Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jodi Compton's "Hailey's War"

Jodi Compton is the author of the acclaimed novel The 37th Hour, which features Detective Sarah Pribek.

Here she shares some ideas for cast and director of an adaptation of her latest novel, Hailey's War:
On my website and in bookstore discussions about Hailey’s War, I’ve made a lot of the fact that no major character in this book is over the age of 24. The story grew out of the circumstances in which it was written -- I was living in a college town called San Luis Obispo, which is dominated by young people, and I was surrounded by their culture, music and slang.

Unfortunately, the downside of a book with such young characters is that it’s hard to mentally cast the film. Although I enjoy youth movies, it’s been a while since I’ve seen any, which means I’m likely overlooking some gifted young actors in addressing this question. So, here’s how I’m going to handle this problem. You’ve heard of colorblind casting? This is going to be "age-blind" casting: I’m going to pick actors I think have the right qualities and not worry about the DOB -- mostly I’m using these choices to emphasize the qualities I hope a casting director would look for in filling these roles.

My protagonist, Hailey Cain, is a Texan-born ex-West Pointer: not dewy, not gamine, not pixie-ish. Not a laeta, as Hailey herself would say (laeta being her term for a certain kind of L.A. girl, from the very flexible Latin word that can mean happy, fortunate, fertile or silly). For this part, I favor Abbie Cornish, who was in Stop-Loss with Ryan Phillippe and brought a quiet, almost sullen, gravitas to the part.

For Serena Delgadillo, Hailey’s old schoolmate turned veterana gangbanger, I think Sara Ramirez of Grey’s Anatomy would be awesome -- she’s so commanding and self-confident. Enough said.

The casting decision that would keep me awake at night, though, is that of Cletus “CJ” Mooney, Hailey’s sweet Appalachian-bred love interest. My fear is that a producer will think, "OK, love interest, let’s get a couple of young A-list studs in here and pick one." For my part, I would have liked to see a character actor named Tom Wood do this role -- back in the day, he played the rookie U.S. marshal in The Fugitive. Physically, he was right for it -- the height and the hair color, etc -- but he also has a gentle, thoughtful, inner-focused quality that reminds me a lot of CJ.

My dream director for this film would be Antoine Fuqua, because his Training Day observed L.A. so beautifully. Hailey’s War is a similar story in several ways. Though Training Day was about 24 hours and Hailey’s War covers six months, they’re both about dangerous journeys through California’s various socioeconomic strata, rich to poor, righteous to corrupt (and downright evil).
Read the opening pages of Hailey’s War and more on Jodi Compton's website.

Writers Read: Jodi Compton.

The Page 69 Test: Hailey's War.

--Marshal Zeringue