Monday, June 14, 2010

Aaron Michael Morales' "Drowning Tucson"

Aaron Michael Morales is an Assistant Professor of English at Indiana State University where he teaches Creative Writing and Contemporary Literature. His fiction has appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Passages North, and MAKE Magazine, among other places. His first short collection of fiction, titled From Here You Can Almost See the End of the Desert, was published in 2008.

Here he shares some ideas for casting a cinematic adaptation of his new novel, Drowning Tucson:
Drowning Tucson is set in inner-city Tucson during the late 1980s, which was a turning point for violence and gangs in this particular part of the country. To put it simply: it got much worse around this time. Not that Tucson is a bad place today. But the part of the city I explore in my novel is its underworld, the gritty underbelly of what is now widely perceived as a tourist destination for its spas, Old West theme parks, posh golf course retirement communities (in the middle of the desert!), and Native American arts and crafts. There are no cowboys in Drowning Tucson, but there are still scenes of violence that might make the Old West depictions of Tucson and its surroundings seem quaint. While there are certainly a number of Latinos who are characters in the novel, there are also some intriguing non-Latino characters as well, so it’s here that I want to start.

For the role of seedy, rapist cop, Officer Loudermilk, I eagerly invite Gary Busey to come do a reading. Though I didn’t write this character with him in mind, I think he would fill the role of crooked, waste-of-space cop quite well. If he wouldn’t come read, I’d then ask Mickey Rourke to try out for the role, though he’s slightly younger than I’d prefer. Still, he looks rough enough around the edges, which is a good thing for Officer Loudermilk. He’s what I have always envisioned when I hear the word “grizzled.”

For the wheelchair-bound preacher who preys on the less fortunate with his annual park revivals, I think Jeffrey Tambor would be a perfect fit. He would easily be able to channel his inner evangelical preacher. I see it as a logical reprise to his role as George Bluth, Sr. on the wonderful TV series, Arrested Development. Tambor treads the line of solemnity and sarcasm perfectly.

There are a few Latin Kings gangsters in the book, and the most complicated of them is the character Davíd Nuñez. The perfect fit for this role would be Gael García Bernal. He has a great range of emotion and depth. He’s Mexico’s answer to Brad Pitt, in my humble opinion. And the ladies apparently adore him. Drowning Tucson could use a heartthrob.

Benicio Del Toro, who broke my heart in 21 Grams, would be excellent as Alejandro Santiago, the man who murders his daughter’s accused rapist/murderer live on television during the accused’s arraignment. He’s a complicated character, and I could easily see Del Toro bringing him to life on the screen in the heartrending, yet believable manner necessary to pull off this role.

I realize, suddenly, that this list is heavy on the men. And, I hear that Ugly Betty is going off the air. So, who better to fill the role of abandoned-teenaged-girl-turned-prostitute than America Ferrera, the star of the now-defunct show? I think this role would finally get her the indie cred she needs to have Hollywood staying power.

There are far too many characters to go into much more detail, but suffice it to say that if this book were actually made into a film, everyone from Edward James Olmos to Selena Gomez would be able to play one role or another. It would be a horrifically beautiful cast. And it would probably be a Focus Feature, maybe even directed by Darren Aronofsky. Hey, a writer can dream too.
Learn more about the book and author at Aaron Michael Morales' website.

--Marshal Zeringue