Friday, November 30, 2012

Anne Lawrence-Mathers's "The True History of Merlin the Magician"

Anne Lawrence-Mathers is senior lecturer in medieval history at the University of Reading.

Here she shares some ideas for the leads and director of an adaptation of her new scholarly book, The True History of Merlin the Magician:
When I wrote The True History of Merlin the Magician I had no real visual image of Merlin in my mind – how can you tie down someone who ‘lived’ from the 5th century to the 16th, and took the forms of boy-prophet, scholar, doctor, hermit, Welsh warrior-prince and half-demon, to one physical incarnation or appearance? The one thing I was clear about was that the historical Merlin was not the aged sage in a pointy hat seen in Disney’s version.

But, once I started to think about Merlin as a movie, the actor to play Merlin was obviously Johnny Depp. A blend of Edward Scissorhands, Captain Jack Sparrow and The Mad Hatter is about as close to the Merlin of medieval chronicles and prophecies as I can imagine – though adding to these the hermit who can see to the very end of time and understands the secrets of the earth might be a stretch even for Johnny Depp. Of course, since Merlin can change shape, and take on the appearance of any person he chooses, this movie would not need to be restricted to just one lead actor. Yet the versatility of an actor like Johnny Depp is so impressive that it’s a form of magic in its own right, and I think it would help to get across the message that Merlin was truly believed to be a real person.

One of the chapters of the book looks at how Merlin the historical figure became so famous that courtly romance (the equivalent of historical novels, in a way) were written about him and became best sellers. It was these romances which imagined an explanation for Merlin’s disappearance from the histories after he’d brought about the birth of King Arthur. The story was that there were two things even more powerful than Merlin’s magic: love and feminine cunning – and the two were embodied in the character of Viviane. Here is a powerful character, but one who is also a misogynist stereotype. Viviane starts out as a young girl sent to entice the great magician, grows into a powerful enchantress as she learns Merlin’s magic, and ends as a ruthless killer (in some versions at least). I am going to cheat slightly and go for a younger Helen Mirren, in her incarnation as Cleopatra, blending into her role in Prime Suspect. That may sound surprising, but to Viviane, Merlin is a villain.

Finally, the director should be Sam Mendes. It’s not that I think Merlin is an early James Bond (though the fictional Merlin was a Brit who travelled the globe, settling political, diplomatic and even religious crises, so I might be on to something). It’s more that I enjoy the idea of Merlin as a musical, with all the doomed romance of Cabaret.
Learn more about The True History of Merlin the Magician at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Timothy Hallinan's "Crashed"

Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of numerous widely praised books—twelve novels and a work of nonfiction—including the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers and the Junior Bender mysteries.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his newest book, Crashed:
Crashed is the first in a series featuring Junior Bender, a San Fernando Valley burglar who moonlights, usually reluctantly, as a private eye for crooks. I've been fascinated for years with the shadow world of crooks, which exists in the same towns and on the same streets as the world most of us inhabit. But let me tell you, a block of nice houses is a different landscape for a burglar than it is for someone who lives there.

The books are funny, although the mysteries are real, people actually get killed, and there's nothing “cozy” about them. If I were a film director pitching the idea (which has, in fact, been bought for movies) I'd describe them as “Monty Python noir.”

In addition to being a burglar, Junior is an unhappily divorced man and the father of a thirteen-year-old daughter, Rina, whom he loves more than anything else in the world. He's eminently plausible as a straightforward middle-class, middle-thirties guy, and he can easily muster a convincing semblance of innocence. The other thing about him that matters (for casting) is that he's nearly always the smartest guy in the room.

I've always been drawn to actors who seem to have a dozen things going on in their minds beyond the words they're saying. My first thought for Junior was Robert Downey Jr., who constantly gives the impression that he might walk through a door onscreen and come out into a completely different movie. And then my wife, Munyin, fell in love with a two-season television series from 2008-2009 called Eli Stone starring Jonny Lee Miller, now playing Sherlock Holmes in a modern-day TV reboot opposite Lucy Liu. In Eli Stone, Miller was so convincingly American that I was stunned to hear his British accent in the DVD extras. He'd be the ideal Junior Bender.

For Junior's best underworld friend, Louie the Lost, a former getaway driver whose lack of a sense of direction finally cost him his job, I'd want the younger Danny DeVito. (I often hear DeVito's voice when I write Louie.)

In the book, Junior is forced into preventing the sabotage of a big-budget x-rated movie that's being produced by the San Fernando Valley's leading gang figure, the beautiful and effortlessly lethal Trey Annunziato. Trey inherited the job by killing the person who held it before she did, Deuce Annunziato, who happened to be her father. Her natural habitat would be the Vatican under the Borgia pope, and to play her (since I can have anyone) I'd approach Angelina Jolie. There's some history here, too, because Jonny Lee Miller was Jolie's first husband.

And finally, the “adult” film is supposed to star a drug casualty named Thistle Downing, now impoverished and barely sentient, but once the most beloved child actress on television, a brilliant natural comedian who gradually lost her talent and her confidence over the course of several years in full view of half of the American public. I'd love to have one (or, for that matter, both) of the Olsen Twins play her. They could do alternating scenes. I think they, or one of them if the other is busy, would be brilliant.

There are lots of good short parts, many of them very vivid crooks, and what I'd love to do it bring Preston Sturges and his entire stock company back to life and just hand the film to them—as long as they'll accept my stars, I mean.

And I have no idea what direction Lionsgate, who bought the film rights, will actually take, but I hope they read this.
Learn more about the book and author at Timothy Hallinan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Crashed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Karen Engelmann's "The Stockholm Octavo"

In Karen Engelmann's The Stockholm Octavo, Emil Larsson is a self-satisfied bureaucrat in the Office of Customs and Excise in 1791 Stockholm. He is a true man of the Town—a drinker, card player, and contented bachelor—until one evening when Mrs. Sofia Sparrow, a fortune-teller and proprietor of an exclusive gaming parlor, shares with him a vision she has had: a golden path that will lead him to love and connection. Set against the luminous backdrop of late eighteenth-century Stockholm, as the winds of revolution rage through the great capitals of Europe, the novel brings together a collection of characters, both fictional and historical, whose lives tangle in political conspiracy, love, and magic.

Here Engelmann shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of the novel:
Here’s the weird thing: a few weeks ago I actually had a phone conversation with a producer interested in optioning the book. “What actress do you think should play Mrs. Sparrow?” he asked.

It took me a few seconds to reply, surprised he wanted my opinion. “Well, I always imagined Kristin Scott Thomas. She’s a fabulous actress, the perfect age, looks Swedish and speaks French.”

“She is fabulous,” the producer noted. “I just did a movie with her. Ryan Gosling played her son.”

Ryan Gosling!!!???” I squealed, serious novelist dissolving into tabloid junkie. “Ryan Gosling can have any part he wants…”

That ended the discussion, and rightfully so. I love going to the movies, but otherwise have a ridiculously limited and naive view of the film business. Let the professionals do their job! However, this does not mean that I cannot create my fantasy cast from the daydreaming comfort of my sofa, bowl of popcorn at hand. Here is my Seeker, the Eight from his Octavo, and several other key roles.

Emil Larsson — narrator, customs officer and man of the Town: Ryan Gosling, of course!

Mrs. Sofia Sparrow — card shark and cartomancer: Kristin Scott Thomas.

The Uzanne — Baroness and villainess: Laura Linney.

Johanna Bloom — runaway apothecaire: Emma Watson.

Anna Maria Plomgren — tempestuous army widow: Noomi Rapace.

King Gustav III — monarch of Sweden: Stellan Skarsgård.

Duke Karl — the king’s younger brother and rival: Michael Nyqvist.

Master Fredrik Lind — calligrapher and social climber: James Callis.

Captain Hinken — smuggler: Peter Stormare.

Christian Nordén — fan maker, refugee from the French Revolution: Simon Baker.

Margot Nordén — Christian’s French wife: Marion Cotillard.

Lars Nordén — Christian’s younger brother: Alexander Skarsgård.

Mrs. Murbeck — Emil’s landlady: Lena Olin.

Old Cook: Beryl Patmore, of course.

I cannot wait to get their autographs!
Learn more about the book and author at Karen Engelmann's website.

Writers Read: Karen Engelmann.

The Page 69 Test: The Stockholm Octavo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Derek Haas's "The Right Hand"

Derek Haas is the co-writer of the films The Double, Wanted, and 3:10 to Yuma, and author of The Assassin Trilogy: The Silver Bear, Columbus and Dark Men.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Right Hand:
Since I've already sold the rights to Universal and producer Scott Stuber, this is an intriguing question. My book centers on a middle-aged spy trying to get a nineteen-year-old Russian girl out of her country and out of harm's way. I'd love to see someone like Bradley Cooper, who has yet to really conquer an action movie tackle the role… and I'd pair him up with a beautiful, young talent such as Jennifer Lawrence. As far as directors go, I'd like someone who has proven as adept at handling character as he has action with a real visual style, like Rian Johnson or Chris McQuarrie. Give us a year and we'll see who rises to the challenge!
Learn more about the book and author at Derek Haas's website.

Writers Read: Derek Haas.

The Page 69 Test: The Right Hand.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 23, 2012

Stacey Madden's "Poison Shy"

Stacey Madden holds a BA from the University of Toronto and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph. He lives in Toronto.

Here he shares some ideas for casting a big screen adaptation of Poison Shy, his first novel:
Poison Shy is full of unattractive characters, so any actors I mention here would have to ugly themselves up a bit for their roles in the film.

I think Poison Shy would make a great low-budget, grindhouse-type movie. It’s full of sex, violence, and people doing horrible things to each other, and what better way to emphasize the book’s gritty nature than by adapting it into a deliberately grainy film with dim lighting and poor sound quality.

For the role of Brandon Galloway, my hapless narrator who works in pest control, I would cast Joshua Jackson, of Dawson’s Creek fame, and ask him to come to the set each day on three-or-fewer hours’ sleep. Brandon’s a hard-on-his-luck kind of guy, and I think Josh Jackson would do a good job portraying Brandon’s pessimism and paranoia.

The real star of the show, however, is Melanie Blaxley, Brandon’s femme fatale paramour. Melanie, a pale and freckled redhead, is described in the book as “beautiful in a trashy kind of way”, causing Brandon to suspect that she could be “the surprisingly attractive offspring from an incestuous marriage” – a character description I’m sure is every young actress’s dream to be told they’re perfect for.

In any case, there is no shortage of flame-haired beauties who, with the help of trick camera work and a talented costume designer, could summon just enough of their inner-bitch to tackle the role of Melanie. The first one who comes to mind is British starlet Natalie Press, who is best known for her role as Mona opposite Emily Blunt in the 2004 film My Summer of Love. Other options are: the raspy-voiced Emma Stone, the doll-like Lily Cole, and short-lived pop star Lena Katina, who was the redheaded half of the fake lesbian duo t.A.T.u.

If none of the aforementioned beauties want to stoop to play the likes of Melanie, there’s always Lindsay Lohan.

As for the supporting roles, I would love to see the man with the best name in Hollywood, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, in the role of Darcy Sands, Melanie’s vile roommate whose unwashed hair smells like gravy. I think playing a scumbag like Darcy would help Mr. Mintz-Plasse to break free from being typecast as a “nerd”. Other options for Darcy are Seth Green, Shawn Ashmore, and Dominic Moynihan. (Sorry guys.)

For the role of Bill Barber, Brandon’s overweight and gassy co-worker, there’s really no other option besides superstar John Goodman.

Brandon’s schizophrenic mother, Eileen, is a difficult role to cast, but I think Diane Wiest, who is probably best-known for her role as the cosmetic saleswoman Peg who ventures into Vincent Price’s castle in Edward Scissorhands, could pull it off.

For the role of Detective Basil Darvish, who is probably the noblest character in the book, I would cast Brian George, who most people would recognize as the finger-waggling Babu Bhatt from Seinfeld. All he needs is a trench coat.

Ewan Bremner, who played Spud in Trainspotting, would be perfect in the role as Viktor Lozowsky, the skeezy bar owner who wears thick-rimmed coke-bottle glasses and shaves his head with razor blades.

Finally, in the roles of Brandon’s dead (and deadbeat) father, Jack, who we see only in flashbacks, and his wrong-side-of-the-tracks mistress Gloria, I can see nobody else but Nick Nolte, circa his mug shot days of 2002, and a haggard-looking Kim Basinger.

My sincerest apologies to any of the aforementioned celebrities who stumble upon this post.
Learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website and Stacey Madden's Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Poison Shy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

R. Kent Newmyer's "The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr"

Kent Newmyer is Professor of Law and History at the University of Connecticut School of Law. His books include The Supreme Court Under Marshall and Taney, John Marshall & the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court, and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story: Statesman of the Old Republic.

Here Newmyer shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of his latest book, The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr: Law, Politics, and the Character Wars of the New Nation:
I've been telling friends, jokingly of course, not to buy my book on the treason trial of Aaron Burr until they see the movie. But now the moment of truth has come. The action takes place in the House of Delegates in Richmond, which during the trial looked every bit like a makeshift Elizabethan theater where the lawyers and the parties in the case were almost indistinguishable from the spectators. Former Vice-president Burr is in the dock, accused of treason (without benefit of even a grand jury indictment) by President Jefferson, who undertook to micro-manage the prosecution from the White House--a fact that brought him face-to-face with his old enemy Chief Justice John Marshall who sat as trial judge. The character of the main players figured largely in the trial, so casting is crucial.

Aaron Burr: short, handsome, piercing dark eyes that captivated the women in (and out of) the courtroom. A Revolutionary war veteran: a gifted New York politician in hostile territory in Jeffersonian Virginia; a brilliant lawyer who directed his own defense; a good play actor, as he confessed, who found it easy to play the innocent victim of a vengeful president (which was easy to do since it was largely true). Burr finds it hard to contain his contempt for Jefferson, the government's lawyers, and their witnesses--and occasionally even John Marshall. Since Richard Burton is no longer with us, nor Paul Newman, and Richard Gere is too old, I would suggest Tom Cruise.

Thomas Jefferson was all over the case, but worked his magic back in Washington, letting his minions in Richmond take the heat. During the trial Jefferson was vindictive, self-righteous, and harshly judgmental. He hated his cousin John Marshall and truly believed that Burr was an enemy of the Republic who had to be eliminated. Jeremy Irons gets the role hands down.

John Marshall, a young-looking 52 at the time of the trial; tall, loose-jointed, and handsome, with dark eyes to rival Burr's. Has to have gravitas without arrogance. The best lawyer in a room full of gifted lawyers. Cool under fire. An aristocratic democrat. Jimmy Stewart would have done brilliantly just playing himself. George Clooney gets the first offer.

The animated lawyers and the extravagant Wilkinson will be cast later, along with Burr's beautiful daughter Theodosia, who also played a part in the melodrama. Finally, the cast of many hundreds who flocked to Richmond to see the action can be recruited as extras from Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard.
Learn more about The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 19, 2012

David Carnoy's "The Big Exit"

While David Carnoy lives in New York City with his wife and children, his novels take place in Silicon Valley, where he grew up and went to high school (Palo Alto). His debut novel, Knife Music (2010), was a Top-10 bestseller on the Kindle and also a bestseller on the Nook. More medical thriller than high-tech thriller, to research the novel Carnoy spent a lot of time talking with doctors, visiting trauma centers, and trailed a surgeon at a hospital in Northern California to help create the book's protagonist, Dr. Ted Cogan.

The Big Exit (2012) isn't a sequel to Knife Music per se. However, a few of the characters from Knife Music figure prominently in the story. His second novel has more of a high-tech slant and reflects Carnoy's experiences as an executive editor at, where he currently works and is trying resolve his obsession with consumer electronics products.

Here Carnoy dreamcasts an adaptation of The Big Exit:
A blogger recently asked me who I'd cast as my protagonist in the movie version of The Big Exit and I drew a blank. The truth is I didn't really have anybody in mind as I was writing the character of Richie Forman. In my first novel Knife Music, I really saw my lead, the surgeon Ted Cogan, as George Clooney or Bradley Cooper (Cooper would be my first pick today). But Forman was just Forman.

The irony is that when I was creating him I thought some big actor would want to play him, even if I didn't have one in mind. That's because he's a Sinatra impersonator and I suspect that plenty of actors would want to play Sinatra without actually playing him.

So after flailing with that first blogger, I decided to think about it some more. Luckily, of course, there's been a lot of talk about Scorsese doing a Sinatra biopic, and the Web is filled with lists of actors who might play Sinatra in that film if it ever comes to fruition.

I'm a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, the guy who tops most Scorsese Sinatra lists. But I think Matt Damon might be better for the role of Richie Forman. That's because Forman, who's fresh out a prison in the book (he did time for vehicular manslaughter), is a former dot-comer, and Damon probably fits the bill a little better as a Silicon Valley guy. Of course, it's unclear whether Damon can sing (DiCaprio has apparently been taking lessons). I also think Jake Gyllenhaal would probably work, but he doesn't have blue eyes. Bring on the contacts.

As for the secondary roles. I like Kevin Spacey for Detective Madden, who's also in my first book. Madden is an older detective who has a drop foot (from a bout of polio as a kid) and walks with a limp. As we know, Spacey does a mean limp. Earlier this year I saw on stage in Richard III and who can forget him as "Verbal" Kint/Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects.

My lead female character is Carolyn Dupuy, a troubled lawyer "coping with an off-and-on doctor boyfriend and a ticking biological clock," according to Kirkus Reviews. She's on a cycle of IVF while helping to solve the murder and I think Jennifer Aniston would be good in the role. Dupuy's sexy, tough, vulnerable, manic, and a bit comedic at times. She's got more of a Mediterranean complexion, so Aniston would have to go with dark hair (she does come from partial Greek/Italian lineage).

I also have Richie's ex-fiancee, Beth (that image on the cover of the book is supposed to represent her). I see her as a younger version of Madeleine Stowe. Maybe Jennifer Garner?

Who knows. My agents are trying to sell the Fi/TV rights now. We'll see if anything pans out. I'm pessimistically optimistic.
Learn more about the book and author at David Carnoy's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Big Exit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Courtney Miller Santo's "The Roots of the Olive Tree"

Courtney Miller Santo grasped the importance of stories from listening to her great-grandmother. She learned to write stories in the journalism program at Washington and Lee University and then discovered the limits of true stories working as a reporter in Virginia. She teaches creative writing at the University of Memphis, where she earned her MFA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Irreantum, Sunstone, and Segullah.

Here the author shares her ideas for director and cast of an adaptation of her latest novel, The Roots of the Olive Tree:
I’ve heard it said there are no good parts for women over the age of forty, but Roots of the Olive Tree has four parts. Each of the Keller women has complexities and secrets that would be rich material for some of the great actresses. The women I’ve met in bookclubs are clamoring for their favorite actresses to play the Keller Women. So I’ve taken their thoughts into consideration in selecting the perfect cast.

Director: Nancy Meyers would be perfect. She did such wonderful work with Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated. I’d love to see her take on the challenge of directing this ensemble. She understands the complexities of older women and how to bring them to a compelling way to film.

Anna: Vanessa Redgrave has the stubborn but humorous presence needed to bring the role of Anna, the 112-year-old Keller matriarch, to life on the screen. Vanessa knows how to breathe full-throated life into a character whether it is Clarissa Dalloway or Edith in If These Walls Could Talk.

Bets is the most crucial member of the cast. She ties so many of the stories of the women together and she has such important interactions with each of the women; Helen Mirren would bring the grace and resignation needed to adequately convey the situation Bets finds herself in.

Cybill Shepherd would be brilliant as Callie. She has exactly the sort of older woman sex appeal that is needed for the part and she knows how to be laughed at, which is crucial for this role. I love Cybil because she is from Memphis and because she’s never been shy about her life. I also know she’d bring exactly the right sort of vulnerability and anger that Callie has over the injury from her plane crash.

Deb made a terrible mistake of passion and of anger when she was young. I’d like to see someone with the range and sympathy needed to play this part. Beth Grant, a wonderful character actress comes to mind. Her work in so many roles—especially Little Miss Sunshine is terrific. She inhabits a role so exactly that she disappears into it and you don’t remember what a terrific actress she is until you see her in something else.

Erin, at twenty-five, is the youngest of the Keller women, but she has a wise soul. Ginnifer Goodwin is exactly the sort of old soul, young actress to play the role. Her work on television is extraordinary and she always manages to fill the screen with life—the sort of rosy presence needed to contrast against the age of the rest of the Keller women. I love how she plays a mother to someone nearly her own age on Once Upon A Time and manages to make it exactly believable.
Learn more about the book and author at Courtney Miller Santo's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Roots of the Olive Tree.

Writers Read: Courtney Miller Santo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Matthew Costello's "Home"

Matthew Costello is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter and video game writer. His best-selling video games include The 7th Guest, Doom 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean. His horror novel, Beneath Still Waters, was filmed by Lionsgate. He also has written episodes and created TV formats for PBS, Disney, SyFy, and the BBC.

Here he shares some ideas for cast and director of an adaptation of his latest novel, Home:
Actors? There are two key adult roles that I would focus on. About those in a minute.

The kids would require finding a 9/10 year old boy and 13/14 year old girl. The boy, Simon, needs have that mix that boys that age can have -- of being little kids one moment, then turning into totally brash, take-on-the-world brats. One minute you adore them, the next you wish the pirates would come spirit them away.

For the girl, Kate, the actress playing the daughter in HomelandMorgan Saylor – avoids the Katniss now-stereotype. She has that adolescent ‘edge’, and still conveys the feeling that she can rise to difficult responsibilities…to protect, to love, and to hold a Glock rock steady as the Can Heads come.

For the adults, Kathy Bates really resonates as the family’s early savior, Helen. And for mom…no one person leaps to mind but if you mixed Claire Danes with WeedsMary-Louise Parker, that might be about perfect. Or maybe Parenthood’s Lauren Graham?

Director: Quentin (Please!) Or Robert Rodriguez. Or Sam Raimi, which would get him back to his Evil roots, to be sure.
Learn more about the book and author at Matthew Costello's website.

The Page 69 Test: Home.

Writers Read: Matthew Costello.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Antoine Wilson's "Panorama City"

Antoine Wilson is the author of the novels Panorama City and The Interloper. A contributing editor of the literary quarterly A Public Space, he lives and surfs in Los Angeles.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of Panorama City:
Oppen Porter, the narrator of Panorama City, is an open-hearted, bicycle-riding, binocular-toting self-described “slow absorber.” After his father's death, he has to leave his idyllic small-town life in Madera, CA to live with his watchful and sharp-tongued Aunt Liz in Panorama City, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles. He's 27 years old, terribly naïve, and functionally illiterate. He believes that this is his opportunity to become a man of the world.

The real question when casting Oppen is who is (or could be) today's Chauncey Gardner (Being There) or Navin R. Johnson (The Jerk). My money's on Jake Gyllenhaal. He's only 6'0” to Oppen's 6'6”, but his acting chops and finely tuned sense of vulnerability win the day.

Oppen's Aunt Liz, brittle yet well-meaning, set in her ways, will be played brilliantly by Laura Linney. I can see her now, driving from one notary public appointment to another, sitting right up against the steering wheel, hands at 11:55 and 12:05. (Okay, she's only 48, but by the time anyone greenlights this thing, she'll be perfect.)

Oppen's bus-ride friend and genius manqué Paul Renfro will be played by a rumpled Philip Seymour Hoffman. A solid 50/50 blend of delusion and brilliance.

At the Lighthouse Christian Fellowship, charismatic leader Scott Valdez will be played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, with Mos Def as the perpetual Prodigal Son, JB. Eva Mendes will play the bewitching Maria, an alluring Psychic occupying the space a few doors down from the Lighthouse.

At the Fast Food Place where Oppen gets a job, Kevin Spacey cameos as mustachioed manager Roger Macarona.

Did I mention that Oppen is on what he believes is his deathbed, recording his adventures onto cassettes for the benefit of his unborn son? By his side in the hospital room, his pregnant girlfriend Carmen, a retired prostitute, will be portrayed by a deglammed Rosario Dawson. That spot of casting against type will be sure to yield her a supporting actress nod or two.

Awesome. But I hear the book is better.
Learn more about the book and author at Antoine Wilson's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dayna Lorentz's "No Safety in Numbers"

In Dayna Lorentz's No Safety in Numbers a strange device is discovered in the air ducts of a busy suburban mall; the entire complex is suddenly locked down. No one can leave. No one knows what is going on.

At first, there's the novelty of being stuck in a mega mall with free food and a gift certificate. But with each passing day, it becomes harder to ignore the dwindling supplies, inadequate information, and mounting panic.

Then people start getting sick.

Here Lorentz shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of No Safety in Numbers:
I’m a movie person, and this cinematic sensibility informed much of the writing of No Safety in Numbers. Less so in casting my characters, though, than in how I envisioned scenes and thus tried to get them down onto the page. But I did find inspiration for my characters in the movies I loved as a teenager, so here goes!

Marco Carvajal is the character most directly inspired by movie personalities. I see him as a cross between Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid and Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science. I love Ralph Macchio’s plucky Danny, though he is much more action-oriented than Marco, who’s made himself invisible to avoid being bullied, or so he hopes. And Anthony Michael Hall’s performance as Gary might be the greatest in 80s film history (though Val Kilmer in Real Genius could give him a run for the title). I love his biting, underdog sarcasm—so does Marco.

Mike Richter is Kiefer Sutherland in anything before he became the All-American hero of 24. No joke, when I was a teen, I found him to be the most terrifying actor. His roles in Stand by Me, The Lost Boys, and Flatliners scared the crap out of me. He’s cold and calculating and a bully, but there’s a depth there, which is kind of the scariest part. That’s Mike all over.

Drew Bonner could be Val Kilmer in the 80s, though a doofy Val Kilmer—he’s good-looking and a total ladies man. Maybe more like Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tanner in the Back to the Future films. He’s popular and loyal to the point of zealotry, but a total meathead.

I always pictured Shay Dixit as a young Aishwarya Rai, whom I first encountered in Bride & Prejudice, where she played the sensitive and smart older sister—just like Shay. Not only that, but she won Miss World in 1994, and is the most gorgeous woman on the planet, as far as I’m concerned. That captures how just about everyone in the book sees Shay.

Ryan Murphy is part Tom Cruise in All the Right Moves and part River Phoenix in Stand by Me. He’s earnest and tough, though a little lost, just like those guys. And gorgeous. Like them. I will admit to having a huge crush on Tom Cruise, but Tom Cruise from Legend, and River Phoenix from, well, anything.

Lexi Ross could be a teenaged Jada Pinkett Smith, if she’s anything like her character Niobe from The Matrix Reloaded, or maybe Jennifer Hudson, though I’ve only seen her in Dreamgirls. Lexi’s tough and smart and funny, but not traditionally pretty—not exactly a common set of characteristics in an actress.

If we could dye her hair, Ginger Franklin could be Ione Skye as Diane Court in Say Anything…. Ginger is spunky and smart, but also vulnerable and has some major issues with her dad—very Diane Court.

Maddie Flynn is badass and pushy and a little bit scary, so she would be Angelina Jolie as Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted.

I saw the Senator Dorothy “Dotty” Ross as Angela Bassett in Strange Days. I don’t even really remember the film, but something about her stuck in my mind as I was writing.

It would be amazing to see this ensemble together, fighting for their lives in the Shops at Stonecliff. Alas, it can never be—time has passed me by!
Visit Dayna Lorentz's website and blog, and watch the No Safety in Numbers trailer.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Dayna Lorentz & Peter and Kerry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mary Stewart Atwell's "Wild Girls"

In Mary Stewart Atwell's Wild Girls, Kate Riordan fears two things as she grows up in the small Appalachian town of Swan River: that she’ll be a frustrated townie forever or that she’ll turn into one of the mysterious and terrifying wild girls, killers who start fires and menace the community. Struggling to better her chances of escaping, Kate attends the posh Swan River Academy and finds herself divided between her hometown—and its dark history—and the realm of privilege and achievement at the Academy. Explosive friendships with Mason, a boy from the wrong side of town, and Willow, a wealthy and popular queen bee from school, are slowly pulling her apart. Kate must decide who she is and where she belongs before she wakes up with cinders at her fingertips.

Here the author dreamcasts a big-screen adaptation of Wild Girls:
I feel really nervous about hearing someone else read my work out loud. There is an audiobook of Wild Girls, by Brilliance Audio, and my plan is to get someone I know to listen to it and then tell me, in detail, how it sounds. I know the reader is a professional and I’m sure that her interpretation is excellent, but the fact remains that the sentences have, to my ear, a certain intonation, a certain rhythm to them. I feel attached to the version I heard in my head as I wrote, and I don’t want to lose it.

Obviously, this would present certain problems were Wild Girls to ever become a film. For a screenwriter, seeing your words interpreted part of the process, and if the process is successful, the actors add something that makes the words different, better, than they are on the page. My husband is a filmmaker, and when he directed his first feature, I saw this happen at close range. Incarnated in the actors, some of the characters were totally different from how he imagined them, and that was a good thing; they gave the dialogue a depth and a texture that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. I like the thought that if I were lucky enough to ever see Wild Girls on the screen, I’d come around to the idea that performance adds something to your work, rather than taking something away from it. Still, my weird anxiety might be the reason why I’ve come up with a chronologically impossible cast here.

I’m going against type here, but I’d like to see the main character, Kate, played by Elle Fanning. Kate is brainy and a little bit awkward, and as far as I know Ms. Fanning has never played that kind of part, but it might be good for her to stretch herself. Though she’s prettier than Kate should be, she looks sensitive and thoughtful, like there’s more going on in her head than she lets on. If she were willing to dye her hair brown and could put on just a tiny bit of an Appalachian accent, she’d be perfect.

I think that Willow, Kate’s friend slash rival slash nemesis, would be best depicted by Claire Danes circa 1993. This may be an obvious choice; Willow is a redhead, and everyone who was watching TV in 1993 will remember Angela Chase’s beautiful red hair in My So-Called Life. Unlike the vulnerable Angela, Willow is a bit of a mean girl, and I think it would be interesting to see the teenage Danes play a character with less angst and more fierceness.

Mason, the object of Kate and Willow’s rivalry, should be played by Taylor Kitsch circa 2006. Mason is a bit smarter than Tim Riggins, but he has the same kind of hickish charm. The self-satisfied sideways smile that he puts on when he’s trying to pick up a girl would be perfect for Mason. I’m actually glad that I didn’t watch Friday Night Lights until after I finished Wild Girls, or I probably would have been tempted to make the character even more Riggins-ish.
Watch the trailer for Wild Girls, read more about Wild Girls, and visit Mary Stewart Atwell's Facebook page and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Wild Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2012

D. J. McIntosh’s "The Witch of Babylon"

D. J. McIntosh’s The Witch of Babylon has been sold in nineteen countries, was short-listed for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award, and won a Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for best unpublished novel.

Here she shares some suggestions for director and cast of an adaptation of The Witch of Babylon:
The Witch of Babylon is an antiquity thriller which pretty well signals feature film territory. I love movies and think cinematically as I write. But it’s actually music, a soundtrack, that would most influence the kind of movie The Witch might become and therefore I’d start with the person who would be my dream director – Michael Mann. No one better understands how to make music – contemporary blues/rock/pop - deepen a script and bring out the fear and passion characters feel. His original show, Miami Vice, remains, I think, one of the best TV series ever.

I don’t visualize movie stars when writing a character but it sure is fun to imagine! For my leading man, John Madison, Christian Bale, if you added his softer side, would be perfect. He has dark good looks but with an edge and definitely doesn’t evoke the upright hero figure, so would suit Madison’s penchant for crossing the legal line very well.

Michelle Yeoh would be a great choice for Diane Chen, John’s friend and an aspiring actor, who tells his fortune at the beginning of the novel and ends up fulfilling her own prophecy.

Kristen Stewart, as the former wife of Madison’s best friend, would be an interesting choice for the woman who intrigues him. She has a sultry innocence that suggests secrets held close to her heart and an unpredictable nature.

In the novel, Ari Zakar is a world weary journalist who’s seen too much and yet manages to make people feel as though the sun is shining on a cloudy day whenever he smiles, as he does often. Irish actor Brendan Gleeson who did a magnificent job playing a vulnerable hitman in the movie In Bruges would be perfect for this role.
Learn more about the book and author at D.J. McIntosh's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Witch of Babylon.

Writers Read: D.J. McIntosh.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Iris Anthony's "The Ruins of Lace"

Iris Anthony is a pseudonym. The writer behind the name is an award winning author of ten novels.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The Ruins of Lace, her first novel with Sourcebooks:
My novel, The Ruins of Lace, has seven point-of-view characters (one of them a dog), so there are quite a few roles to cast. The story takes place in seventeenth-century France, so part of my casting goal is to achieve the right look, not only in terms of actors having ‘European’ faces but also an aesthetic appropriate to the seventeenth century.

My lacemaker, Katharina Martens, is thirty years old, but she’s been locked away in an abbey making lace from a young age. The actress would have to show her years, but be able to also manifest a youthful, innocent aura. Emily Blunt would fit this role well.

The lacemaker’s sister, Heilwich Martens, is several years older than Katharina and much more care-worn. She’s been working for years to save enough money to buy her sister back from the abbey. The actress playing this part would need to exhibit steadfast loyalty as well as be someone who looks like she could be related to Emily Blunt. Joséphine de Meaux would be perfect.

Lisette Lefort is a nineteen year-old French noblewoman whose childhood indiscretion has brought her family to ruin. The actress for this part would need to almost display the opposite qualities of Katharina. She would need to appear youthful, but also display the debilitating burden that guilt and shame have placed on the character. Clémence Poésy could play this part.

The dog is one of thousands who were used to smuggle lace across the border between Flanders and France. Tradition has it that poodles were used for this purpose. My poodle would need to look a little ragged around the edges and would also have to be apricot-colored.

Denis Boulanger is the border guard who never manages to find any lace in spite of the fact that hundreds of lengths of it probably crossed the border every day. He has a very literal way of viewing the world. I imagine him as having Asperger’s syndrome. This part needs a very intelligent, unassuming actor who can portray a believable awkwardness; I think Freddie Highmore would do a wonderful job with it.

Alexandre Lefort is Lisette’s cousin and would-be suitor. He journeys to Flanders to buy a length of illegal lace in order to extricate the family from the debt they’ve been blackmailed into paying. This character really comes into his own during the course of the book, so the actor would need to be someone who could be easily overlooked but who has an underlying strength of character. Gaspard Ulliel would be a good match.

The Count of Montreau is one of the story’s villains. Lisette describes him as the most beautiful man she’s ever seen so sheer physical beauty is quite important for this role. If this character hadn’t been so marked and wounded by his past, he would be the perfect, distinguished gentleman, but there’s a terrible struggle going on inside of him that he rarely ever gives voice to. This actor won’t be able to just coast by on his good looks, he’ll have to allow some self-loathing to show through. It’s the kind of part that needs the subtle, voiceless sub-texting that Colin Firth is known for; unfortunately Firth doesn’t have the right look. I’m thinking of someone like Jonathan Rhys Meyers or even Ezra Miller (he’d be absolutely perfect if he weren’t so young).
Learn more about the book and author at Iris Anthony's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Iris Anthony and Larry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 5, 2012

Howard Pollack's "Marc Blitzstein"

Howard Pollack is John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Music at the University of Houston and author of, among other books, John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer; Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man; and George Gershwin: His Life and Work. His latest book is Marc Blitzstein: His Life, His Work, His World.

Here Pollack shares some insight on the stage and screen adaptations of The Cradle Will Rock, words and music by Blitzstein:
The life of the American composer-librettist Marc Blitzstein (1905-1964) had its fair share of drama, from his early years as a piano prodigy and enfant terrible to his turbulent marriage to the brilliant writer Eva Goldbeck, their travels together through Europe (including deportation from Belgium for alleged subversive activities), Eva’s tragically young death from anorexia, the legendary 1937 Broadway premiere of The Cradle Will Rock (for which Blitzstein wrote the words and music), his involvement with Orson Welles, John Houseman, and the Mercury Theatre, his leftist and pro-Soviet activities, his years of service during World War II (including coaching the U.S. Army Negro Chorus and traveling the French countryside collecting Resistance songs in the service of William Wyler’s documentary The True Glory), his homosexual adventures and affairs, his landmark adaptation of Brecht-Weill’s The Threepenny Opera (which helped make “Mack the Knife” one of the great hits of the century), his confrontation with the House on Un-American Activities Committee, and his own tragic death at the hands of three seamen in Martinique in 1964.

The premiere of The Cradle alone has inspired not only the play It’s All True (1999) by Jason Sherman, but two unfilmed screenplays --- Rocking the Cradle (early 1980s) by Ring Lardner Jr. (one of the Hollywood Ten) and The Cradle Will Rock (1984) by Orson Welles (his final screenplay, and dedicated to Blitzstein’s memory) –- along with one script that made it to the screen, namely, Cradle Will Rock (1999), written and directed by Tim Robbins. Whereas Welles contemplated casting the witty, urbane, and irreverent Canadian comedian David Steinberg as Blitzstein, Tim Robbins chose the more soulful Hank Azaria to play the composer. (Robbins also cast, in a small cameo, Susan Heimbeinder as wife Eva.) Welles had the advantage of being able to draw on his friendship with the composer --- who, for all his melancholia, typically came across as gracious, energetic, and, to quote Joan Peyser, “juicy in every way” --- in imagining Steinberg in the part. As for Robbins, it would be interesting to know more about how he made the decisions he did with regard to the casting of Blitzstein and others involved with the original Cradle, including casting Angus Macfadyen as Welles, Cary Elwes as John Houseman, Cherry Jones as Hallie Flanagan, Henry Stram as Hiram Sherman, and John Turturro as essentially Howard Da Silva, although here slightly veiled as Aldo Silvano. Robbins in all likelihood knew that the Italian-sounding Da Silva, who in the years after The Cradle created the role of Jud Fry in Oklahoma! (and who was born Howard Silverblatt), was Jewish, but making the character Italian gave the filmmaker the opportunity to flesh out a fictional subplot in which Turturro/Silvano could enter into conflict with his Mussolini-admiring relatives. Such are the vagaries of theatrical presentations of historical events.
Learn more about Marc Blitzstein at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Carolee Dean's "Forget Me Not"

Young Adult author Carolee Dean lives in Albuquerque, NM with her husband, teenage daughter, and a boxer named Maya. She works at a local high school as a speech-language pathologist where she finds inspiration from students, hallways, and the ravens who occupy the courtyard when the kids are all in class.

Dean says she envisions all of her books as movies. In fact, she hired a media arts student from UNM to create this book trailer for Forget Me Not that looks a lot like a preview for a film. Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel:
Forget Me Not is a paranormal verse novel exploring cyber-bullying and teen suicide. Sixteen year old Ally Cassell finds herself on an abandoned hallway of Raven Valley High School after compromising photos of her are texted around the school. She spends the day writing in her journal, watching the other students out the window, and wondering how her secret romance with senior football star, Davis Connor, went so terribly wrong.

At the end of the day, she starts to leave the hallway to catch her bus, only to see Davis standing outside with his real girlfriend, Darla. Ally decides to stay on the hallway all night, and the next day when she wakes up, there are dead people on the hallway with her.

If I were allowed to cast the film adaptation, I'd choose Jennifer Lawrence to play Ally Cassell. Lawrence played Katniss Everdeen in the The Hunger Games, the brutal survival tale that pitted teens against each other in a battle to the death - good preparation for Dean's story about high school survival.

For the role of Davis Connor, I'd choose Mark Salling, Noah "Puck" Puckerman, the tough football stud turned choir boy in the television hit Glee.

The role for the most colorful character in Forget Me Not, Elijah McCall, the boy who has loved Ally for years and would do anything to save her from the Hallway, would go to Andrew Garfield of The Amazing Spider-Man fame.

Elijah knows the hallway all to well. He spent some time there after taking a bottle of sleeping pills. Afterward he was sent to a psychiatric hospital and when he came out he spent a month speaking in iambic pentameter. In spite of his own weaknesses and quirks, Elijah is the only one brave enough to try to save Ally, and that role requires a true hero.
Learn more about the book and author at Carolee Dean's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Maxine Kenneth's "Spy in a Little Black Dress"

Maxine Kenneth is the writing team of Maxine Schnall and Kenneth Salikof. Their new novel is Spy in a Little Black Dress.

Here Maxine Schnall shares some suggestions for cast and director of an adaption of the novel:
When we first started writing Paris to Die For, the debut novel in our Jackie Kennedy (Jacqueline Bouvier) spy series, Anne Hathaway was the person I had fixed in my mind for the lead in a movie based on the book. Not only did she resemble Jackie physically, but she projected that same self-possession and adventurous spirit hiding beneath a “good girl” exterior. Our sub-agent for the movie rights, Rich Green of Creative Artists Agency, also suggested Natalie Portman, another great choice and one who, we were told, was interested in the project. Carey Mulligan, a very appealing young actress with Jackie-like qualities, had just burst on the scene in her breakout role in An Education, and was someone else we talked about for the role.

We couldn’t think of anyone more suited to play Jacques Rivage, the swarthy French roué who was Jackie’s co-agent and love interest, than Olivier Martinez, so incredibly sexy in Unfaithful. In that movie, he even had the same dark hair that hung down below his ears like a cocker spaniel’s. Absolutely perfect!

Three years later, we have a whole new crop of exciting under-30 actresses who could play 22-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier in Spy in a Little Black Dress, now a more seasoned CIA agent. My personal favorite is Mila Kunis, who is 29 but looks younger. I was blown away by her compelling portrayal of Natalie Portman’s rival ballet dancer in Black Swan, which earned Kunis Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress. Dark, throaty-voiced, and lithe, the vibrant, self-assured Kunis was a marvel of shrewd watchfulness, making her perfect for Jackie in Spy in a Little Black Dress.

As for the male co-star, I would love to see Hispanic hunk William Levy play Emiliano Martinez, Jackie’s Cuban contact, a passionate revolutionary who looks like a young Fernando Lamas yet is scholarly and shy. I can just imagine how the steamy sexual chemistry between Kunis and Levy would burn up the screen. Another Hispanic heartthrob who played Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries and would bring sensitivity to the role is Gael García Bernal. I first saw him in Y tu mamá también, and have been in love with him ever since.

No one could do more justice to the role of Jackie’s mother, Janet, than the incomparable Meryl Streep. Janet, a domineering, driven social-climber, calls to mind Streep’s brilliant performance as the bitchy, demanding fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Like Miranda, Janet seeks perfection in her possessions and imposes exacting standards on everyone around her, not letting Jackie out of the house unless the seams of her nylon stockings are perfectly straight. The battles between Streep as whip-cracking, Social Register-worshipping Janet and Kunis as independent-minded Jackie fiercely resisting the society matron role pre-ordained for her would make for some memorable scenes.

Doug Liman would be my pick for director. He is no stranger to action thrillers, having directed The Bourne Identity in 2002 and executive produced the The Bourne Supremacy in 2004 and The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007. But it’s his skillful directing of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in the comedic thriller, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, that makes him such a good choice for directing Spy in a Little Black Dress, and the prequel, Paris to Die For. The Jackie spy series is different from the usual run of thrillers in that the death-defying exploits, suspense, and romance are all blended with high fashion and tongue-in-cheek humor—something Liman did so well in his movie about a suburban husband and wife secret assassins hired to kill each other. And we all know how that turned out in real life.
Read more about Spy in a Little Black Dress, and visit Maxine Schnall's website and Kenneth Salikof's Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue