Friday, May 25, 2012

Jennifer duBois's "A Partial History of Lost Causes"

Jennifer duBois was born in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1983. She earned a B.A. in political science and philosophy from Tufts University and an M.F.A. in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She recently completed a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, where she is currently the Nancy Packer Lecturer in Continuing Studies. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Playboy, The Missouri Review, The Kenyon Review, The Florida Review, The Northwest Review, Narrative, ZYZZYVA, FiveChapters and elsewhere.

Here she shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of her new novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes:
A Partial History of Lost Causes follows the stories of two very different characters facing fundamentally similar challenges. Aleksandr Bezetov is a Russian chess champion turned political dissident launching a quixotic political campaign against Vladimir Putin. Irina Ellison is a young American academic who is positive for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative neurological disease that killed her father. In the year before she knows she’s likely to become symptomatic, Irina travels to Russia to get an answer to the question her chess-obsessed father had once posed in an unanswered letter to Bezetov: how do you proceed when you’re confronting a lost cause?

Part of the fun of fantasy-casting A Partial History of Lost Causes is that the book spans thirty years, so almost every actor would need to look many decades older or younger than he or she actually is at some point in the movie. But in my imaginary film, the make-up/prosthetic budget is limitless. (The same is true of my imaginary nation-state.) Also, in my imaginary film, hugely famous actors are lining up for bit parts. You’re welcome, Bill Murray!

Aleksandr: Robert Downey Jr., because he can do anything.

Irina: There’s no obvious choice for her, since she’s ornery and cerebral and over 30, but I suppose movie-Irina would have to be a bit sweeter and prettier than book-Irina. I love Emma Stone—her comic timing is phenomenal—and we know from her fine work in The House Bunny that she can play a reasonably plausible nerd. So if she ever wanted to begin a dramatic career, I think my imaginary movie, with its limitless prosthesis budget, would be an excellent place for her to start.

Elizabeta: Frances McDormand would be an amazing older-Elizabeta. Frances McDormand radiates this profound unwillingness to deal with nonsense, which I really like and hope to achieve in my later years.

Nikolai: Kevin Spacey. There is no one more satisfyingly villainous.

Misha: Steve Buscemi. I only just realized that he probably subconsciously inspired every physical description of this character as I was writing.

Lars: Bill Murray. We’ve seen him eccentric and world-weary, but have we seen him eccentric and world-weary and Swedish?

Petr Pavlovich: Paul Giamatti. His sniffling alone would steal the movie/win an Academy Award.

Finally, a cameo by Vladimir Putin as himself. He’s already harpooned a whale, achieved a black belt in Judo, and reportedly saved an entire TV crew from a tiger attack—starring in a movie is the natural next step for his career. Also, he could probably use the good press.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Jennifer DuBois website.

The Page 69 Test: A Partial History of Lost Causes.

--Marshal Zeringue