Saturday, May 1, 2010

Nan Marino's "Neil Armstrong is My Uncle..."

Nan Marino is the author of middle grade books and a librarian who lives at the Jersey shore.

Here's her take on casting an adaptation of her debut novel, Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me (Roaring Book Press, 2009):
Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me takes place on Ramble Street in 1969 in the Long Island town of Massapequa Park, NY during the week of the first moonwalk. While this story is written for middle grade children, it’s got some serious moments as well as humor. The actors need to be able to do both comedy and drama. I hope this is a big budget film because many of the actors below would require a pretty hefty paycheck. Here’s who’d I’d pick for the key roles.

The book’s narrator and the film’s lead character is eleven-year-old Tamara Simpson, a girl determined to prove to the neighborhood that the foster kid who moved on the block is a “squirrelly runt, a lying snake and a pitiful excuse for a ten year old.” A feisty girl with an overactive sense of justice, Tamara is struggling with the sudden departure of her best friend. Actress Morgan Lily, who had a role in the apocalyptic film 2012, would capture Tamara’s tough and tender sides.

Tamara’s mom, thirty-something Shirley Simpson is a neighborhood outsider, more interested in her soap operas and her crush on Jack LaLanne than swapping recipes with the other moms on Ramble Street. She’s fragile, withdrawn, and serves burnt fondues. The role goes to Gwyneth Paltrow.

Ben Stiller is a shoe in for Marshall Simpson, Shirley’s husband, a self-absorbed, dysfunctional father of two. No one plays a better loser than Ben Stiller. He’d bring a comic touch to the character.

Teen heartthrob Logan Lerman is perfect to play Marshall and Shirley’s son Tim, a hippie/college student whose best friend is in Vietnam. After coming off of the action adventure Percy Jackson movie, Logan might enjoy a change of pace in this comedy/drama.

Tamara’s nemesis Douglas McGinty (aka Muscle Man) is a foster kid who tells tall tales and challenges the entire block to a game of kickball. Ten-year-old Preston Bailey one of the youngest actors ever to be nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award, would be great in this role.

One of the most important characters in this film is Mr. Pizzarelli, a widower whose only son, Vinnie, is off fighting the war in Vietnam. Loved by everyone on Ramble Street, Mr. Pizzarelli (a.k.a. Mr. Pizza) is a New York City cop who takes off from work every July 4th to sing “If I Were A Rich Man” at the Ramble Street barbeque. There were two actors up for this pivotal role. Tom Hanks could do it. He’d bring a sensitivity and depth to this character.

But the role goes to actor Alec Baldwin and it’s not just because of his versatility and screen presence. Alec grew up in the 1960s in Massapequa Park where the story takes place. He knows all about the barbeques, ice cream trucks, lawn-obsessed neighbors and sitting in front of a black and white TV to watch the first men walk on the moon.

There’s only one possible glitch. Mr. Pizzarelli brings the house down with his 4th of July song. So Alec Baldwin, you’d better practice up those “bid de bid de bums”. If you can sing the Broadway hit “If I Were A Rich Man”, the role is yours.
Learn more about the book and author at Nan Marino's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue