Saturday, July 31, 2010

Joanne Lessner's "Pandora's Bottle"

Joanne Lessner is a singer, actor, and writer. Her play, Critical Mass, was named the winner of the 2009 Heiress Productions Playwriting Competition and will receive its New York premiere at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row in October 2010. She has written the book and lyrics to several musicals with her husband, composer/conductor Joshua Rosenblum, including the cult hit Fermat's Last Tango, which received its Off-Broadway premiere at the York Theatre Company in November 2000. The original cast recording became a bestseller, and the DVD has been screened at festivals from New Jersey to New Zealand.

Here she develops some casting ideas for an adaptation of her new novel, Pandora’s Bottle:
It seems that whenever I tell people about Pandora's Bottle, their immediate response is: “Wow – that would make a great movie!” From their mouths to Hollywood’s ears! Casting could go any number of ways, but here are some of my current thoughts:

Sy Hampton: my lonely, middle-aged financier, a dreamer led astray by excess and hubris. Tom Hanks is probably my first choice, but isn’t he everyone’s for everything? I can also see Paul Reiser. But it could almost be anyone from Dennis Quaid to Kevin Costner to Robert Downey, Jr. to Alfred Molina.

Valentina D’Ambrosio: Aphrodite to Sy’s Bacchus. She needs to be all delicious femininity and curves, while sounding like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. A beautiful, but earthy innocent. Jamie-Lynn Sigler is kind of perfect. But I’d also thought of Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis. Twenty years ago I’d have said Sherilyn Fenn.

Annette Lecocq: ambitious, but ultimately vulnerable restaurateur. I’d love to see Cynthia Nixon in the role. The character is French-Canadian, though, so perhaps it should be Juliette Binoche or even Kristin Scott Thomas who conducts half her career in French these days.

Tripp Macgregor: charming, handsome waiter who is a terrific dancer. Cheyenne Jackson.

Antony Farrell: suave but unscrupulous British auctioneer. Mr. Branagh? Pick up your phone, that’s me calling.

MaryLou Sampson: Annette’s mentor, a black female restaurateur in Atlanta with a magnetic personality. Another easy one: Queen Latifah.

Vito Scarparelli: my favorite character in the book. Flamboyantly gay, but happily married and very Italian oenophile, with a hint of Mafia. John Travolta twenty years ago. Maybe Michael Imperioli.

Jessica Whitbank: chipper but clueless PR flack. Sorry folks, that one’s got my name on it. After 20 years scraping a living in PR, I’m looking forward to the opportunity of sending myself up!
Visit Joanne Sydney Lessner's website.

Writers Read: Joanne Lessner.

The Page 69 Test: Pandora's Bottle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nic Pizzolatto's "Galveston"

Nic Pizzolatto's fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, The Oxford American, The Missouri Review, The Iowa Review, Best American Mystery Stories and other publications. His work has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and his story collection Between Here and the Yellow Sea was named by Poets & Writer’s Magazine as one of the top five fiction debuts of the year.

Here he shares some ideas about adapting his new novel Galveston for the big screen:
We've sold the movie option to a production company that's very enthusiastic about the work, so hopefully a movie will go forward. In my fanboy imagination, though, I suppose I'd fantasy cast something like this: Sam Peckinpah circa 1972 to direct. I of course would write the script. Starring Nick Nolte circa 1985 as Roy (I'd also take Warren Oates,'76), Natalie Portman circa 2002 as Rocky, Harvey Keitel as Sam Ptiko, Annabella Sciorra as Loraine, and, uh, Marisa Tomei as Carmen. Sure, why not.

Obviously Roy and Rocky are the two big roles, and you need a brutish, atavistic man to play Roy, an old-school tough guy possessing range, with a voice that can be played like a box guitar. Nolte, of course, would have done outstanding work. I know Warren Oates isn't always classified as a tough-guy, but the important thing here is that he was a bad motherfucker, and there's even a line in the book where somebody basically tells Roy he resembles Warren Oates. Nowadays...? Viggo Mortensen? Liev Shreiber? Bruce Willis? Rocky is a sprite, albeit a damaged one, so for that I think of a petite actress with a well of emotional depth. Forgetting the Star Wars movies, that'd seem to be Portman.

For the crew at the donut shop, I'd say they could just CG in the old cast of Barney Miller.
Learn more about the book and author at Nic Pizzolatto's website.

The Page 69 Test: Galveston.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hope Tarr's "The Tutor"

Hope Tarr is the award-winning author of more than a dozen historical and contemporary romance novels, including The Tutor (Harlequin, July 2010).

Here she shares some casting ideas for an adaptation of the new novel:
Period pieces adapted to film are my personal favorite. There’s something about imagining oneself in a far away, and presumably more genteel time, that screams romance, glamour, and yes, escape.

Flash backward in time to late 19th century Scotland. Victoria is still queen, the English empire is still sufficiently vast that the sun never sets on all of it, and technological advances such as the telephone and telegraph are finding their way into middle and upper class daily life.

The hero of The Tutor, Ralph Sylvester (maybe his real name, probably not) holds court as a scalawag turned semi-respectable private secretary in the Scottish castle now owned by his friend and former partner-in-crime. Fortunately for the sensually curious and newly engaged Lady Beatrice Lindsey, Ralph’s…skills extend well beyond dictation and telegraph wiring. When Bea makes Ralph an indecent proposal he can’t refuse, to teach her everything he knows about sex in preparation for her wedding night, seven sexy days and nights ensue.

Ralph is inspired, dare I say modeled, on fair-haired Aussie TV and film actor, Simon Baker. I’ve followed Simon Baker’s…career for some time now. My fan-ship started late in the game when Baker starred as Nick Fallon on the short-lived CBS drama series, The Guardian (2001-2004). A recovering coke-addicted attorney, Simon’s Fallon found redemption through child advocacy despite being thwarted in love. I so wanted to help him out. With the love part, I mean.

But it’s Baker’s current portrayal of yet another tortured anti-hero, Patrick Jane on the hit crime solving series, The Mentalist that gave me the idea for The Tutor. As a former con artist turned police investigator with razor sharp observational skills, Baker’s vest-wearing Jayne strikes the perfect balance between being tortured by the past and exhibiting jaunty cockiness in the present.

Mentally casting the female parts feels like slightly less fun but cast them I do. For my heroine, Lady Beatrice, Scarlett Johansson is my hands-down primary pick. The tall, nubile blonde exhibits the perfect balance of innocence and sensuality, of vulnerability and yes, pluck. Roles in The Horse Whisperer, Lost in Translation, and The Other Boleyn Girl, the latter a film adaptation of Phillippa Gregory’s historical novel of same name—hey, I’m just sayin’—show Johansson has the talent and then some to back up her classic Hollywood sexy starlet looks.

For her caring if occasionally uptight older sister, Kate, I’m seeing Emily Blunt. In The Young Victoria, Blunt shows she has the acting chops to carry off leading lady status and admittedly “Kate” is a secondary character. Then again, maybe Blunt’s affinity for all things nineteenth century—she also appeared in the ensemble film, The Jane Austen Book Club—will prompt her to throw this not quite starving if hopeful Harlequin “authoress” a proverbial bone.

“Let them eat cake,” is well, so very eighteenth century.
Look for The Tutor in bookstores now, and visit Hope Tarr's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 19, 2010

David Moody's "Dog Blood"

David Moody self-published Hater online in 2006 and, without an agent, succeeded in selling the film rights to Hollywood.

Here he shares some ideas on a possible cast for the film version of Hater and its sequel, Dog Blood:
The movie rights to Hater were acquired by Mark Johnson (producer of the Narnia films) and Guillermo del Toro (director of Hellboy 1 and 2, Pan’s Labyrinth), so I’ve spent endless hours thinking about who I’d like to star in the film.

Both Hater and its sequel, Dog Blood, centre on the character of Danny McCoyne, an average guy: he lives in a small, rented apartment with his partner and (too many) kids, has a job he despises, no cash, no social life etc. etc., until ‘the Hate’ tears his world apart and turns everything on its head. Danny is such an ordinary fellow, such an everyman, that I’ve struggled to think of a current movie star who could portray him effectively. At the beginning of the story he is anonymous and unimportant, and for that reason I’d really like him to be portrayed by an unknown. Danny is certainly no Tom Cruise!

Danny’s close family also play an integral part of the story. His father-in-law, Harry, is a cantankerous old bugger who constantly looks down on him with disappointment and dismay. The character was written with Michael Caine in mind. Caine’s career has been unprecedented and he continues to take great roles. I envisage him as Harry being a cross between his portrayals of Jasper in Children of Men, and as the titular pensioner-turned-vigilante in Harry Brown.

Danny has three children. Like many parents he dearly loves his kids, but they also drive him to distraction. He shares an important bond with his young daughter, Ellis, and, during the writing of Dog Blood, I became aware of a BBC TV programme here in the UK called Outnumbered. It’s a sitcom based around a family situation very similar to that of Danny McCoyne in Hater. One of the young stars of the programme, Ramona Marquez, captures Ellis to a tee – she possesses an extraordinary combination of innocence and an intelligence and manner way beyond her years.

Understandably, with people of the calibre of Guillermo del Toro involved in the project, I’ve spent more time thinking about who will be behind the camera rather than in front of it! As a long-time fan of del Toro, I’d struggle to think of anyone I’d rather have working on the film. With his huge list of current commitments, though, it’s unlikely he’d direct. At the moment J A Bayona (who directed the beautifully creepy The Orphanage) is slated to take that role and I can’t wait to see what they bring to the story.
Learn more about the books and author at David Moody's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hater.

The Page 69 Test: Dog Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gayle Brandeis' "My Life with the Lincolns"

Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), Dictionary Poems (Pudding House Publications), the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change, Self Storage (Ballantine), and Delta Girls (Ballantine).

Here she sketches out some casting ideas for an adaptation of My Life with the Lincolns (Holt), her first novel for young readers:
My Life with the Lincolns tells the story of 12-year-old Mina Edelman who thinks her family is the Lincoln family reincarnated and it’s her job to save them from their fate. The novel is set in 1966 Chicago, when Martin Luther King, Jr. brings the civil rights movement north to focus on housing discrimination. Mina and her dad get involved in the movement, with consequences for the entire family.

Since Mina is at the center of the story, she needs to be played by a young actor who can exude a blend of innocence and intelligence, curiosity and anxiety. I think Christina Robinson, who plays the step daughter on Dexter, would be a great choice. I can easily see Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper on Mad Men, as Mina’s younger sister Tabby (maybe because Tabby, like Sally Draper, has a lisp). I can also imagine Alison Brie, who plays Trudy on Mad Men and Annie on Community, as Mina’s uptight (at least at first) 18-year-old sister, Roberta.

Ever since I read an interview where she confessed to having a crush on Abraham Lincoln, I’ve been picturing Julia Roberts as Mina’s mom, Margaret, who is more interested in modern furniture than civil rights. And even though they’d make a somewhat strange married pair, I can totally see Zach Galifianakis as Mina’s dad, Al; he has the beard, of course, plus Al is much rounder and shorter than Abe, so he’s the right body type, too. I also think he’d be able to capture Al’s almost manic and sometimes misguided enthusiasm for the Chicago Freedom Movement. Viola Davis would be wonderful as Carla, the activist he becomes intrigued with. And I think Will Smith would make a fine Martin Luther King, Jr. (although it would also be cool for the movie to include archival footage of the real Dr. King.)

I loved seeing My Life with the Lincoln’s in my mind’s eye as I wrote it; it would be so much fun to see it on the screen now (especially with this cast!).
Learn more about the book and author at Gayle Brandeis' website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stephen Parrish's "The Tavernier Stones"

Stephen Parrish has been a caddy, factory worker, soldier, chef, teacher, jewelry salesman, and cartographer. He presently lives in Germany where he is at work on his second novel.

Here he offers casting suggestions to anyone courageous enough to produce his first novel, The Tavernier Stones:
The Tavernier Stones is about a modern day treasure hunt. When the well-preserved body of 17th century mapmaker Johannes Cellarius suddenly floats to the surface of a bog in northern Germany, and a 57 carat ruby rolls out of his fist, treasure hunters from around the globe race to find the Lost Tavernier Stones of popular European folklore.

John Graf, the chief protagonist, is an Amish-born cartographer who has never ventured out of Pennsylvania, let alone embarked on an international treasure hunt. David Freeman is a gemologist who has done his share of prospecting, but little of it within the boundaries of the law. David's beautiful sidekick, Sarah St. James, and the team's nemesis, Frieda Blumenfeld, round out the main characters.

A Hollywood producer has already suggested Brendan Fraser to play John Graf, so it's hard for me to see anyone else in the role. Also, several female friends have responded enthusiastically to the choice, making Fraser even more difficult to replace. Since I would watch a film merely because he's in it, I'd be perfectly happy to have him appear in mine.

For David Freeman, a small-time crook and opportunist with a big heart, Colin Farrell would make a good choice. He has the star power to play a lead yet he performs well in supporting roles.

Helen Mirren is the only actress I can think of to play Frieda, the chief bad guy. Unfortunately, Frieda is ugly, and Helen is anything but, so the choice feels a little unfair. However, that's Hollywood.

Finally, Sarah St. James should be played by Scarlett Johansson because, well, you know.
Browse inside The Tavernier Stones, and learn more about the book and author at Stephen Parrish's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Tavernier Stones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sophie Littlefield's "A Bad Day for Pretty"

Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri. Her first novel, A Bad Day for Sorry, was an Edgar Award Finalist and is shortlisted for an Anthony, Barry, and Macavity Award. It won an RT Book Award for Best First Mystery and has been named to lists of the year's best mystery debuts by the Chicago Sun-Times and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The second novel in the series, A Bad Day for Pretty, is now available in bookstores.

Here Littlefield proposes her picks for some of the primary characters in an adaptation of the books:
I recently spent a little time daydreaming about who would play the male leads in my mystery series. The thing that makes the exercise interesting is that they are all in their fifties. Among your middle-aged actors, you’ve got your hot-at-any-age tabloid darlings like Viggo Mortensen, and on the other hand there’s this whole regular-guy backlash, almost a defiant “We’re here, we drink beer, get used to it!” sort of thing.

(Of course this is hardly new; it would be far more interesting if women would step up and give this a try. But middle-aged women in Hollywood are already swimming upstream, so I don’t know if we need to burden them with any additional impossible challenges.)

I’m not so interested in the hot guys (I mean, give me a night out and a few drinks and I’m as interested as the next gal, but I’m speaking in the context of the book) – I’m looking for what I guess is called a character actor. (A confusing term; shouldn’t every actor be a character actor?) Someone whose features and general mien convey a certain sense that fits the character.

Here’s what I came up with:

* Sheriff Goat Jones, Stella’s main love interest, is for sure J.K. Simmons (the dad from Juno)

* B.J., bartender and Stella’s occasional crush, could be played by Tim Allen, if he’d put on a few pounds for the role

* Jelloman Nunn, Stella’s ne’er-do-well good friend/big brother figure would be played perfectly by character actor Mark Boone Jr.
Learn more about the books and author at Sophie Littlefield's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Bad Day for Sorry.

The Page 69 Test: A Bad Day for Pretty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 3, 2010

C. K. Kelly Martin's "The Lighter Side of Life and Death"

C. K. Kelly Martin's books include I Know It's Over and One Lonely Degree.

Here she shares some ideas about who should direct and star in an adaptation of her new novel, The Lighter Side of Life and Death:
The Lighter Side of Life and Death: The best day of sixteen-year-old Mason’s life concludes with him falling into bed with his longtime crush (and close friend) Kat Medina. In the aftermath she’s not as happy about this as he is and Mason sets about distracting himself from the messy state of their friendship by pursuing a twenty-three-year-old woman he’s recently met … a twenty-three-year-old woman who happens to return his interest.

Director: Sofia Coppola. She does such an amazing job with creating tone in her movies. I loved Marie Antoinette, The Virgin Suicides and especially Lost in Translation. I think she could give the movie version of The Lighter Side of Life and Death a terrific, heady vibe.

Mason Rice - Aaron Johnson. I’ve been wanting to see Nowhere Boy where he plays young John Lennon for awhile and then, about six weeks ago, I went to see Kick Ass, which he also stars in. But I didn’t realize it was the same actor in both these films until I saw Aaron speaking on a British talk show in his real-life strong English accent. He was fantastic in a really down to earth way in Kick Ass and we know he can do a completely convincing North American accent! Incidentally, he’s involved with a much older woman in real life…

Kat Medina - Zoe Sandejas. There aren’t many young Filipino actresses in Hollywood but I heard such good things about the Filipino movie Dinig Sana Kita (If I Knew What You Said) when it was at the Toronto film festival last year. I really wanted to see it but couldn’t swing it and have been looking out for it ever since. I think Zoe Sandejas, the seventeen-year old star of that movie (who is fluent in English) would do a great job as Kat and since she can also sing and play guitar it would be cool to work in some kind of musical performance for her. Here you can see her sing the theme song from Dinig Sana Kita and here she talks about her role in Dinig Sana Kita (at the 1:20 mark).

Colette Fournier (the sexy twenty-three-year-old woman Mason becomes involved with) - Elyse Levesque. I’m a big Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe fan and Elyse of SGU is really the image of Colette. I bet she and Aaron Johnson would have great chemistry.

Mr. Rice (Mason’s dad) - Steve Carell (who is always a pleasure to watch) playing more Dan in Real Life than Michael Scott as Mason’s easy going father.

Brianna (Mason’s stepsister-to-be) - Chloe Moretz. She blew me away as Hit Girl in Kick Ass. She and Aaron Johnson have a sort of sibling-like relationship in that movie and it would be fun to see them together again but with a twist, Mason’s stepsister can’t stand him and he’s the kind of person who always wants to be liked. They crash like crazy in the book.

Nina (Mason’s stepmom-to-be) - Rachel McAdams. It wouldn’t be a very big role but Rachel McAdams improves every movie she’s in.

Jamie (Mason’s best friend) - Freddie Highmore. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I saw him in August Rush or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but he’s eighteen now. He’s so talented at playing really thoughtful roles.

Miracle (close friend of Mason’s) - Sofia Vassilieva. She was wonderful in My Sister’s Keeper and always fantastic in Medium. Miracle’s the kind of person who has a really good head on her shoulders but is still a very artistic personality.
Watch The Lighter Side of Life and Death video trailer, and learn more about the book and author at C. K. Kelly Martin's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue