Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hillary Jordan's "When She Woke"

Hillary Jordan received her BA in English and Political Science from Wellesley College and spent fifteen years working as an advertising copywriter before starting to write fiction. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.

Here she suggests which actors might play the main roles in a cinematic  adaptation of her 2011 novel, When She Woke:
I can never see real people as my characters until I’m done creating them—I suppose I prefer to make the actors fit the characters rather than the other way around—so I didn’t start thinking about the casting for When She Woke until I was doing final revisions in early 2011.

The book is set in an unspecified near future and centers on a young woman named Hannah Payne, who begins the story as a beautiful, innocent, sheltered evangelical Christian. But after she has an illicit affair with a married minister, she becomes pregnant and has an abortion, for which she is convicted of second-degree murder and “chromed,” her skin turned lurid red to mark her for her crime, and then released to survive as best she can in a hostile world. The novel chronicles Hannah’s ordeal as a stigmatized woman and her journey toward freedom and self-agency. The actress who plays her has to have enormous range; must be able to project innocence and carnality, fear and courage, vulnerability and strength, shame and pride. She also has to be beautiful enough to look attractive with fire-engine-red skin for most of the movie, which few women are! When I saw Natalie Portman in Black Swan I thought, bingo. I could also see Carey Mulligan, who was amazing in An Education, Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis or Emma Stone being able to pull it off.

For Aidan Dale, Hannah’s lover, I’m not sure. He’s basically a good man, but flawed, and like Hannah’s his character is complex. He needs to be played by an actor in his mid to late 30s who can convey charisma, sensitivity, torment, passion, religious fervor, guilt and sorrow. Paul Newman or Ed Harris would have nailed it. Christian Bale maybe? James McAvoy? Ryan Gosling? Tobey Maguire? I’m open to any of them, as long as I get to go to the casting session. And since I’ll be there, we might as well throw in Daniel Craig and Johnny Depp. Oh, and Clive Owen.

I’m a huge True Blood fan, and I think Rutina Wesley, who plays Tara, would be excellent in the role of Kayla, Hannah’s feisty best friend and running buddy. For her sweet, vulnerable sister Becca, I see Amanda Seyfried or—if she doesn’t get the part of Hannah—Carey Mulligan. The role of Hannah’s father, who sticks by her even after she’s chromed, calls for an actor who can be both kind and stern: someone like Tim Robbins or John Corbett. For Hannah’s steely, proud mother, Ashley Judd or Catherine Zeta-Jones. And [SPOILER ALERT] for her rescuer and eventual lover Simone, the French actress Eva Green or Hilary Swank.

Now, for the villains: I think Aaron Eckhart would be terrific as Becca’s strapping, nasty-piece-of-work husband Cole. For the outwardly sweet but sadistic Mrs. Henley—a juicy role if there ever was one—I see Evan Rachel Wood, Claire Danes, Drew Barrymore (who has the dimples) or Amy Adams. And for her dimwitted, narcissistic husband Reverend Henley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Orlando Bloom or Bradley Cooper. Hmm, might have to go to that casting session too...
Learn more about the author and her work at Hillary Jordan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: When She Woke.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rosamund Bartlett's "Tolstoy: A Russian Life"

Rosamund Bartlett's books include Wagner and Russia and the acclaimed Chekhov: Scenes from a Life. An authority on Russian cultural history, she has also achieved renown as a translator of Chekhov.

Here she shares some suggestions for casting the leads in an adaptation of her latest book, Tolstoy: A Russian Life:
The image of Tolstoy as an old sage is now deeply ingrained thanks to The Last Station. Christopher Plummer did a marvellous job, even if his character lacked Tolstoy’s gravitas. If they ever made my biography into a film, I'd like to concentrate on Tolstoy’s earlier years, when he was a reckless young man of extraordinary physical and intellectual prowess who caroused with the gypsies, bedded peasant girls, fought bears single-handed, served with honour in the Crimean War and gambled to excess while at the same time developing superlative literary gifts and the stamina to write War and Peace. Tolstoy was not a refined aesthete, but gruff and down to earth despite his aristocratic pedigree. He was an eccentric - a man who always went against the grain and against his class by siding with the beleagured peasants.

He abhorred convention and the hypocrisy of the society world he belonged to by birth, and he loved the natural world of rural Russia which was his home for the best part of his life. I think Russell Crowe would probably fit the bill best. As an actor who has both Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind to his credit, he could bring out Tolstoy’s enormous vitality, zest for life and imposing physical strength as well as his prodigious intellectual powers and exasperating obstinacy. Russell Crowe could also draw effectively on the refreshing lack of pretension that is associated with his native Australia which would suit a portrayal of Tolstoy.

Identifying the right actress to play Tolstoy’s wife Sonya is more difficult. Sonya was half Tolstoy’s age, and bore her husband thirteen children during their long and tempestuous marriage. Kate Winslet might make a good stab at it. Sonya was very winsome as a young girl; she was artless, quite conventional and extremely impressionable. But she was also smart, passionate and ambitious, and clearly revelled in being the wife of a famous writer, not to mention becoming Countess Tolstoy upon her marriage. Sonya was long-suffering, as she had to put up with her husband’s at times violent mood swings, and cater to his every whim. Tolstoy was no feminist, and brooked no opposition when Sonya tired of endlessly being pregnant, refusing to contemplate any kind of contraception, and ignoring the fact that his wife on several occasions became gravely ill following childbirth. Sonya was a dutiful wife and a proud mother, but she became increasingly skilled at sticking up for herself, and refused to be cowed. As Tolstoy’s amanuensis, she contributed very significantly to his productivity as a writer, and in later years was finally able to develop her own creative gifts as a photographer and painter. Kate Winslet would bring her own natural intelligence to the role, as well as a great strength of character and emotional sensitivity. Sonya was famously humourless, and as stubborn as her husband, so that side of her personality might be more of a challenge, but Winslet has a good track record playing headstrong women who stand up for themselves.

Another actress who comes to mind is Emily Watson, whom I would want to cast as Sonya’s more frivolous and exuberant younger sister Tanya. It was Tanya’s joie-de-vivre which partly inspired Tolstoy’s immortal creation of Natasha in War and Peace, and I am thinking of Emily Watson’s inspired performances in Breaking the Waves and later in Hilary and Jackie, in which she played the role of the cellist Jacqueline du Pre.
Visit Rosamund Bartlett's website and learn more about Tolstoy: A Russian Life.

Writers Read: Rosamund Bartlett.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 27, 2012

John Burdett's "Vulture Peak"

John Burdett practiced law for 14 years in London and Hong Kong until he was able to retire to write full time. He has lived in France, Spain, Hong Kong and the U.K. and now commutes between Bangkok and Southwest France.

Here he writes about the actor he'd like to see play the lead in an adaptation of Vulture Peak, the fifth and latest novel in his series featuring Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep:
I have always wanted Tony Leung (The Lover) to play Sonchai. That bony face and the way he can play the put-upon Asian to perfection seems right to me. Also, that obvious intelligence strikes me as fitting for my central character. Of course, I'm thinking of the movie as something with psychological content - which is not a popular idea with the studios. These days the only movies that make money seem to be crude action flics which I cannot say I dislike, because I simply never watch them (I never go to cock fights either, or shoot up cans in my backyard with a Colt 45) - I guess I'm just not cut out for Hollywood. If they gave me the desert island, though, with a film crew and an unlimited budget, I'd send for Leung.
Learn more about the book and author at John Burdett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Vulture Peak.

Writers Read: John Burdett.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stephanie Deutsch's "You Need a Schoolhouse"

Stephanie Deutsch's new book is You Need a Schoolhouse: Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South.

Here she explains which actors might play the main roles in a big screen adaptation of the book:
When my friend Tony Rizzoli asked me what Julius Rosenwald looked like I gave a rather flip response. I said, “kind of nebbishy.” But even as these words were leaving my mouth I realized they were incorrect. In his later years Rosenwald actually looked like Tony – thin, not much hair, angular face, friendly, open expression. Twenty five years ago, Tony’s performance in Larry Shue’s play The Foreigner was one of funniest things I’ve ever seen on stage. The sense of humor that lurks behind Tony’s own intelligent eyes was, I realized, a feature in Rosenwald as well. The millionaire president of Sears, Roebuck turned race conscious philanthropist could seem a rather wooden figure on the printed page. But Tony would save him from such a fate by showing his more energetic, playful, humorous side. I had long since decided that Booker T. Washington’s role would go to a rather more prominent actor -- either Morgan Freeman or Denzel Washington. Both have the gravitas, not to mention the acting skills, to play the man who, one hundred years ago, was by far the most well-known black in America. Freeman’s physical resemblance is closer and his wonderful voice would provide the screen Washington with an asset he, in fact, lacked; his own voice was not particularly distinguished. But Denzel Washington -- younger, darker, fiercer – could give the role an intriguing intensity. The calm reasonableness that made Booker T. Washington such an appealing and acceptable figure at the time surely masked growing alarm as, his optimism notwithstanding, Jim Crow tightened its grip on the country in the early years of the twentieth century. The man who played the angry Civil War recruit in Glory and the unyielding coach in The Great Debaters might endow Washington with a complexity of feeling that many of his contemporaries, both white and black, assumed he did not have.

The intriguing relationship between the two men is not the only screenworthy aspect of my story. Rosenwald’s first visit to Tuskegee would surely light up the screen. In October of 1911 he travelled south with a trainload of friends and family members from Chicago. His visit to the hilly campus culminated in an evening service in the school’s elegant red brick chapel where he and Washington spoke. Then, as they often did for visitors, the students sang spirituals. Rosenwald, who had never before heard this music, was moved to tears. The same song could be reprised for the scene, just a year or two later, when the two men visited one of the small rural schoolhouses built as a result of their collaboration, encouragement and financial assistance. Then parents, teachers, children, community members lined the rutted country road to the school, dressed in their best and waving pine boughs in greeting, singing what one member of the party called “plantation songs.”

And there would have to be a scene where Washington reads a telegram from Rosenwald apologizing for missing a meeting of the Tuskegee Board of Trustees. He explained his absence using the words of his favorite of the spirituals the students sang. He said he could not come because he was “walking in Jerusalem, just like John.” Cue the music.
Learn more about the book and author at Stephanie Deutsch's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

John Lescroart's "The Hunter"

John Lescroart's many novels include Damage, Treasure Hunt, The Betrayal, The Suspect, The Hunt Club, The Motive, The Second Chair, The First Law, The Oath, The Hearing, and Nothing But the Truth.

His new novel is The Hunter.

Here the author shares his pick for the actor to play the lead in an adaptation of the series:
The Hunter is my third Wyatt Hunt novel, and I’d love to have Taylor Kitsch (the Tim Riggins character from Friday Night Lights) take on the role of Wyatt. He would be perfect. In fact, Taylor, if you’re out there reading this, call my agent. Seriously.
Learn more about the book and its author at John Lescroart's website.

Writers Read: John Lescroart.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sandra Balzo's "Triple Shot"

Sandra Balzo's novels have been nominated for both the Anthony and Macavity awards and received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. In addition to her books about coffee-maven Maggy Thorsen and displaced journalist AnnaLise Griggs, Balzo writes short stories, two of which have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, winning the Macavity, Derringer and Robert L. Fish awards.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of the Maggy Thorsen mysteries:
Uncommon Grounds, the first Maggy Thorsen coffeehouse mystery, was published in 2004. Since then, I've written six more, the most recent being the just-released Triple Shot.

Over the course of my series, Maggy has weathered countless storms (including a "thunder-snow" that destroyed her shop), the loss of business partners in very different ways and, of course, the obligatory deaths of a dozen friends and neighbors. I have put the poor woman through the proverbial wringer.

What I haven't done, though, is describe her. And I didn't realize it until just now.


I suppose since Maggy was my earliest fictional creation--and a first-person one, at that--I saw her as my alter ego. And who describes themselves in dialogue? ("Hi honey, I--your petite, red-haired wife, with the scar on my left knee--am home!")

Accidental omission or not, I admit I'm intrigued by the idea of readers deciding for themselves what Maggy looks like. But ... how do you cast a movie centering around a character even the author knows inside, but not out?

Well, what facts do we have? Maggy, in her mid-forties, quit a public relations job to open a gourmet coffeehouse with two friends, but only after her husband left home--and Maggy--the day their son went off to college. She loves red wine, craves caffeine and, on occasion, runs a mile or two.

Maggy's funny, cynical and very, very human. Not everyone's cup of tea--or, more to the point, coffee. The woman's a non-cozy hero in a cozy series. She has hard edges and, even now in Book Seven, they haven't been smoothed over.

So cast a comedic leading lady in the role, say Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts? Only problem: Maggy is not the star of her life--especially in her own mind. She's just scratching by, her humor coming more from friction with the outside world. A little ticked, Maggy's much more Katherine than Audrey on anybody's Hepburn-scale.

The names Julianne Moore and Rene Russo come to mind, but the actresses are a little too old (sorry, ladies--believe me, I feel your pain). So ... I'm going to go with the suggestion of a reader at my most recent booksigning:

Diane Lane. Think Under the Tuscan-roast Sun. The Perfect Grind or Uncaffeinated.

Now we can turn to supporting characters. They're much easier, frankly, since Maggy has seen and described them.

Her new business partner is Sarah Kingston, a prickly real estate broker who packs a gun. Good thing, too, because in Triple Shot, three fellow sales agents have been killed on the job. Sarah has a long face and a neighing laugh and wears trousers under long, flappy jackets.

Jane Lynch. Before Glee.

Jake Pavlik is the county sheriff and Maggy's love interest. He rides a Harley and wears a buttery leather jacket for which Maggy--who's never called him anything but "Pavlik"--has a borderline fetish. The sheriff is nearly six-feet tall, with dark, wavy hair and eyes that go from sunny blue, through "dirty-Chevy" gray, all the way to abyss-black, depending on mood.

Dylan McDermott, of course.

Whew, did it! There are more regulars to be cast, of course, but for now, get me those three franchise players and we'll talk.

My people will call your people.
Learn more about the book and author at Sandra Balzo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 20, 2012

Michael T. Cannell's "The Limit"

Michael T. Cannell is a former editor of The New York Times Home section, publisher of thedesignvote.com, and author of I.M. Pei: Mandarin of Modernism.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit:
Believe it or not, I sold the movie rights to The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit before writing its first sentence. It was pure luck.. Another book about mid-century racing was soon to be published with its own movie deal. My agent managed to sell the rights to The Limit up front so the rival project wouldn’t get too far ahead. Two books about racing were, in effect, waging their own race.

Columbia Pictures bought the rights to The Limit with a commitment from Tobey Maguire who would play Phil Hill, the lowly Santa Monica mechanic who eventually won the Formula One World Championship. Word reached me in New York that Maguire’s resemblance to Hill impressed the studio folks. Uncanny, they said. I don’t see it, but whatever. Columbia recently chose to let their option lapse, so all bets are off. For me, it’s been an education in the mysterious ways of Hollywood.

In December Tobey Maguire will appear in The Great Gatsby with Leo DiCaprio. Naturally, my greatest wish would be for them to reunite in The Limit with DiCaprio playing the ebullient but doomed German Count Wolfgang von Trips.
Watch the trailer for The Limit, and learn more about the book and author at Michael T. Cannell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Helen Landalf's "Flyaway"

Helen Landalf’s debut YA novel, Flyaway, released on December 20, 2011 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her other books include the award-winning picture book The Secret Night World of Cats (Smith and Kraus, 1998), illustrated by her autistic brother, Mark Rimland, and Movement Stories for Young Children (Smith and Kraus, 1996), a guide for teachers.

Here she shares her preferences for the lead actors in an adaptation of Flyaway:
In order to cast my contemporary realistic YA novel, Flyaway, which is about a 15-year-old girl struggling to come to terms with the fact that her mom is a meth addict, I’d need to find three strong actresses. For the main character, Stevie, who remains fiercely loyal to her mom in spite of mounting evidence that her mom is not only a drug addict but also a neglectful mother, I’d cast Abigail Breslin, who won an Oscar for her role in Little Miss Sunshine. Breslin, who’s now 15, would bring the necessary intensity to the role of Stevie.

Another strong actress would be needed to play Stevie’s Aunt Mindy, who takes her niece in and shows her – initially against Stevie’s will – how a caring parent actually behaves. For this role I’d choose the lovely Sandra Bullock, who has the combination of poise, warmth, and steel that the role demands.

And to complete my trio of powerful women, I’d cast Toni Collette in the role of drug addicted, narcissistic Mom. Collette’s work as a suicidal mother in About a Boy has me convinced that she could play Mom to a T.
Visit Helen Landalf's website and blog, and watch the Flyaway trailer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 16, 2012

Eben Miller's "Born along the Color Line"

Eben Miller teaches at Southern Maine Community College and lives in Lewiston, Maine.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Born along the Color Line: The 1933 Amenia Conference and the Rise of a National Civil Rights Movement:
Casting my book as a movie, I'll start with the easiest role to fill. In this collective biography, the role of a distinct place—the Troutbeck estate in Amenia, New York—actually nears in significance to some of the main figures involved. Happily, the sylvan setting where the men and women I write about gathered together in 1933 remains largely intact as the Troutbeck Inn and Conference Center.

Of the roughly two dozen up-and-coming African American leaders invited to Troutbeck in 1933, my book explores the lives of five key individuals. Their biographies, woven together with the story of the conference they attended at Troutbeck, illuminate a generational struggle to secure civil rights for African Americans.

I can see Derek Luke as Louis Redding, a graduate of Harvard Law School and the first African American admitted to the bar in Delaware. To portray him, Luke could capture Redding's professionalism, intellect, and commitment to social justice—all the while conveying the young man's struggle to meet the expectations of his small, middle class community in Wilmington.

As Abram Harris, a brilliant young economist who taught at Howard University, I'd expect Michael Ealy to cause a run on tweed and wire-rimmed spectacles. Beyond the vintage props, Ealy could offer something nearly as antiquated by voicing passionate advocacy for an interracial movement among American industrial workers.

Few who met Juanita Jackson failed to comment on her buoyant character and impressive dedication to the cause of African Americans' civil liberty, whether as a church-based youth organizer in Baltimore or as the founding coordinator of the NAACP's national youth movement during the mid-1930s. As Jackson, Kerry Washington could ably project these qualities, but also offer the role a necessary, thoughtful gravity.

Anthony Mackie could play a perfect Moran Weston, a divinity school graduate who served as an organizer with the Harlem-based Negro Labor Victory Committee. Extant during World War II, the committee was most noted for putting on spectacular "Negro Freedom Rallies" at Madison Square Garden designed to fuse entertainment and political action. What an opportunity to feature today's stars as celebrities from the past—Duke Ellington, Pearl Primus, Murial Rahn, and Josh White.

Seeking black freedom during a reactionary era was not without political peril, though. I envision Jeffrey Wright as Ralph Bunche, the Nobel Prize winning United Nations diplomat who in 1954 was forced to account for his loyalty to the nation. Did his belief that African Americans deserved equal economic opportunity make him a Communist? Wright could enliven Bunche's righteous indignation to this accusation.

As for cameo roles, I'll continue this marvelous daydream by picturing a supporting cast featuring Giancarlo Esposito (as W.E.B. Du Bois), Sam Waterston (as Joel Spingarn), Alfre Woodard (as Alice Dunbar-Nelson), Andre Braugher (as Lews "PaPA" Redding), Terrence Howard (as Walter White), Lance Reddick (as Roscoe Dunjee), and Glenn Close (as Mary White Ovington).

John Sayles, David Simon, and Oprah Winfrey—this project awaits your talents and influence.
Learn more about Born along the Color Line at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Beth Fantaskey's "Jessica Rules the Dark Side"

Beth Fantaskey is the author of Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, Jekel Loves Hyde, and the newly released Jessica Rules the Dark Side.

Here she explains her difficulty in imagining any particular actors portraying her characters on the big screen:
I can’t, for the life of me, choose actors to play my characters. As I write, the people I create become very vivid in my imagination, and they never look like anyone but... themselves. Every now and then, readers will send me pictures of actors and say, “This is who I imagine as Lucius Vladescu.” Or, “This actress would be perfect as Jessica Packwood.” And I think that’s great. But inevitably, I look at the images and think, “No, Lucius has a different nose,” or “Jess’s eyes aren’t quite like that.” I can’t even seem to speculate on choosing actors, myself. It’s almost like I’m afraid I’ll start writing dialogue that I think would be suited to the actor, not the character. I suppose I need to really believe in the unique people I’ve tried to create, or they won’t come across as genuine on paper. I’m not a very “quirky” writer, and I usually don’t over think things, but that is one strange habit that I have. Keep sending me photos, though. I love to see who other people are picturing as they read!
Learn more about the author and her work at Beth Fantaskey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 13, 2012

Charlie Price's "Desert Angel"

Charlie Price's novel, The Interrogation of Gabriel James, was hailed as “top-notch” by Kirkus Reviews, “surprising” by Booklist, and “gripping” by BCCB, and won the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.

Here he shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of his latest YA novel, Desert Angel:
When I learned about this blog I was surprised to realize I don't think about my characters as movie actors. I usually build them from an early quixotic impression and they grow more distinct as I write. I start with an overall person in mind --- fourteen year-old girl, spiky blond hair, waif-like, tomboy features, etc. and that character gets clearer as she responds to situations page by page.

Though I love movies, usually watch two per week in theaters, and several more on Netflix, I'm sixty-six. My movie conversations go like this: God that guy is good. Greg … uh, no that's not it. Wasn't he in … um, the military movie about time shifts? Oh, come on, you know, he was with what's-her-name in that love story ... and so on. Hardly enlightening, but I know what I like and whom I like, even if the details escape me. Senility has its drawbacks. It turned out to be a Googlean task to decide on the actors but I thoroughly enjoyed the process lumbering along memory lane.

Kirkus gave my new book, Desert Angel, a starred review and called it a "relentless and heart-stopping thriller," so I want charismatic, engaging actors who can keep a tight edge in fast turns.

The story follows Angel’s flight into barren country near the Salton Sea in Southern California as she tries to escape the man that abused her and murdered her mother. When the man, Scotty, finds Angel, he will kill her, too. She may not survive without help from the illegal immigrant community that she encounters as she flees. I have a great deal of respect for the breadth of the Mexican-American community and after living in Michoacan a while ago, it is particularly important to me to portray that community with depth and dignity.

The cast and director:

Angel needs to be gritty, tenacious, and almost terminally self-reliant. – Kristen Stewart (The Runaways)

Scotty, slick and venomous. (the killer) – John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)

Rita, steadfast and perceptive. (the woman that takes Angel into her home) – Rosario Dawson (Unstoppable)

Vincente, a hard-working fun-loving hot-head. (Rita’s husband) – Michael Peña (Tower Heist)

Momo, strong, good-looking, inexperienced but willing to risk. (the boy that tries to help Angel) – Victor Rasuk (Stop-Loss)

Ramon, kind but tough and unflappable. (a leader in the immigrant community) – Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica)

The Director, a person who can blend the combination of edgy thriller and the marvelous, impossible enigma of adolescent girls. – Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight)
Learn more about the book and author at Charlie Price's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

J.H. Trumble's Don’t Let Me Go"

J.H. Trumble is a Texas native and graduate of Sam Houston State University.

Here she shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of her debut novel, Don’t Let Me Go:
Casting for Don’t Let Me Go has proven to be more difficult than writing the book! Believe me, I’d much rather write. I think everyone forms an image of a character in their minds. Movies really have to sell the casting to the people. Take Robert Pattinson as Edward. At first, I thought no, no, no, no, no. Halfway through the movie, though, I’d changed my mind. Robert Pattinson is the perfect Edward.

So I’m going to cheat a little. I think casting should come from a lesser-known group of actors, so lesser known that I don’t know them either! Instead, I’ll suggest types.

Nate is probably the easiest for me to cast. Nice looking, athletic, brooding but funny. I think a younger Nate Berkus-type would make a great Nate.

Adam is a no-brainer—American Idol-era Adam Lambert all the way. Sexy, open, talented, passionate, loyal, beautiful.

Luke could be played by any number of blonde, goofy, boyishly charming young men. A Justin Bieber type.

Danial is Pakistani. But I do think someone like Ukrainian Dancing With the Stars pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy is the right type--rugged, confident, fiercely loyal.

Curtis is a very minor character, and we only meet him at the very end. I’m including him because he’s so clearly in my mind a doppelganger for Daniel Tosh.
Learn more about the book and author at J.H. Trumble's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 9, 2012

Benjamin Buchholz's "One Hundred and One Nights"

Benjamin Buchholz served as a Civil Affairs Officer in Safwan, Iraq, from 2005 to 2006. His nonfiction book Private Soldiers was published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press in 2007.

Here he writes about the actors he'd like to see in an adaptation of One Hundred and One Nights, his first novel:
I bet every author has this same recurring daydream or fantasy ... who stars in the movie production of their first novel. I certainly did (and do) think about this!

But, because this story is set in Safwan, Iraq, I'm faced with a dilemma. Do I cast someone relatively unknown who fits the right ethnic profile and hope the movie delivers that person to stardom, like, perhaps, Slumdog Millionaire did for Dev Patel, or do I seek a known star and trust the make-up, language-coaching and special effects crews to turn him into a middle aged, half-mad Iraqi man, troubled by visions of the ghost of his daughter?

For the purpose of this particular fantasy, let's go with Option #2 here and I'll toss out a couple names.

First, Brad Pitt. I think, with brown-colored contacts, he'd make a fine Iraqi man. I'm thinking more about the dinged-up Pitt from Inglourious Basterds than the Pitt from A River Runs Through It. I'd like to see the golden-god-on-earth look of him threatening to shine through, to break through the various layers of disguise that my narrator -- Abu Saheeh -- has wrapped around himself. Such a thing would produce an element of tension within the casting itself!

A more natural choice, however, might be Robert Downey Jr. He's got the craziness down pat and I prefer his brand of off-the-rocker a little more than, say, Johnny Depp. Abu Saheeh has more Sherlock Holmes to him than Pirates of the Caribbean.

Leaving the superficial A-list actors to one side, I think Abu Saheeh, in his understated mission of putting-his-life-back-together-again, might offer a chance to someone whose career is, in a similar way, down-and-out. Abu Saheeh compares himself to Dustin Hoffman at one point -- a little Rainmanish. So I could see that working. But maybe the best option of all would be someone totally forgotten yet containing a high degree of internally self-referencing American pop culture, someone who (in their very person) might reflect my little chirruping Layla back onto herself ... say, for instance, Ralph Macchio. That, my friends, would be a perfect call, with a slightly modernized version of Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love" echoing in our hearts and souls during the credits.
Learn more about the book and author at Benjamin Buchholz's website.

The Page 69 Test: One Hundred and One Nights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 7, 2012

D.C. Brod's "Getting Lucky"

Deborah (Deb) Brod has written fiction most of her life, but didn’t think she had a novel in her until after she graduated from Northern Illinois University with an M.A. in journalism.

Here she shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of her new novel, Getting Lucky:
I would love to see Laura Linney play Robyn Guthrie, my slightly larcenous heroine. Although Linney doesn't physically resemble Robyn as I've imagined her, she's an amazing actress who can put a lot of layers into a character.

I don't usually have an image of a character when I begin the book. Each becomes more and more distinct as I write him or her. Mick Hughes was different. I've always imagined him as Scottish actor Robert Carlyle. (And I'd be okay with him keeping the accent.) Carlyle is kind of a chameleon, so I need to say that I see Mick more as a Full Monty Carlyle than, say, a World is Not Enough Carlyle.

Frances Sternhagen as Lizzie Guthrie. Definitely. And I see that she's on an "Oddly Sexy" actress list, which Lizzie would appreciate.

Marina Sirtis would play Erika Starwise, psychic extraordinaire, using that Star Trek: The Next Generation accent.

And, finally, there's Kurt Vrana, rogue environmentalist who will likely show up in another book. I like having him around. Although he probably looks more like Clive Owen, who would be fine by me, I have the feeling that Viggo Mortensen is just dying to play him.

And I'd demand that they give me a walk-on in the trailer.
Learn more about the book and author at D.C. Brod's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sabrina Benulis's "Archon"

Sabrina Benulis graduated with a master’s in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University. She currently resides in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania with her husband, Mike, and her spoiled cockatiel, Caesar.

Here she shares some insights into adapting Archon, her debut novel, for the big screen:
Archon and its sequels in "The Books of Raziel" trilogy would make unbelievable movies. This is a pipe-dream for me, of course. Really, the odds of any novelist's books becoming a movie are quite slim, even if they're optioned, and then by gosh you'd better hope the adaptation is at least a little faithful to your book.

But if all of those magic dominoes happened to fall just right, it would be awesome.

Really, Archon requires a cast mostly of unknowns. Angela Mathers, my protagonist, is tall with a model's striking face, so an edgy actress in her late teens with some sharp acting skills would do well. Kim, my main male character, looks a lot like the magician Criss Angel with longer hair. I don't know if he acts!

Israfel is a strikingly androgynous angel with the beauty of men and women perfectly combined. Recently I saw a picture of the male model Andrej Pejic and was stunned by his resemblance to what I pictured Israfel to look like.

And one of my demons--Python--could be awesomely portrayed by Johnny Depp. You need that kind of quirkiness for his character.

Tim Burton would be great as the director. I say this because "The Books of Raziel" is full of action and heavy on gothic atmosphere, and Burton has proven himself quite well in both areas. However, the story becomes epic and I can't help but also look to Peter Jackson, who did spectacular work with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. If you're going to make a movie about another world, going into detail almost to the point of ridiculousness is the way to do it right.

My book, the movie...

It's an awesome dream.
Learn more about the book and author at Sabrina Benulis's website, blog, and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Jennifer Frost's "Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood"

Jennifer Frost is senior lecturer in history at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and the author of “An Interracial Movement of the Poor”: Community Organizing and the New Left in the 1960s.

Here she shares her preferences for the above-the-line talent for a cinematic adaptation of her recent book, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism:
Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper was a powerhouse of Hollywood’s golden age, and people either loved the “duchess of dish” or hated this “gargoyle of gossip.” For 27 years and 32 million readers over the mid-20th century, Hopper wrote her movie gossip column about the big stars, their movies and marriages, their secrets and scandals. What made her most stand out from the crowd of celebrity journalists of her day—apart from her famous, flamboyant hats—were her political coverage and her political conservatism. The intertwining of popular and political culture was exceptional in Hopper’s column but is commonplace in today’s mass media.

Whether reporting on entertainment or politics, Hopper wrote in a witty, catty style, wielding her gossip as a weapon. In return, she earned a reputation for herself in Hollywood as “unpredictable and ruthless,” “cold-blooded,” and “a vicious witch.” But she also was smart, blond, and attractive, always well groomed and dressed, and had many close friends and committed fans. Her great rival Louella Parsons, who preceded and competed with her in the Hollywood gossip business, was not one of them however. The Hopper-Parsons feud shaped both their careers, and should be a key plot line in the movie.

Hopper: Jane Alexander played a young Hopper in a 1985 television movie, Malice in Wonderland, but that movie only took Hopper to the start of her career and Alexander played her sweetly. To portray Hopper throughout her powerful career, Glenn Close would be perfect. She can play smart and ruthless as she does currently on Damages, and she can wear the fashions and hats of old Hollywood well as she did in the musical Sunset Boulevard.

Parsons: Elizabeth Taylor played Parsons in Malice in Wonderland, as did Jennifer Tilly in The Cat’s Meow, but again these movies covered Parson’s early career. Kathy Bates would be wonderful as the middle-aged Parsons, seeking to hold on to her exclusives and her edge in the face of Hopper’s rising career. Bates has proved herself many times over portraying historical figures convincingly, as she did with Gertrude Stein in this year’s Midnight in Paris.

Director: For director, Todd Haynes is the right choice. He has made movies set in Hopper’s heyday—the 1940s with HBO’s Mildred Pierce and the 1950s with Far from Heaven—and he beautifully establishes the mood, feel, and color of these historical eras. Also he would be up to the challenge of casting a host of famous supporting characters, such as Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, and Elizabeth Taylor. What makes him even more appropriate is his self-conscious use and understanding of nostalgia, which was a major theme of Hopper’s gossip column. Throughout her career, she expressed disappointment in the present and sought to return Hollywood and America to her imagined “golden days of yesteryear.”
Learn more about Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood at the publisher's website.

At the Wall Street Journal, film historian Steven J. Ross named Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood to his list of the five best books about politics and the movie industry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ali Brandon's "Double Booked for Death"

Ali Brandon is the pseudonym for Diane A.S. Stuckart, who is the critically acclaimed author of historical romance and short fiction, as well as the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. The first in Brandon’s new Black Cat Bookshop mystery series, Double Booked for Death, hit the shelves December 6, 2011.

Here she writes about the actors she'd like to see in an adaptation of Double Booked for Death:
Ah, yes, every writer’s secret dream…to have his or her book turned into a movie. And, in that most perfect world, we writers get to cast our own stories. (Of course, we’ve already written the award-winning screenplay with no pesky directorial interference.) But choosing is harder than it looks, and so I gave much thought to whom I envision bringing to life my new Black Cat Bookshop Mystery, Double Booked for Death.

My red-haired protagonist, Darla Pettistone, was actually based on one of my nieces; however, Lauren Ambrose of Six Feet Under fame would be great in the role. She’s just about the right age and has that same wide-eyed look as Darla…all she needs to do is darken her hair to true auburn.

In my story, I’ve already described Darla’s bookstore manager, retired professor James T. James, as having a voice reminiscent of James Earl Jones. Even though the actor is older than my 60-something James, I’ve adored him ever since I first saw him in a really awful 1970s movie called Swashbuckler. And so, Mr. Jones, you win the role, hands down.

Darla’s best friend, the ex-cop Jacqueline “Jake” Martelli, is easy. From the start, I’ve envisioned her as a Xena-esque figure to complement Darla’s more innocent “Gabrielle” personality (though without the pesky subtext, as Darla once says). So Lucy Lawless with her Xena, Warrior Princess black hair and a great spiral perm gets this role.

Another important character is Mary Ann Plinski, owner—with her brother—of Bygone Days Antiques, the shop next door to Darla’s bookstore. The feisty septuagenarian was actually a tribute to my own Aunt Mary Ann. I don’t think she’d object to another of my favorite stars, Helen Mirren, aging herself a bit to take on the role.

Finally, it’s time for the most important casting choice…that of Hamlet the cat. Sadly, the real life Hamlet on which my literary version is based has long since passed on. Given that, I suggest an unknown for the role. Hamlet should be played by a bold and clever shelter cat who will rocket to fame once the movie is released and bring needed attention to the plight of homeless felines everywhere.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Ali Brandon--AKA Diane A.S. Stuckart--website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Diane Stuckart & Ranger, Delta, Oliver and Paprika.

--Marshal Zeringue