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