Thursday, June 18, 2009

R.A. Riekki's "U.P."

Ron Riekki is the author of the novel U.P..

At the end of May 2009 he shared his thinking about the director, cast, and soundtrack for a big screen adaptation of U.P.:
Tonight I walked my first red carpet. I was supposed to go with a gangsta rapper whose sister won Last Comic Standing, but he cancelled last minute, so I found myself alone at an awards show at Universal being introduced by a handler as “author Ron Riekki. He’s awesome.” I laughed each time a photo was taken. There was some guy with a cane who was supposedly heir to a billion dollar oil fortune and Dean Cain, a.k.a. Superman, talking humbly about his son and then me.

I moved to L.A. because I do have dreams of U.P. being a film. Two reasons why I’ve been confident it could happen are that the book has been Ghost Road Press’s fiction bestseller for fourteen weeks and because a friend whose opinion I respect—Rafael Alvarez (writer for HBO’s The Wire)—put the idea in my head of it being a film. Well, being here helps take things a step closer. Now it’s destiny. I figure Barfly would never have been made if Bukowski lived his life in Opelika, Alabama, so here I am ... afterwards eating free gourmet macaroni and cheese, nursing a recommended Merlot, and chatting with a producer who wanted to hear about the novel. I pitched it was full of strong roles for young actors, where they’d get to play the type of roles they tend to desire, the sort of vibrant character roles you find in Snatch or Pulp Fiction. He took my card. We’ll see.

On the drive home, I thought about this article, the recent red carpet memories showing that things can happen if you make yourself available for them to happen.

The novel’s written in four distinctive voices, four high schoolers trying to survive a brutal Michigan winter and a violent act by a local bully. For Cräig, a metalhead who insists everyone put an umlaut in his name, I imagine Emile Hirsch if he wants to pull a Christian Bale in American Psycho and hit the gym like crazy. For Hollow, a basketball player who’s the primary narrator, I imagine Jamie Bell or Joel Gelman.

Other dream credits:

antony x—Jorma Taccone (playing a white rapper)

J—Shia LaBeouf (playing a punk with cerebral palsy)

Bobbie—Kristen Stewart, Kerli, or Allison Shoemaker

Craig’s father—Larry Joe Campbell

Hollow’s father—Steven Wiig or Chris Smith

J’s father—Michael T. Weiss

director—Spike Jonze, Harmony Korine, Rob Zombie, or Vincent Gallo

soundtrack—Pantera, Papa Wheelie, Dokken, Subhumans, Ice Cube

This was fun, but when I’ve had my plays cast before, I never say a word. A producer tonight was talking about a difficult screenwriter he was working with, someone who refused to compromise over anything. My role is to write. Casting agents have their role. I’d love to let them do their job.

And U.P. as a film?—well, it’s one crazy novel. Laura Dave, author of London is the Best City in America, wrote, "People throw around the word 'original' to mean a lot of things, but U.P.--R.A. Riekki's fighting new novel--is original in the best sense. It constantly surprised me, and made me want to keep reading, and made me more sure of it. This novel is a winner.” Dave sold London to Reese Witherspoon. Let’s see if I have that level of luck. In the meantime, I love talking with producers, going to awards shows, and being stood up by gangsta rappers. Maybe I’m easily pleased. But I think basically I’m just happy I’m not dead. Breathing is good. Long as you’re breathing, hopes can actualize.
Visit Ron Riekki's website.

Writers Read: Ron Riekki.

--Marshal Zeringue