Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Corey Redekop's "Husk"

Corey Redekop has been many things: actor, waiter, disc jockey, cameraman, editor, lawyer (almost), and now the fabled trifecta of publicist/librarian/author. His debut novel, Shelf Monkey, is either a work of insane genius or an intolerable left-wing screed, depending on which review you read. Stunningly handsome, supremely talented, superbly gifted at hyperbole, Redekop abides in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Here the author shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of his latest novel, Husk:
I hate to specify certain body types of actors, as I really don’t like casting based on appearance. But my hero Sheldon gradually rots away to nothing, especially in the third act, so I reluctantly have to insist that the actor portraying him be relatively slim in build. It just isn’t feasible to use an actor with a larger frame, unless we shell out tonnes of money for CGI, and no one wants that.

Sheldon would be an excellent part for either Jay Baruchel or Topher Grace. Both are relatively slight, and both have unique comedic timing that I think would help accentuate the ridiculousness of the situation. Husk is a comedy, despite the gallons of viscera I spread about the pages. But there’s a dramatic side to much of the proceedings, so my final answer would have to be Joseph Gordon Levitt. I hated 3rd Rock from the Sun, but since then, he’s proved himself one of the best actors out there. Watch Brick and see if I’m wrong. He’s bulking up a bit lately, and he’s a touch young for the role, but we could get around that.

For Duane, Sheldon’s awkward paramour, that’s where we go with the pretty. Duane is a C-list Disney television actor, but we cannot cast exactly that way, as we want actual acting, i.e. no Saved by the Bell pretending to act allowed. Ugh. We could try Channing Tatum, who’s proved himself a bit heftier as an actor than we previously believed, or Zac Efron (but he might be too pretty). I’d almost say Taylor Lautner, but I’m so far unconvinced that there is anything there.

Rowan, Sheldon’s agent, needs a woman who can play practically sociopathic. She needs to be a force unto herself, a woman who completely gets her own way through any means necessary. I’d like to go with unexpected casting on this, so Daryl Hannah or Demi Moore would be my picks.

And without giving too much away, Lambertus Dixon, the astonishingly old gentleman whose part in the novel shall remain spoiler-free here, would have been a perfect role for the late great William Hickey. He wouldn’t have needed a spot of makeup. I’m tempted to try R. Lee Ermey, who would need a little aging, but as this is a zombie novel, I’m going to go old-school and cast Christopher Lee. Because everything goes better with Christopher Lee.

And Doctor Rhodes, the surgeon with the impossible-to-place accent? Gary Oldman. Have at it, sir! Chew scenery with abandon!
Read more about the novel and author at the Shelf Monkey blog and Corey Redekop's website.

The Page 99 Test: Shelf Monkey.

My Book, The Movie: Shelf Monkey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Yona Zeldis McDonough's "A Wedding in Great Neck"

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of the novels A Wedding in Great Neck, Breaking the Bank, In Dahlia's Wake, and The Four Temperaments, as well as nineteen books for children. She is also the editor of two essay collections and is the Fiction Editor at Lilith magazine. Her award-winning short fiction, articles, and essays have been published in anthologies and in numerous national magazines and newspapers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, two children and three very yappy Pomeranians.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of A Wedding in Great Neck:
I think my new novel A Wedding in Great Neck, would make an ideal movie because it is so tightly focused: it takes place in a single day and pretty much in a single setting. There are four generations represented and five differing points of view. For the mother of bride, Betsy, I would love to see Meryl Streep because I think she lends such presence and depth to any film she is in. The bride herself could be beautifully played by Anne Hathaway whose dark grace would be perfect for the role. The older sister, Gretchen, is a less clear to me. Perhaps Julianne Moore’s quirky and offbeat charm would make her a good candidate. There is also an 80+ grandmother in this novel—for that role, I’d like to see Barbra Streisand (with plenty of age-adding make up) because I think she has the feistiness necessary to play the part. I’d love to see a young Lindsay Lohan, back in the day, for the troubled teen-aged daughter, Justine. And Lincoln, the accidental hero of the story, could be nicely played by Jeff Bridges or Michael Douglas.
Learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Queenie, Willa and Holden.

The Page 69 Test: A Wedding in Great Neck.

Writers Read: Yona Zeldis McDonough.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stephen R. Bown's "The Last Viking"

Stephen R. Bown is the author of several critically acclaimed, award-winning books on the history of exploration, science, and ideas. His latest book, The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen, covers the incredible exploits of the famous Norwegian explorer who was the first to reach the South Pole on skis and dog sled, the first to sail the Northwest Passage, and the first to fly over the North Pole.

Here he shares some observations about adapting The Last Viking for the big screen:
People often say to me "That story is incredible - why doesn't someone make a documentary or a movie about it." I usually brush it off politely, because I know the story to be too complex or to require too much back-story to be make any sense to someone who hadn't already read the book. This is often the problem with non-fiction; the story, or parts of it, might be incredible but to remain true to the known facts you can't just adjust the story for length or dramatic impact, or make characters more admirable or likeable.

My latest book The Last Viking was no exception. Roald Amundsen is chiefly known for beating the British Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole in 1911. But in a remarkable career that spanned decades he also sailed the famed and feared Northwest Passage, sailed the Northeast Passage and then turned to airplanes when he couldn’t get his ship through the ice to the North Pole. Then he died mysteriously when his bi-plane disappeared into a fog bank on a rescue mission for another Polar explorer in 1928. I discovered hundreds of interviews, profiles and articles in the New York Times archives that revealed an entirely new aspect of his personality and showed that he was a famous celebrity in the United States for at least ten years before he died. He travelled the country delivering amusing and exciting slide lectures to audiences that included the political and cultural elite and was frequently in the news. How do you put all that into a 2 hour film?

Amazingly, I recently read that a major Hollywood movie is being planned featuring Amundsen, but focussing on only one of his dramatic adventures. The Race to the South Pole, according to various sources, is being produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for Warner Brothers with Casey Affleck set to play the role of Robert Falcon Scott. No word yet on who will play Amundsen.

While The Race to the South Pole is not based on my book The Last Viking, which is only just published, as an author who has spent the past two years researching Amundsen's life I can hope that the portrayal of Amundsen is not as the dour, ruthless and dastardly foil to a heroic Scott, as he is sometimes stereotyped by Scott admirers. Certainly he was single-minded - or goal oriented as we say these days - when he was on an expedition. But afterward on the lecture circuit he was a charming and amusing eccentric, a great storyteller with many admirers, particularly in the US.

I suppose I will have to wait and see. Of course I'm open to consultation!
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen R. Bown's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Michelle Cooper's "The FitzOsbornes at War"

Michelle Cooper's novels include The Rage of Sheep and The Montmaray Journals trilogy.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The FitzOsbornes at War:
The FitzOsbornes at War is the final novel in the Montmaray Journals trilogy. The royal family of Montmaray fled their remote island kingdom in 1937 when the Nazis attacked. But now that war has come to England and the rest of the world – nowhere is safe.

When I began writing this series, I envisaged Prince Toby, the charming but indolent heir to the Montmaravian throne, as a young Jude Law. I now have a few readers who are convinced that Sam Claflin would be ideal for the role of Toby. However, as I haven’t seen any of Sam Claflin’s performances, I think I’ll go with Bradley James, because he can do a posh British accent and knows how to handle a sword.

Toby’s enigmatic cousin Simon needs to be played by someone tall, dark and broodingly handsome – perhaps Ben Barnes or Matthew Goode.

Princess Veronica, Toby’s other cousin, is a fiery intellectual who speaks Spanish. She can be played by a young Penélope Cruz. (I’m assuming that I have access to a time-travelling machine here.) Veronica’s journalist friend Daniel would be ably portrayed by Mathew Baynton, who is both adorably geeky and highly experienced at playing characters from previous historical eras. (I’ve been watching a lot of Horrible Histories lately.)

For the FitzOsbornes’ friend Julia, who is a glamorous London socialite turned ambulance driver, I’m thinking Emily Blunt, an actress who can convey both strength and vulnerability. Her brother Rupert could be played by a young James McAvoy. Their uncle, Colonel Stanley-Ross, has a mysterious job in the Secret Service. He can be played by Samuel West, who did such an excellent job of being a spy in Foyle’s War and Cambridge Spies.

Helen Mirren can take on the role of Aunt Charlotte, the FitzOsbornes’ imperious aunt, with Helena Bonham Carter as Barnes, her devoted maid.

And finally, Princess Sophia, my narrator, should be played by either Saoirse Ronan or a young Romola Garai. However, I suspect our film’s budget will have blown out by now, so we’ll probably have to use an unknown young British actress – who will, of course, be catapulted into international fame and fortune when the film of The FitzOsbornes at War is an enormous success!
Learn more about the book and author at Michelle Cooper's website.

Writers Read: Michelle Cooper (May 2011).

Writers Read: Michelle Cooper.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Amanda Bennett's "The Cost of Hope"

Amanda Bennett's books include In Memoriam (1997, with Terence B. Foley), The Man Who Stayed Behind (1993, with Sidney Rittenberg), The Death of the Organization Man (1990), and the recently released memoir, The Cost of Hope.

Here Bennett shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of The Cost of Hope:
The most important characters to cast in The Cost of Hope are Terence, and me. The book is the story of our stormy relationship, and what we became, and especially what his illness brought to our lives. It’s about how the two of us met in a China so long ago the capital was still called Peking, of how we fought like street dogs, got married, raised a family, how I became an investigative journalist and he became a professor and we moved all around the country and then he got cancer and together we fought it and then he died. It sounds like a movie script, but it was our life. After he died, I went back and got all the records and re-interviewed the doctors and everyone who took care of us and tried to make sense of the choices we had all made.

Our life was full of movies. We loved film noir. He loved madcap comedy. (I hated it). The movies we watched were full of prototypes for the dueling-couples-in-love motif. How about Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier in the 1940 Pride and Prejudice? We must have watched It Happened One Night a dozen times so I could see Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. I can’t help returning to the 1940s and ‘50s in thinking about casting Terence. He was elegant, given to bow ties and well-cut charcoal suits so I think Cary Grant. His Midwestern sense of right and wrong, and righteous ire at the forces of evil suggest Jimmy Stewart. But he was also hilarious, so maybe this would be a good serious dramatic part for Robin Williams or Jack Black.

As for me honestly, I’d say if I were God the only right thing to do would be to resurrect Ingrid Bergman to play me. Not because I’m anything like Ingrid Bergman, but just because I’d like that.

Since my teens I’ve banned the use of the word “perky” in any description of me. The fact that decades later, I still have to threaten harsh actions to enforce this ban suggests a consideration of Meg Ryan or Sally Field.

The book spans 25 years of our life, from my early 30s to mid-50s as I change from an obnoxiously mouthy opinionated, stubborn foreign-correspondent girlfriend in China to, 20 years later, a devoted wife who throws her entire being into trying to save her husband’s life. Maybe Anne Hathaway’s career trajectory, from hem-tripping would-be royalty in The Princess Diaries to hollow-eyed, drug-addicted harridan in Rachel Getting Married would mean she could make the journey along with me.

Sometimes when my friends ask who I’d like to see play me, I say Janeane Garofalo. They laugh, of course, but then a few of them pause and say… hmmmmm. So maybe there could be a version that stars both her and Jack Black. That might help the case I make to people that even though this is a book about a guy who gets cancer and dies, it’s actually a pretty funny story.
Visit the official The Cost of Hope website and Facebook page.

See--Amanda Bennett's five best tales of stormy couples.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dan Josefson's "That’s Not a Feeling"

Dan Josefson has an MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and lives in Brooklyn. He has received a Fulbright research grant and a Schaeffer Award from the International Institute of Modern Letters.

Here he dreamcasts That’s Not a Feeling, his first novel:
That’s Not a Feeling is set on the grounds of a strange, therapeutic boarding school named Roaring Orchards, where things are slowly coming apart at the seams. There are lots and lots of characters, but I’ll try to cast only the most important of them.

The narrator, Benjamin, is a bit of a cipher: he observes, and reports, and quietly seethes. Sometimes not so quietly. Initially I was thinking of a young Bud Court for this role, but I think Paul Dano might be a better choice. Benjamin’s friend Tidbit is smart, unpredictable, and only marginally honest. I could see Lena Dunham playing her really well. Another of Benjamin’s friends, Andrew Pudding, is a very funny and somewhat sad character. I’d love to see Jonah Hill in that role.

As for the administrators of Roaring Orchards, there’s Doris, the assistant director and Aubrey, the headmaster. Kathy Bates would be terrific as Doris. Aubrey is the most difficult to cast, and the most fun for me to think about. He is charming, fierce, unhinged, fragile, and brilliant, all at the same time. I considered Orson Welles, Al Pacino, and Dustin Hoffman, and while they’d all be great (I particularly like when Dustin Hoffman gets angry on screen), my choice is Klaus Kinski. Even at Kinski’s most gentle, he held a hint of menace that threatened to erupt at the slightest provocation. And while I’m dreaming, Louis Malle would direct.
Learn more about the book and author at Dan Josefson's website.

The Page 69 Test: That's Not a Feeling.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Simon Read's "Human Game"

Simon Read was an award-winning journalist before he became a nonfiction author.  His books include In the Dark and War of Words.

Here he shares some suggestions for cast and director of an adaptation of his latest book, Human Game: The True Story of the 'Great Escape' Murders and the Hunt for the Gestapo Gunmen:
Naturally, my opinion is biased, but I think Human Game would make an interesting film in that the book is a non-fiction follow up to the events depicted in the 1963 Steve McQueen classic The Great Escape. The movie, of course, ends with fifty of the recaptured POWs being gunned down by the Gestapo. Human Game details the three-year manhunt by the Royal Air Force to track down the Gestapo gunmen responsible for the murders.

The story’s central character is Frank McKenna, a 38-year-old Squadron Leader charged with bringing the killers to justice. In civilian life, McKenna had been a detective with the Blackpool police, so he was already a skilled investigator by the time he arrived in Germany to start the hunt in September 1945. I think Christian Bale would make a great McKenna. McKenna took an obsessive approach to his work, something I feel Bale does with his acting. For Wing Commander Wilfred Bowes, McKenna’s blunt and tough-minded superior, Clive Owen would fit the bill nicely.

In the book, captured war criminals are interrogated in the London Cage, a mansion in the British capital that was turned into a holding facility for wanted Nazis. In charge of the London Cage was Lt. Colonel A. O. Scotland. He was your typical tough, stiff-upper lip type. I can easily picture Hugh Laurie in the role. Scotland, a seasoned interrogator, cared little for what others thought of his methods. It’s an attitude Laurie portrayed brilliantly during eight seasons of House. I should also add that being British, I’ve been a fan of Laurie’s for years—long before he played television’s coolest doctor.

The question of director is a good one. My three favorite directors are Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, and Christopher Nolan (although I love the Dark Knight movies, Insomnia is my favorite Nolan movie). Scott’s films are often a blend of fantastic characterization, great action, and stylish aesthetics. Black Rain has long been one of my favorite crime dramas. Mann’s movies are great, as he also takes his time fleshing out the characters. You get a great sense of who the individuals on screen really are. Nolan’s films have a very cool style to them. I’d be happy for any one of these three gents to work behind the camera on Human Game—of course, I wouldn’t mind Spielberg or Eastwood, either!
Learn more about the author and his work at Simon Read's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pauls Toutonghi's "Evel Knievel Days"

Pauls Toutonghi is a first-generation American. He has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, and his writing has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Zoetrope, One Story, and the Boston Review.

His first novel, Red Weather, came out from Random House in 2006. It was translated into Latvian and German — and received good reviews in periodicals across the country, including The New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Chicago Tribune, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Here Toutonghi dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest novel, Evel Knievel Days:
The idea that your book could be made into a film is worrisome. What if the actors replace the images you have in mind of the characters, themselves? Will your imagination be forever compromised and invaded -- colonized by a Hollywood Studio?

For many thousands of dollars, however? Well, let's just say I'm open to negotiation.

I think I'll start with The Ghost of William Andrews Clark. To say that I patterned him after "The Stranger" in The Big Lebowski -- the narrator character played by Sam Elliott -- would be an understatement. In fact, I watched The Big Lebowski three or four times during the process of writing the book. The voice of the narrator of that film kept popping into my imagination, persistently, and so: A character was born.

For Khosi himself, I love the actor Rami Malek. He played the gay next door neighbor in The War at Home -- a short lived sitcom that was on Fox in the middle of the last decade. I thought he was terrific -- a blend of comic and serious -- and could pull off Khosi's numerous quirks.

For the father -- I've been a fan, for a long time, of the comedian Dean Obeidallah. He's a little young to play Akram, I think -- but maybe add some grey to his hair -- and add a few wrinkles: Instant middle age!

And the mother. Ah, the mother. I love Amy Adams. But who doesn't? Kate Winslet would be terrific in the way I imagined the character -- resilient, tough, but still fragile -- and sardonically funny.

The idea that my work could be transformed into images on a giant screen. What an incredible thing. Sitting here, thinking of it, I have to wonder how film is changing writing. Because it must be. In a few hundred years, probably, they'll know what happened.
Learn more about the book and author at Pauls Toutonghi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Joanna Nadin's "Paradise"

Joanna Nadin is a bestselling British author of middle grade, teen and YA fiction, a speechwriter, and a former Special Advisor to the Prime Minister.

Here she shares her ideas for the casting and director for an adaptation of her latest YA novel, Paradise:
I spent way too many hours watching teen movies, and more still stealing actors to people the worlds I’m creating, and yet Paradise was one of the first in which the heroine – Billie Paradise – wasn’t written with Thora Birch, or Julia Stiles on pause and rewind in my head. I spent a long time looking for my Billie, the girl who inherits a house and moves from London to Cornwall to find a new life, and her own past. Sixteen years old, she is skinny, gawky; has that too-tall awkwardness of someone who hasn’t quite grown into their limbs yet; she is pale, ethereal, has a goth or emo otherness about her. I found her in the hunch-shouldered gait of a rain-soaked schoolgirl on a gloomy Tuesday in Bath, but I could as easily have plundered Kristen Stewart as my blueprint. There’s a strangeness about her beauty, an odd Britishness about her: an antidote to LA’s cookie cutter blondes. Ten years ago I’d have picked Rebecca Hall. Twenty: Claire Danes.

Danny, the hero-of-sorts, is older, eighteen. And like all my leading men, he was stolen from a book I read as a teenager: Pennington’s Seventeenth Summer by KM Peyton; a book that engendered in me a taste for the misunderstood, the moody, and, always, the musical. It was Pennington who sowed the seed for my obsession with Christian Slater in Heathers, and for Jared Leto as Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life. Like Angela, I loved the way he leaned, like the world was too much. Today’s Penningtons and Jordans, and hence Dannys, are Robert Pattinson, Ed Westwick, Tom Hardy, though if you dirtied Penn Badgley up a bit, he might make the grade.

As for directors, despite my proud ownership of the entire John Hughes back catalogue, I am and will always be an Indie Kid at heart. So I would pretty much throw myself at the feet of Sarah Polley (Take this Waltz) or Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine).
Visit Joanna Nadin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jayne Amelia Larson's "Driving the Saudis"

Jayne Amelia Larson is an actress and independent film producer based in Los Angeles, and has also been an occasional chauffeur between gigs. She has degrees from Cornell University and from Harvard University’s American Repertory Theatre Institute. Her one-woman show, Driving the Saudis, has been performed in Memphis, Ithaca, Boston, Roanoke, and Vienna (Austria), and won Best Solo Show at the 2010 New York Fringe Festival.

Here she shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of her new book, Driving the Saudis: A Chauffeur's Tale of the World's Richest Princesses (plus their servants, nannies, and one royal hairdresser):
It’s looking likely that Driving the Saudis will be made into a TV series instead of a movie but if I were to imagine it as a feature film or on TV, I’d hope to see someone like Emily Blunt play the lead character – which is based on me since the book is nonfiction memoir – because she’s way prettier, smarter, and funnier than me. And I think she’s a really talented actress and comedienne. The agency that is repping the project has also suggested Judy Greer and Minnie Driver, and I think they are also great choices.

The romantic interest in the book, Mr. Rumi (who appears only a few times but is still ever present) should be someone tall, dark and handsome but also exotic. I think the hot new French actor, Omar Sy, who just starred in the blockbuster, The Intouchables, would be super because he’s so sexy but funny too.

The Lebanese nanny, Malikah, a warm, kind and generous woman who I grew to care for very much, should be played by the lovely actress Shohreh Aghdashloo who is actually from Iran but plays characters from all over the world very convincingly with a lot of heart and integrity. You may remember her from 24 or “X-Men”, but she was also brilliant in The Stoning of Soraya M. The young Princess Rajiya, who is such a spirited and willful adolescent, could be played by the terrific young actress from Modern Family, Sarah Hyland, who is such a terrible but beautiful handful on that show. Since the teenager Princess Soraya cannot be played by a very young Audrey Hepburn (and she really did look and behave like her), then perhaps Victoria Justice would be right as she seems so pretty and sweet, and I love the video with her singing "Baby It’s Cold Outside" with Leon Thomas III.

Mila Kunis would be perfect as Princess Basmah, so haughty, beautiful, and dismissive. Salma Hayek should play Princess Zaahira because she is stunning and naturally princess-like, and she’s got great acting chops. My friend from acting grad school, Faran Tahir, who was so devastating in Ironman and Star Trek, should play the Saudi colonel. He’s a hottie and totally intimidating at the same time.

I’d cast Robert Knott, my writer/director/actor friend and good times/bad times buddy (Appaloosa, Pollock) as one of the head security personnel, probably Stu, but he’d have to hits the weights and beef up a little for the part. Then, for all the ancillary characters, I would cast my actor friends who are very talented, one and all, and regularly in dire need of work.
Visit the Driving the Saudis website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kevin Mattson's "Just Plain Dick"

Kevin Mattson is Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History at Ohio University and serves as a faculty associate of the Contemporary History Institute. His work explores the broad intersections between ideas and politics in 20th century America. He is author of numerous books, including "What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?": Jimmy Carter, America's "Malaise," and the Speech that Should Have Changed the Country.

Here Mattson dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Just Plain Dick: Richard Nixon's Checkers Speech and the "Rocking, Socking" Election of 1952:
My tastes run to the experimental in film, so I’m not really familiar with my choice among Hollywood stars. But this I know: The Checkers Speech is not only the subject of my own book, Just Plain Dick, it is a play that will be coming to New York City soon, according to the New York Times. Anthony LaPaglia plays Nixon on the stage. So I suppose he might have first dibs if the play were to become a movie. One thing’s for sure: The person to play Nixon, if he really has the old-time “method” form of acting down, will have to put himself into a place where he feels that his career might be coming to an end and then decides to fight for his life. It would be an intense role, and as with anything about Richard Nixon, troubling. It would take a psychological intensity that some actors might find exhausting. There’d probably be sleep-deprivation involved. But the lead player could also rest assured that there would be a happy ending – happy for the central character, that is – awaiting the movie’s final scenes.
Learn more about the book and author at Kevin Mattson's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Just Plain Dick.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sharon Fiffer's "Lucky Stuff"

Sharon Fiffer is the author of eight Jane Wheel mysteries, including the recently released Lucky Stuff, published by St. Martin’s Minotaur.

Here the author shares some casting suggestions for an adaptation of the series:
Begging your indulgence, I’d like to cast my book as a television series rather than a movie. Why? Isn’t a feature film the Holy Grail, the place where stories are elevated to iconic status? Well, maybe before television got so very, very good—and before everyone realized how much we liked stories to unfold over time. Besides, Jane Wheel and her crew are junkers, scavengers, treasure hunters and sentimental small town folk at heart and, at the end of the day, they are TV watchers.

Also, Lucky Stuff is number eight in the Jane Wheel mysteries and writing a series of books tends to make the characters into family members who grow and change a bit with each adventure. A television series allows for the arc of the books’ stories, so here are a few of my casting picks for the new HBO hour-long comedy-drama, JANE WHEEL, PPI.

Since this my fantasy line-up, I assume I can use actors past and present, alive or dead—so please imagine the talent I name at their peak—or a little older or younger to fit the ages of the characters.

Nellie, Jane Wheel’s curmudgeony, secretive and mercurial mother—Thelma Ritter or Nancy Walker, come on down from character actor heaven. And even though it’s television and I want the series to last long enough to go into syndication, I won’t accept Betty White. She’s far too over-exposed!

Don, Jane’s bear-like barkeep father—If Brian Dennehy can be persuaded to step off the Broadway stage and give the Eugene O’Neill canon a rest, I have a steady job for him.

Michael, Jane’s younger brother—Michael had a major role in only one of the book, but he’s a big influence on Jane and family. For the series, he and his family will be far more involved in the family situations. David Letterman of twenty years ago, are you ready to show your acting chops?

Tim, Jane’s best friend who is suave, sophisticated and far more stylish than Jane—if we go major network? Neil Patrick Harris, come on down! If we go Masterpiece Mystery, I want Laurence Fox. Detective Hathaway, can you do an American accent and smile once in a while?

Detective Oh, Jane’s Asian-American mentor—Here’s where time-travel comes into the casting. Harry Shum Jr. from Glee will have to fast-forward himself into his forties, but I’d like him to remain as graceful and light on his feet. I can write in a dance scene if I have to, Harry.

Jane Wheel, picker and private investigator, is the hardest to cast. The woman is always longing and searching, yet she’s as funny and acerbic as Nellie even if she claims she’s nothing like her mother. Her mind is a garage sale of ideas and plans and the actress has to convey both vulnerability and odd wisdom. I like Lauren Graham for Jane. I also like Mary-Louise Parker and perhaps an aged-up Ellen Page. She and Harry Shum Jr. can share the time travel machine.

Lucky Miller, guest star in the Lucky Stuff episode will be played by the ghost of Sid Caesar. Or Phil Silvers. Or a slightly younger Don Rickles?

Stuff. Although not technically part of the cast, the prop-master for this show is going to have a blast—and will also be the hardest working tech person in the business. Jane Wheel’s life is all about stuff—and there has to be plenty of it—Killer, Dead Guy’s, Wrong, Buried, Hollywood, Scary, Stagy and Lucky!

Kankakee, Jane’s hometown that is part of her soul and psyche is most definitely a character. And, it must play itself. Park those Craft Services trucks on Station Street in The E Z Way Inn parking lot, please.
Learn more about the Jane Wheel mysteries and the author at Sharon Fiffer's website.

Writers Read: Sharon Fiffer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Robyn Arianrhod's "Seduced by Logic"

Robyn Arianrhod is an Honorary Research Associate in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Monash University. She is the author of Einstein's Heroes.

Here Arianrhod shares some ideas for casting a cinematic adaptation of her new book, Seduced by Logic: Émilie Du Châtelet, Mary Somerville and the Newtonian Revolution:
Seduced by Logic blends biography, history and science in a story that covers two centuries of scientific history. So I guess there are two movies here, one for each of the book’s two heroines: Émilie, marquise du Châtelet, the wonderfully outrageous French aristocrat, mathematician, and muse/lover of Voltaire; and Mary Somerville, a shy, illiterate, Scottish country girl who transformed herself into the nineteenth century’s celebrated ‘Queen of Science’.

At first, I found it surprisingly difficult to imagine ‘strangers’ playing these women onscreen, because Émilie and Mary were so multifaceted that they are uniquely ‘themselves’ to me: I’ve ‘lived’ with them, in my mind, for years, and I feel I know them intimately, through their own writings, and through my empathy with them as a female mathematician myself. But I do love movies – and films are, of course, things in themselves, separate from books, and from real lives – so here are some tentative thoughts on how ‘my’ Émilie and Mary could appear (or have appeared) on the big screen.

Jeanne Moreau could be fabulously feisty, seductive, and intense, all in that very French way. She could have portrayed, effortlessly, Émilie’s mix of imperious aristocratic confidence and fun-loving radiance, her ability to be self-contained, disciplined, and ambitious, and, by contrast, her ability to abandon herself to the moment – singing operas all night long, or staking everything for love. A more contemporary actress, and a very different one, is Tilda Swinton (especially as she was in Orlando). Like Émilie, she is tall and striking, and I can imagine Tilda/Émilie galloping her favourite horse, or dressed up for an eighteenth-century ball, or gambling astutely at cards with the Queen. I can imagine her exuding an intelligence that fills up the screen regardless of whether she is debating with others on behalf of Newton and Leibniz, or whether she is alone, dressed in her old work clothes, poring over mathematical equations by candlelight.

Geoffrey Rush ten years or so ago would have made a consummate Voltaire: he’s marvellous at portraying characters who are masters of wit and irony, and he could easily add the requisite doses of hubris and hypochondria, along with a touch of emotional cruelty to temper the extraordinary love and loyalty Voltaire generally felt for Émilie. Of course, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt come to mind as an Émilie-and-Voltaire double act. Apart from the fact that Voltaire was 12 years older than Émilie, Angelina and Brad at their best each could play these demanding roles brilliantly. (As for the interminable gossip about the couple’s private lives, three centuries ago there was similar fascination and gossip about Émilie’s and Voltaire’s glamorous and sometimes stormy relationship.)

Mary Somerville shared Émilie’s unusual ambition, and she, too, suffered because of the taboo against intellectual women. But this is where the similarity between the two women ends, and a number of readers have told me they prefer the quieter, ‘nicer’ Mary to the flamboyant Émilie. (I love them equally!) In many ways, Mary is like a Jane Austen heroine: she came of age at about the same time – and in the same constrained, provincial circumstances – as Jane Austen herself. Emma Thompson made a brilliant Elinor in the movie of Sense and Sensibility, and she could easily add the ambition and intellectual drive that lifted Mary way beyond Elinor, along with the endearing touch of vanity, and the natural, guileless charm that seduced everyone who knew her. Kate Winslet would also make a memorable and subtly charismatic Mary.
Learn more about Seduced by Logic at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Seduced by Logic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 8, 2012

Janice Law's "Fires of London"

Janice Law is an acclaimed author of mystery fiction. The Watergate scandal inspired her to write her first novel, The Big Payoff (1977), which introduced Anna Peters, a street-smart young woman who blackmails her boss, a corrupt oil executive. The novel was a success, winning an Edgar nomination, and Law went on to write eight more in the series, including Death Under Par (1980) and Cross-Check (1997).

After Death Under Par, Law set aside the character for several years to write historical mysteries The Countess (1989) and All the King’s Ladies (1986). After concluding the Peters series, she wrote three stand-alone suspense novels: The Night Bus (2000), The Lost Diaries of Iris Weed (2002), and Voices (2003). Since then, Law has focused on writing short stories, many of which appear in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Fires of London:
It’s embarrassing to admit that I now see very few movies, despite having done a long stint as a weekly movie reviewer during that golden age of foreign and US films from the late sixties to the mid-eighties. I also never think of adaptations, which is just as well, because only one of my novels, Voices, even got to the option stage –or perhaps I should say, pre-option stage–since I never saw any money.

As for Fires of London, I’m sure that there are any number of good young actors who would do just fine as Francis, genius painter and reluctant snoop, and the underfed rent boys who are in danger. But if a leading man is required, I’d suggest Leonardo DiCaprio, who has the right sort of face, and who, from his work in Inception, might be up for something, and some one, off beat.

As for Nan, Francis’ madly devoted, light fingered, and cynical old nanny, the late Joan Hickson, who was the greatest Miss Marple ever and one of the few to convey her top level intellect, would have been splendid. Today, in an ideal situation, I’d cast the divine Maggie Smith. Indeed, cast Maggie Smith as Nan – or as anything in my opinion– and you have a good chance of cinematic success.
Learn more about the book and author at Janice Law's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Fires of London.

Writers Read: Janice Law.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Shelley Freydont's "Foul Play at the Fair"

Shelley Freydont is the author of the Katie McDonald and Lindy Haggerty mystery series, and the Liv Montgomery, Celebration Bay Festival Mysteries.

Here she shares some suggestions for casting a big-screen adaptation of her new novel Foul Play at the Fair, the first Celebration Bay Festival mystery:
I have colleagues who always imagine their books’ characters as movie or television actors. I’ve never been able to do that. When I do try to think of the perfect casting, I always seem to default to the actors of the thirties and forties. Even when they were scruffy or silly there was something steady about them. My kind of heroes —and heroines.

Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, Myrna Loy and William Powell, Myrna Loy and Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and just about anyone. For me, she is the perfect combination of ditz, good humor and a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.

Would I ever pattern a character with her in mind? No, I’m sure she would take over. I do keep the qualities I like about her in the back of my mind.

But if someone would like to make the series into a film today?

I would suggest Anne Hathaway for Liv. Liv is a Manhattan event planner who moves to a small upstate town to be the town’s event coordinator. She’s smart, savvy and a fish out of water. It’s a big learning curve for someone who’s more used to society backstabbing than death by farm implement. But she’s not afraid to get down and get dirty, especially when it comes to protecting her town and her new friends. Anne Hathaway has the look, the personality, and the resiliency as an actress that I admire. Plus she has a great comic sense and can seem perfectly at home while being just a little out of kilter.

Chaz Bristow on the other hand is one massive contradiction. Liv calls him the laziest newspaper editor in the world, but before returning to town to report local news and fishing conditions, he’d been an investigative reporter for the LA Times. He delights in making smarmy, but harmless, propositions to Liv, refuses to take any interest in the murders that plague Celebration Bay, and yet always seems to be one step behind Liv. Which can be annoying; but sometimes life saving.

An actor who played him would have to be unusual. A combination of Clive Owen and Owen Wilson, with a bit of Ewan McGregor thrown in.

And to round out the cast, Jeremy Irons as Ted, Kathy Bates as Dolly, Stanley Tucci as Dolly’s husband Fred. I guess this would have to be a big budget movie.
Learn more about the book and author at Shelley Freydont's website.

The Page 69 Test: Foul Play at the Fair.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Erika Robuck's "Hemingway’s Girl"

Erika Robuck was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland. Inspired by the cobblestones, old churches, Georgian homes, and mingling of past and present from the Eastern Shore, to the Annapolis City Dock, to the Baltimore Harbor, her passion for history is well nourished.

Her first novel, Receive Me Falling, is a best books awards finalist in historical fiction from USA Book News. Her second novel, Hemingway’s Girl, was published last month by NAL/Penguin.

Here Robuck dreamcasts an adaptation of Hemingway’s Girl:
Before I write a word of any novel, I spend several days casting it. This is a very important part of the process for me because I am a visual learner, and until I can fully see my characters, I can not write them. Even if I’m not successful at first, at least this step allows me to spend several days viewing headshots and film clips of beautiful or interesting people as part of my work, which I find inspiring.

My novel, Hemingway’s Girl, takes place in Key West in 1935, where a half-Cuban young woman goes to work for Ernest Hemingway in order to support her widowed mother and sisters, and to save money for a charter fishing boat business. Soon after she becomes Hemingway’s housekeeper, she finds herself caught between her infatuation with the writer and a WWI veteran and boxer building the Overseas Highway.

Since day one, George Clooney has been my Hemingway. He has a combination of virility, humor, and intensity that would lend him well to the role. He also has an uncanny resemblance to Hemingway when he has a mustache.

My protagonist, Mariella, would be played well by either Camilla Belle or Selena Gomez. Both young women are just stepping into adulthood from more childish rolls in television or film, and would successfully play a feisty girl forced to grow up too fast.

Ryan Gosling would make a perfect Gavin Murray: a thirty-three year old boxer and WWI veteran. Gosling has the youthful face with the intense, haunted eyes that would present just the right blend of dependability, courage, and appeal necessary to compete with Hemingway for Mariella’s attention.

I’m confident that these power players could carry any cast to the Academy Awards. I hope to see you at the movies!
Learn more about the book and author at Erika Robuck's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Michael Kardos’s "The Three-Day Affair"

Michael Kardos’s debut thriller The Three-Day Affair has received starred reviews from Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly, which named it one of the best books of the fall. He’s originally from New Jersey and currently co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.

Here Kardos shares some ideas for the lead actors and director of an adaptation of The Three-Day Affair:
It all hinges on the recording-studio owner. It’s a small role, a few moments of levity in an otherwise very intense story, and just right for an actor needing a comeback—John Travolta would’ve been ideal, had his career not already been revived once with Pulp Fiction. So Travolta’s out.

Who’s in? Tim Allen—acting so eccentric and looking so grizzled that it isn’t until the closing credits that you smack yourself and say, “Wow, so that’s who that was.” (Kelsey Grammer would do in a pinch.)

The Three-Day Affair revolves around three college friends who kidnap a convenience store clerk and use the recording studio as their hideout. The guys need to play 30 but also look college-age in flashbacks from their Princeton days. Will Walker, the main character, has to be likeable but not too likeable, good-looking but not too good-looking. Adam Scott I think would be great. He’s so natural in Parks and Recreation, it never seems like he’s acting. Another choice would be Jason Segel, in a surprisingly dark role.

The convenience store clerk has to be unassuming but sharp. An unknown, ideally. If we go with a known, then it should probably be Hailee Steinfeld, who has, well, true grit. Elle Fanning might be even better. She was utterly believable in Super 8. Trouble is, she’s too young. But maybe the production will get stalled for a couple of years.

And the director? That’s a no-brainer: Christopher Nolan.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael Kardos's website.

Writers Read: Michael Kardos.

The Page 69 Test: The Three Day Affair.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 1, 2012

D.E. Johnson's "Detroit Breakdown"

D. E. Johnson, a graduate of Central Michigan University, is a history buff who has been writing fiction since childhood. He comes by his interest in automotive history through his grandfather, who was the vice president of Checker Motors. Johnson's books include The Detroit Electric Scheme and Motor City Shakedown.

Here he shares some ideas for the above-the-line talent to adapt his latest novel Detroit Breakdown, and its predecessors, for the big (or small) screen:
“Everybody” asks me when my books are going to be made into movies. I write in a very cinematic style, and I think my readers visualize the stories as they occur. I’m lucky enough to have very passionate readers, and they have lots of ideas for who ought to be in the movies.

In a dream world, I’d have to go with Leonardo DiCaprio as Will Anderson, Keira Knightley as Elizabeth, and Martin Scorsese as the director. Leo and Keira are getting older than my characters now, so maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt ought to be Will. I’m not sure about Elizabeth. Anyway, I think Keira can pull off mid-twenties.

While I was writing the books, there was really only one character I saw as a particular actor, or actors, I should say, because I thought both Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson would be great as Detective Riordan.

Actually, I (and my agent) see the Will Anderson series as a cable TV series. My plots have a lot of twists and turns, and have a bit of a Deadwood/Breaking Bad aesthetic. I think every book could be a season, so I’ve got three years already written. Give me David Milch or Vince Gilligan to run the show, and I’m happy to let them choose the actors.
Learn more about the book and author at D.E. Johnson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Motor City Shakedown.

Writers Read: D.E. Johnson.

The Page 69 Test: Detroit Breakdown.

--Marshal Zeringue