Sunday, June 14, 2009

Jenny Gardiner's "Sleeping with Ward Cleaver"

Jenny Gardiner is the author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Her work has been found in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post and on NPR’s Day to Day. She likes to say she honed her fiction writing skills while working as a publicist for a US Senator.

Here she recommends a few actors to portray her characters in a cinematic adaptation of her novel, and identifies the ideal production team to take Sleeping with Ward Cleaver to the big screen:
All authors harbor a sick secret need to have their books made into films. We may not all own up to that, but it's all part of the masochism that is writing--we love to set crazy-high bars that are nigh-impossible to scale. I mean hey, SOMEONE'S books are being turned into films--why not mine? Yet all one needs to do is be in the company of a screenwriter for about ten minutes and all hopes of ever having that movie made into a film are not only dashed, but they're crushed by a steam roller, peeled off the pavement, folded in half and then again, then fed into a wood chipper for good measure. Yes, being hit by lightning is much more likely than having your book made into a movie. And some authors who have gone through the process might even argue it's more pleasurable.

But me? I hold out hope. After all, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver would make an excellent film. And it would be a cheap one to make--no expensive war scenes, no huge chase scenes. Nothing being blown up. No rental of expensive venues. No closing down the streets of a major city. Hell, you could probably film it in my backyard if you want to!

So without further adieu, here are my mindless musings on Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, the movie:

Drew Barrymore, director. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have Flower Films (co-owned by Drew Barrymore and Nancy Juvonen) produce Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, the movie. It would be such a coup and they make such kick-ass movies and they know how to make a movie that would draw in women while also appealing to men.

I've flip-flopped a bit on the leads for this, but the more I think about it the more I think Greg Kinnear would be excellent as Jack--he can play it straight but also make the audience like him even while they want to throttle him (because in the first half of this book, Jack is a bit insufferable from Claire's point of view). But Greg might be getting a little too old...

Hmmm...Stephen Colbert might be able to pull off Jack. Josh Lucas could be good as well. Oh, how about Paul Rudd?

I'm thinking I could make a drinking game out of choose-your-preferred-star-for-your-novel game!

No wait, I've got it. In my dream casting, Matt Damon would be ideal , because he has the look--sort of "square," stuffy and buttoned down, but also handsome, and you can tell that somewhere beneath the expensive suit there's some sexy lurking in there.

Casting Claire is tricky because Hollywood is populated by emaciated actresses and Claire isn't exactly known for her svelte physique... Before Kate Winslet had such an amazing year as an actress I thought she might be able to pull off Claire, but now she's the creme de la creme in Hollywood so she's probably unobtainable.

I think in the back of my mind I was thinking someone mom-like, like Bonnie Hunt, but it needs to be a younger version of Bonnie. Diane Lane could probably work well, though I'm not sure if she's got the comedic chops to do it, because Claire is a bit of a smart-ass.

Tina Fey, maybe? She's funny yet vulnerable, which Claire is. She'd have to go blonde, though. How about Patricia Heaton? Emma Thompson could also do it as long as she doesn't appear too old on film.

Claire is at that transitional age but has young enough kids that the mom must still have the vulnerability of youth, while being on the cusp of middle age.

Oh, wait, Jennifer Garner! She's about to transition out of the ingenue casting, so is perfectly ripe for middle-aged housewife woes!

Okay, this was a perfect exercise for me. Twenty minutes of noodling this around in my head and now I've got the whole thing planned: Flower Films producing, Drew Barrymore directing, Jennifer Garner starring as Claire, and Matt Damon as Jack.

Oh, and Nancy Juvonen? I'll be waiting patiently by my phone for that call...
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Gardiner's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Sleeping With Ward Cleaver.

--Marshal Zeringue