Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tyler McMahon's "How the Mistakes Were Made"

Tyler McMahon received his MFA in fiction from Boise State University. His stories have appeared in Threepenny Review, Sycamore Review, and Surfer’s Journal, among others, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a professor of fiction at Hawaii Pacific University.

If an adaptation were produced of How the Mistakes Were Made, McMahon's debut novel, here are his ideas for cast and director:
How the Mistakes Were Made is primarily the story of Laura Loss—a veteran punk rocker who is now blamed for the demise of the grunge band that she helped to form. The book is kind of a fake memoir, which tells Laura’s side of the story. In a sense, it is her defense. The casting for Laura’s part would be the most crucial. Visually speaking, she’s pale, with dark hair and a cynical intensity.

A great writer and filmmaker named J. Reuben Appelman produced a trailer for the book. Early in the process, he asked me what Hollywood actress she most resembled. Without hesitation, I told him that I pictured her as a mid-90’s Winona Ryder. He ended up casting the amazing Abisha Uhl—lead singer of the band Sick of Sarah—in the trailer and she did an amazing job. If someone were to make a movie of it today, certainly Natalie Portman comes to mind; some readers have mentioned that. I could definitely see Anne Hathaway in the role, especially based on her performance in Rachel Getting Married.

The other two band members would be more difficult. I’d like it if they looked young. Sean is visually lankier and darker—more quiet and awkward. His character makes me think of a What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?-era Johnny Depp, or Leonardo DiCaprio around the time of The Basketball Diaries.

Nathan is shorter and more solid. I picture him as generally a grounded and unflappable physical presence. Ewan McGregor definitely has the right energy for it. A young Val Kilmer could have pulled it off as well.

It would be hard to think of any rock-related film without thinking of Cameron Crowe as a possible director. He’s been fearless about putting music center stage on the silver screen—something that other directors shy away from. The fact that the book is set in the Pacific Northwest, however, also brings Gus Van Sant to mind. I greatly admire his attention to marginalized subcultures as well as to teenage life, and would love to see what he could do with the story.
View the trailer for How the Mistakes Were Made, and learn more about the book and author at Tyler McMahon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue