Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Julie Compton's "Tell No Lies"

Julie Compton practiced law in St. Louis, Missouri, and more recently worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

About Tell No Lies, her first novel, from the Florida Sun-Sentinel:
Tell No Lies has all the requisites of legal thrillers including courtroom dramas and lawyers' behind the scenes work… Compton proves she has real storytelling skills. Tell No Lies' final twist is as stunning as that classic surprise in Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent.”
Here Compton shares some ideas for the principal cast should Tell No Lies be adapted for the big screen:
As a novelist, the second most common question I hear after "Are any of your characters based on real people?" is, "If someone made a movie of Tell No Lies, who would you like to see play the characters?"

It's a tough question. The characters are crystal clear in my head, but I didn't write the novel with any particular actor or actress in mind.

Finding the right actor to play Jack, my main character, would be the toughest task. He must have the right look (ruggedly handsome but with a youthful face, not too pretty, but still, a golden boy), but he must also have the acting skills to convey Jack's personality. On the exterior, Jack is sensible, smart, always the professional. But inside, he's impulsive, over-analytical, and "a hopeless romantic" (which is what Jenny, the woman who causes him to stray, rightly accuses him of being). There was a time when I thought Brad Pitt could play Jack, but he's become too old and too famous; I find it hard to watch him and not be aware that I'm watching Brad Pitt play someone else. So, my vote goes to Bradley Cooper.

Claire is only slightly easier. Again, I'd want the actress to look like the Claire I imagine in my head (honey-blonde, wavy hair and pretty in a natural, earthy way), but she must also be able to capture Claire's calm, grounded nature. Early in the writing of the first draft, I saw a model in an Eddie Bauer catalog who was a ringer for Claire. I ripped out the page and kept it, mostly for reference as I wrote. But even if authors had any say over casting (and they don't; once movie rights are sold, authors kiss all control goodbye, right?), and even if I could locate this model, who knows if she can act? And then there's another problem: characters in your book never age, but the real-life people you want to play them do. It's been almost ten years since I first began writing Tell No Lies. The gal in that catalog may have grandchildren by now! So, I'm left with the typical Hollywood choices. In my opinion, only one actress comes to mind who has the acting chops to nail Claire's subtle nuances: Kate Winslet.

Next up, Jenny. There was a time when I would have insisted that the perfect casting of Jenny was impossible. She existed in my mind only. I once saw a woman on a snorkeling boat in the islands who came close, but not close enough. But all that changed when I saw Slumdog Millionaire. When Freida Pinto (who plays the adult Latika) first appeared before me on the big screen, I immediately thought, "There's my Jenny." Her physical appearance matched the Jenny in my head, and though she plays a more simple type of woman in that movie, I think she could pull off Jenny's enigmatic and often contradictory personality traits: manipulative yet vulnerable, outgoing yet guarded, intellectually intelligent but emotionally damaged.

Finally, the easiest to cast of all: Earl, Jack's boss. If Brian Keith was still alive, he could play him. But he's not, so the next best thing would be Tommy Lee Jones. Simply stated, Tommy, as Earl, wouldn't put up with Jack's crap.

P.S. Any doubts I might have had regarding my picks for Claire and Jenny ... well, let's just say this picture dispensed with them all. Seeing Winslet and Pinto together confirmed my sense that these two women need to be my leading ladies. Hollywood, are you listening?
Read an excerpt from Tell No Lies, and learn more about the novel and author at Julie Compton's website and her blog.

The Page 69 Test: Tell No Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue