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