Kelly Simmons’ novel, Standing Still is still making the rounds in Hollywood –and has yet to be optioned by anyone known only by their first name.
Read an excerpt and watch the trailer for Standing Still at Kelly Simmons' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Standing Still.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lisa Black's "Takeover"

Lisa Black has worked as a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office where she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood, and many other forms of trace evidence, and went to crime scenes. She is now a forensic specialist for the city of Cape Coral, Florida, police department, working mostly with fingerprints and crime scenes.

Here she shares her thoughts on the cast of a cinematic adaptation of Takeover, the first novel in her series featuring forensic scientist Theresa MacLean:
I would love to see this book become a movie, because it really is suited to the big screen. It involves a hostage situation, which is always a drama mine, and intense, attractive characters. But the setting is even more perfect: the Cleveland Federal Reserve building, built from marble and glass in 1923, and the Cleveland Public Library, built…I don’t know when, but it’s old. Though actually the section of building used in this tale—directly across from the Fed—is quite a bit newer, but I’ll gloss over that part. It’s also set in summer, which means Cleveland will look clean and attractive minus its winter coating of slush.

Anyway, casting: My heroine Theresa MacLean is always played by Julianne Moore. I don’t know if it’s the red hair or the way she’s always serious without being humorless, but Julianne Moore is right in every way. The right age, the right look, the right attitude. You can imagine her handling just about anything, yet she also seems realistic when performing the more mundane tasks of life like filling out evidence slips or scraping red tape off the booking counter. I can’t picture, say, Angelina Jolie filling out evidence slips. Theresa is fortyish, so the other leads have to be about the same age. Don’t torment me by surrounding my alter ego with handsome men young enough to be, if not her sons, then kids she used to babysit. I get enough of that anguish from prime time TV.

My hostage negotiator, Chris Cavanaugh, is Kevin Spacey. I don’t mean I’d like Kevin Spacey to play him, I mean I wrote him as Kevin Spacey, who played such a role in The Negotiator with Samuel L. Jackson. I didn’t give him the same name, Chris Sabian, only because I’d already used the name Sabian in a previous book. But Kevin is perfect also because I wanted Chris to be attractive in a sneaky sort of way, not attractive in George Clooney, the-minute-he-walks-in-you-know-he’s-the-hero way. I wanted readers to be a little unsure about Chris’s true character. Is he a good guy, or a manipulative publicity-seeker?

Frank, the homicide detective and Theresa’s first cousin, is played by a blond guy who appears to be the absolute cop’s cop, down to the mustache and that look of having been the kind of person who stuffed nerds into their locker in high school. I cannot find his name, however, and it’s not worth re-watching the bad movie I saw him in to find him again. This might be a good role to give to my nephew-in-law, Devin McGinn, an LA actor. Nothing like keeping it in the family.

Theresa’s fiancé Paul…there are only two actors I can picture my alter ego willingly trading her life to save, and that’s Rory Cochrane and Joshua Jackson. Both are too young. Maybe Simon Baker, both because I picture Paul as a blond and because getting shot in the leg would take The Mentalist down a peg or two. Better yet, how about the handsome Thomas Kretschman, who played strong leaders in both King Kong and Valkyrie.

It would be a sweet movie.
Learn more about Takeover and the author at Lisa Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: Takeover.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Libby Hellmann's "Easy Innocence"

Libby Fischer Hellmann has edited the acclaimed crime fiction anthology, Chicago Blues, and published over a dozen short stories. Her four novels featuring Chicago video producer and amateur sleuth Ellie Foreman have won numerous awards.

Her fifth novel, Easy Innocence, featuring newly-minted PI Georgia Davis, is a spin-off from the Ellie Foreman series. It is a dark, disturbing tale about high school girls and what they are doing when they're not adequately supervised. It came out of Hellmann's experience with her own daughter, and what she imagined as "every mother's nightmare."

Here she suggests some A-list actors suitable for a cinematic adaptation of the novel:
While Easy Innocence is the debut of a new series, its protagonist, former cop turned PI Georgia Davis, gets around. She made her first appearance in my second Ellie Foreman book, A Picture of Guilt, but I’d written a short story about her prior to that. In fact, she first came to me before I was published, when I was writing what I euphemistically call one of my “practice novels.” Georgia is tough, guarded, and independent. She keeps people at a distance. She doesn’t want you to know her too well. And she doesn’t take **** from anyone.

The other thing to keep in mind is that show business runs through my family like a bad case of chicken pox. One of my nieces is an actress, and I originally based Georgia’s physical appearance on her. At the moment, though, she’s busy raising her two sons, so I see several other possibilities. Charlize Theron would make an excellent Georgia. So would Kate Hudson. Reese Witherspoon, if she was able to play against type, might work also.

The other dominant female in Easy Innocence is Andrea Walcher, the mother of 17-year-old Lauren. I think Marcia Cross from Desperate Housewives would be terrific: her sangfroid and arrogance is perfect. Julianne Moore could do a great job, too -- again, if she’d play against type.

I’m less sure about her daughter, Lauren, the spoiled North Shore teenager who’s running a prostitution ring from her laptop. Short of Dakota Fanning, I’m not familiar with the crop of up-and-coming actresses. I do know that Lauren should be slim, have dark hair, and project an air of total control. As for Sara Long, the girl who’s murdered in the beginning of the novel, I know she needs to be blond, beautiful, and should look older than her 17 years.

Real estate developer Ricki Feldman, who may or may not be dirty, is a recurring character in my books, including Easy Innocence. Ricki’s father caused a scandal when he built a housing development over a toxic waste dump, and Ricki’s been atoning for his sins ever since. Still, she’s sharp, ambitious, and manipulative. Angelina Jolie would do a fabulous job.

For Tom Walcher, father of Lauren and wife of Andrea, I think Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) would be perfect. If he’s not available, I’d cast Rob Lowe. And if George Clooney wanted the part, I wouldn’t object.

Lawyer Paul Kelly, with whom Georgia works to solve the case, would be Ben Kingsley, assuming he can do a Chicago accent. Georgia’s former boyfriend, detective Matt Singer, could be Johnny Depp, although he’ll need to wear glasses. Ben Stiller could pull it off too.

So, Hollywood, what are you waiting for?
Visit Libby Hellmann's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Shot To Die For (of the Ellie Forman series).

The Page 69 Test: Easy Innocence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 18, 2009

J.T. Ellison's Taylor Jackson series

J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Taylor Jackson series, including All the Pretty Girls, 14, Judas Kiss and the forthcoming Edge of Black. She was recently named “Best Mystery/Thriller Writer of 2008” by the Nashville Scene.

Here she shares some casting options, provided by friends and fans, for the two main characters should the series be adapted for the big screen:
Contrarian that I am, I don’t like to tell people who I see in the roles of my protagonists, homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. So I reached out to my friends and fans, asked their opinion. The responses I received were fascinating. No one saw the characters the same way. I love that. My goal as a writer is to create a world for you, the reader, to escape into. I’ll give enough detail to get you going, but it’s YOUR imagination that fills in the blanks. That’s how I like to read, and that method has colored my writing.

Here are the nominees to play Taylor Jackson – my tall, honey-haired, gray-eyed, tough as nails cop:

Sonya Walger – I liked this suggestion; she played a federal agent in Sleeper Cell and did a marvelous job. Brings gravitas to the role.

Blake Lively – An interesting choice to be sure. My extent of experience with her is playing the role of Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl. She’s definitely tall enough, and that hair works too. A good choice, all in all. She’s young enough to grow into the role, too.

Amanda Righetti – Nearly tall enough, and that imperfect, broken nose is exactly what I’ve pictured on Taylor, so that’s a wonderful choice.

Charlize Theron – Anytime you’re dealing with beautiful blondes, of course.

Nicole Kidman – An interesting choice, because she does live in Nashville now, and she might like to take on a meaty role set in her adopted hometown. And she’s tall enough, too.

Jennifer Garner – She’s got that kick-ass physicality that would make her just right for the role.

Now, for Baldwin. He’s big (6’4”) black hair and clear green eyes. He’s incredibly handsome, lean and well-dressed, and brilliant. Hard shoes to fill…

Jason O’Mara – I’ve never seen him in anything but I’m assured that he would work, and work well. He is European, so his background would be useful when we’re delving into Baldwin’s polyglot nature.

Alex O'Loughlin – I think he’s too small for Baldwin, but what do I know? He can smolder, and does have a nice intensity on the screen.

Thomas Gibson – I’m a Criminal Minds fan, so I can completely understand this choice. He’s deep and serious and can act his pants off. I wouldn’t quibble.

Ben Affleck – Not a bad choice at all. He’s the right size, has the ability to capture the attention of the women around him, and the subtlety to handle the role.

Hugh Jackman – An excellent choice. He’s fun to watch, and I can see him embodying this role well.

So that’s it, we’ve got a load of excellent suggestions to play Taylor and Baldwin. Now we just need to get the books optioned and get them on the silver screen! Many, many thanks to all the folks who participated in this for me, and a special thanks to Marshal for letting me go my own way with this post.
Learn more about the books and author at J.T. Ellison's website and MySpace page.

The Page 69 Test: All the Pretty Girls.

The Page 99 Test: 14.

The Page 69 Test: 14.

The Page 99 Test: Judas Kiss.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fiona Maazel's "Last Last Chance"

Fiona Maazel is a writer and freelance editor. Her work has appeared in Bomb, The Boston Book Review, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Mississippi Review, Pierogi Press,, Tin House, The Village Voice, and The Yale Review. She was named one of the 5 Best Writers Under 35 by the National Book Foundation.

Maazel's novel Last Last Chance was a Time Out New York Best Book of the Year.

Here she tags a couple of directors and one candidate for the lead actor's role in a film adaptation of Last Last Chance:
Oh, man, whenever I get asked to say something apropos contemporary culture, I despair. Who’d star in the movie version of my novel? What is this thing called movie? Could be the only actor I’ve heard of is Philip Seymour Hoffman, and that only because he’s got pretensions to serious art, and I am just pretentious enough to catch wind of that kind of thing. Alas, I can’t think of a suitable role for him, unless he wants to play the Older Drunk Guy, but then didn’t he cover that in Long Day’s Journey into Night? For the record: O’Neill to Maazel is not a trajectory I recommend. Even so, don’t get me wrong: I am nowhere near above dreaming my novel into a movie, though I hardly care about the movie part. I certainly wouldn’t want to write the script or even see the script or know anything about the script (anyone share the urge just to call a rose a rose, and ditch the t?) and I’m not sure I’d want to see the film, either, unless Ang Lee or—I dream of genie—the Coen brothers decided to have a go. Droll, morbid, lotta death and almost no sex, what more do they want? Thus far, they’ve come clamoring up my step twice, but wouldn’t you know it, I wasn’t home. So, yeah, the Coen brothers would be good. And you know who else? That redhead from Six Feet Under, she’s droll and moribund—though maybe she was just channeling the show—but with new hair, she might incarnate to splendid effect one Lucy Clarke, who narrates my novel with, I hope, some mix of brio and despair. There’s also a lot of dead people romping about the narrative—a patsy ninth-century Viking, a fourteenth-century masochist bloody-mess man, and a pudgy eugenicist who drowns in the Gulf of Finland, ETC.—and so I’m hoping the Coen brothers, with their pull and for the sake of verisimilitude, will hire the undead. Finally, there’s a plague. Remember how in your school play, all the miasmas—the vapors and humors—got rolled into some kid bearing sandwich board and cotton beard? I think my plague deserves no less. Kid with board, in every frame, like the Greek Chorus, only not. In sum: Undead plus redhead plus board equals Best Coen Bros. movie ever. Anyone got their number?
Learn more about Last Last Chance and its author at Fiona Maazel's website.

The Page 69 Test: Last Last Chance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 10, 2009

Benjamin Obler's "Javascotia"

Benjamin Obler's debut novel Javascotia is out now in the UK and coming soon to North America.

Here he shares his thoughts on the cast of a cinematic adaptation of the novel:
The only actor who comes to mind to play Melvin Podgorski is Jon Heder, of Napoleon Dynamite fame. This is maybe taking the requirements to the extreme. Melvin could not be played by someone devastatingly handsome or possessing any measure of natural bravado and swagger. Melvin is an anxious, uncertain, jittery, unconfident, yearning but timid type. He is described on the book jacket and in virtually all the book’s press as “naïve.” Therefore it’s hard to imagine anyone with a known face and long resume playing him.

He’s also in his early twenties, which rules out most actors who have been around long enough that they might spring to mind. In fact, someone entirely unknown would fit the bill very well. A callow and overeager novice might depict Mel perfectly.

For Nicole, a similar problem presents. Her defining attribute in the story is her Scottishness. That is to say, it’s not incidental. Because the tension in the romance between Mel and Nicole derives from the temporariness of his stay; and because the triumph in the romance comes through their willingness to understand each other despite their cultural differences, Nicole’s Scottishness could not be minimized in the film adaptation. Neither could it be depicted in any way but authentically: part of Mel’s experience as an American abroad is seeing from a distance his inherited or ingrained Amero-centrism, and learning firsthand the difference between stereotypes and the real deal, the prime among them being the stereotype perpetuated in America of Scotland as a land of kilts, bagpipes, Scotch and Highlands. (Which it is, but not merely.)

So Nicole could only be played by a Scottish actress. She must also be college aged, as Nicole is. And I know of no such actresses. But I’m sure there are many who could do the job ably.

The one-named Klang would be next on the casting list. Jack Black comes to mind, though he is perhaps too funny. He kind of has two gears: a slapstick and pratfalls, over-the-top hilarious; and a faux-earnest, operatic, kind of dry pointed delivery that’s meant to be funny through its strained histrionics. This is not far off the mark for Klang and how he figures into the story. Klang is a foil to Mel, with definitive and purposeful professional ambitions: to make money through the market research project they are both on, which might establish a Starbuck’s-like coffee franchise in the UK. This contrasts with Mel’s bumbling hope to find something he can succeed at (after recent failures) which is more like groping for a light switch in the dark. But Klang is not only professionally driven, he’s emotionally aloof. Being defined by work and money craving has dampened his spirit despite himself. To compensate, he tries to be animated and win friends with sarcastic humor and gruff misanthropy. He also becomes slightly paranoid and gets center stage so to speak at the book’s climax. Black could pull this off brilliantly.

Many more options open up for the roles of Mr. & Mrs. Podgorski, Mel’s parents. Robert Duvall possesses the desired gravity, though he’s getting on in years — more suited to a grandfather role at this point. William H. Macy would do. Despite being young relative to Duvall, he actually has a suitably creased and hangdog face in recent photos. For the role he would be required to shelve all remnants of stuttering Jerome Lundegaard from Fargo, as Javascotia already has a hapless striver in Mel. Macy should instead bring to the table his best dry reason and repressed passions.
Read an excerpt from Javascotia, and learn more about the novel and its author at Benjamin Obler's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jess Riley's "Driving Sideways"

Jess Riley's Driving Sideways is "the story of Leigh Fielding, a twenty-eight year-old kidney transplant recipient who—six years, hundreds of dialysis sessions, and a million bad poems after being diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease—finally feels strong enough to pursue a few lofty goals she’s been mulling for years: find herself, her kidney donor’s family, and the mother that abandoned her over twenty years ago."

Here Riley shares her thoughts on casting a film adaptation of the novel:
I must confess that I have been procrastinating like crazy on Marshal’s generous invitation to submit a blog for My Book the Movie. Because here’s the thing: I’m one of those weird writers who NEVER had any actors or actresses in mind to play her characters when she wrote her novel. Oh, of course Hollywood would be CALLING (hey, it’s my fantasy, don’t step on the fur-lined handcuffs and just let me have my naïve, grandiose dreams) … but I figured I’d let them handle the logistics, like who would be playing whom, and who would be painting my toenails and feeding me M&Ms. Seriously, just set me up in my lil’ director’s chair, plop a beret on my head, and I’ll be as happy as a pig in stink.

I’m from the Midwest, so it’s entirely legal and appropriate for me to say that.

Anyway, I only have one actress in mind for one of my characters, and that’s Ellen Page for Denise. I imagined Kat Dennings would maybe make a good Leigh, but here’s the thing … the book has (at least in my mind) a somewhat crass—oh hell, why pussyfoot around: it’s got a vulgar sense of humor. (I still smile when I recall the very sweet woman in one of the book clubs I met with: “I loved the story, but did you have to use so much crass language?” My answer: “You’re fucking-A right I did!” Wait. That was my answer in FANTASY land. While I was wearing my beret.)

So the female characters in my novel cracks jokes about religion and awkward sex acts and masturbation with vegetables and farts in hot tubs. But Hollywood doesn’t really like leading ladies to do this. It’s okay for GUYS to do this, or maybe the quirky best friend character (think Ari Graynor from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), but…I have yet to find the entire female posse equivalent of the Superbad / 40 Year Old Virgin / Knocked-Up gang. You know, the graduates from Freaks and Geeks who are now tearing it up with high profile comedy roles left and right (and deservedly so): Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segal ... the crew blessed by Judd Apatow.

If you give Seth Rogan a sex change, maybe he could play Leigh. James Franco with a hooha would make a nice Jillian. Paul Rudd, well, we’d find something for him, because he’s Paul Rudd. (He could be his own roadside attraction.) We need an entire carload of whip-smart, funny actresses who fly fast and loose with the sarcastic quips, who are not above purchasing an inflatable Jesus at a roadside novelty shop, who share fond memories of desecrated Barbie dolls from their youth. (Paging Emily Blunt? Busy Philipps? Catherine Keener?) Until that A-list, smart-mouthed pussy posse arrives, I’m afraid the story may remain uncast. Except in my fantasyland.
Read an excerpt from Driving Sideways, and learn more about the book and author at Jess Riley's website, blog, and MySpace page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thomas Cobb's "Crazy Heart"

Thomas Cobb is the author of the novels Crazy Heart and Shavetail, and Acts of Contrition, a collection of short stories that won the 2002 George Garrett Fiction Prize.

Here he shares some background to the making and casting of the film adaptation of Crazy Heart and his reaction to it:
As I write this, they actually have made a film of my novel Crazy Heart after 21 years of various options. I originally pictured an actual country singer in the role of (country singer) Bad Blake. My first thoughts were Willie Nelson, or, even better, Waylon Jennings. Over the years a number of actors pitched themselves for the role--Lane Smith, Margot Kidder, Ronnie Cox and Lisa Blount. None of them came very close to my idea of the character.

When the film was actually cast, with Jeff Bridges in the role, I didn't really see that, either. But I've seen a clip of Bridges and Colin Ferrell on YouTube, and surprisingly, Jeff Bridges looks perfect to me.

I have no expectations for my novel Shavetail. I've learned better. Movies are best left to movie people.
Learn more about the author and his work at Thomas Cobb's website.

The Page 69 Test: Shavetail.

--Marshal Zeringue