Saturday, November 19, 2011

Matthue Roth's "Losers"

Matthue Roth is the author of the novels Never Mind the Goldbergs and Candy in Action, and the memoir Yom Kippur a Go-Go.

Here he shares some ideas for cast and director of an adaptation of his novel Losers:
Two years ago I was in an uncomfortable situation. A production company wanted to put out my movie -- which is awesome, right? It's what every author dreams of, more or less. Everyday people, people like my parents' friends, don't read books. They hear about books. But movies, they actually see. Instead of being a rumor, I could control two entire hours of their lives.

"Cool," I said. "Which book do you want?" My novel Losers: hacker nerd-thugs who basically ran their school -- internet popularity power struggles, reconfiguring their GPAs and rosters so they didn't have to come in till lunchtime, that sort of thing?

But, no. "Write us a movie," they said. "Something new."

So I wrote them a movie. I called it 1/20. And then they went ahead and made it. It was about Obama's inauguration, but not really -- it was mostly about two high-school girls who ran away to Washington DC in order to see the Inauguration. They get lost. They meet strange people. They hook up, and break up, and things explode. All the weird and great and tragic things that happen when you're seventeen. It was an amazing experience, and they're still in post-production, but it sort of completely changed my way of thinking, as far as what happens when you write something on paper and then what happens when it gets acted out by live people on film.

Losers is my pride and joy. It's truer-to-life than my memoir, sort of an autobiography of my best friend. Over the course of a weekend, Jupiter Glazer, a Russian immigrant geek kid, sheds his accent, discovers punk, and accidentally gets into a relationship with the hottest girl in school.

The trouble with casting a movie about teenagers is that, as soon as you say a teenager's name, they've suddenly turned 35 years old. So I'm just going to pretend that I'm casting for the afterlife, and anybody's fair game.

Hollywood would probably want Jupiter to look like Christian Slater in Heathers. I'm going to go with Ewan McGregor, though -- five years before Trainspotting, with his hair a little shaggier and his eyes a little more feral.

His best friend, Vadim, in my head was always an Igor type. (Except, of course, that in Russia "Igor" is a name that real people actually have, and one of my best friends is named Igor, so I need to watch the references around him.) He's cool in his own way, but we'd probably have to prettify him up, so instead of, like, a 14-year-old Kyle MacLachlan who isn't quite ready to star in Blue Velvet, we'll probably have to go with what can only be described as a Wesley Crusher-type.

There. I said it. @Wilw, please don't hate on me forever.

For Devin, the diva-y, untouchable, too-popular-for-real-life girl who actually ends up being three-dimensional and cool, I want to say Sarah Michelle Gellar (but teenage -- of course). Not because of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I loved just as much as you did and we'd both love to see her reprising some variation on that theme, but because of the way she speaks. There's a tenth-of-a-second difference between the way actors talk and the way real people do, and Gellar gets that. She's not just a real person -- her characters are realer than any of us. That's how I pictured Devin to be. Underneath her perfect plastic exterior, she's secretly awesome.

And then there's Bates, whose character can only be described -- without giving too much away -- as Glenn Danzig meets Liberace. I'm tempted to say either of them -- or, so long as this is fantasy casting, both -- but I'd really love to see Jonah Hill, from Superbad, do it. Probably with a mohawk. Definitely in black leather. Or pleather, because as long as I'm calling the shots, I'm enforcing my super-dorky vegetarian agenda like nobody's business.

And if I can make one more request? The director. Gerardo del Castillo, who made 1/20, has my heart. David Lynch would get the spookiness perfect, and Judd Apatow would get the humor and the pacing -- with bonus points for his comic-book geek cred. But for the style of Losers, I'm thinking someone more along the lines of Amy Heckerling, who did Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless. Both those movies get their main characters and their time periods so perfectly, and they're both so completely different -- and I think that combination of wildness and innocence, of discovering the world and discovering yourself, are exactly what I wanted Losers to be.
Learn more about the author and his work at the official Matthue Roth website.

--Marshal Zeringue