Thursday, March 15, 2012

Christopher Hebert's "The Boiling Season"

Christopher Hebert graduated from Antioch College, where he also worked at the Antioch Review. He has spent time in Guatemala, taught in Mexico, and worked as a research assistant to the author Susan Cheever. He earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan and was awarded its prestigious Hopwood Award for Fiction. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with his son and wife, the novelist Margaret Lazarus Dean.

Here Hebert shares some ideas for the lead actors in an adaptation of his new novel, The Boiling Season:
My favorite books and movies tend to be heavily atmospheric, stuff that’s saturated in a rich sensory world. Not surprisingly, I’m a pretty cinematic writer myself. Place is definitely one of the biggest characters in The Boiling Season.

The book is set in a Caribbean island loosely based on Haiti, and it has some political aspects to it. For those two reasons, I can’t think of a film adaptation without thinking of Jonathan Demme, who has deep connections to Haiti himself and has a subtle political sensibility. The same goes for Paul Haggis. Then there’s Danny Glover, who’s directing a biopic about Toussaint Louverture that I can’t wait to see. Though, according to IMDb, I’m going to have to wait until 2013.

There aren’t a whole lot of movies out there with serious roles for actors of color. There’s no lack of those in The Boiling Season. Don Cheadle has the simmering intensity to make an amazing Alexandre, the main protagonist, who tries to escape the turmoil all around him by creating his own personal Eden. For Alexandre’s friend Paul, the black market entrepreneur, I wish I could have a young Idris Elba doing a sort of punk Stringer Bell. I guess I’d have to settle for the closest approximation, but I have no idea what that is.

Anthony Mackie would be a searing Dragon Guy, the resistance leader. Denzel Washington has the perfect combination of gravitas and warmth to be a great Senator Marcus. For the senator’s friend, M. Rossignol, the corrupt Minister of Health I can’t decide between the quietly brilliant Jeffrey Wright and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who can play everything from Thabo Mbeki to a space assassin. Meryl Streep would be natural for Mrs. Freeman, the American businesswoman. But what isn’t she a natural for?

The younger ones are a little tougher. I think maybe they should be unknowns, but since that’s less fun than imagining actors we know, I’ll say Jaden Smith as Hector and Zoe Saldana as Mlle. Trouvé. Honestly, though, she’s probably just too beautiful. Assuming there is such a thing.
Learn more about the book and author at Christopher Hebert's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Boiling Season.

Writers Read: Christopher Hebert.

--Marshal Zeringue