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