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