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