Thursday, January 10, 2013

Adam Mansbach's "Rage Is Back"

Adam Mansbach’s books include the number one international bestseller Go the Fuck to Sleep, the California Book Award– winning novel The End of the Jews, and the cult classic Angry Black White Boy. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, and The Believer, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

Here he shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of his new novel, Rage Is Back:
First, let me say that it's a pleasure to answer this question about Rage Is Back instead of Go the Fuck to Sleep (which is being made into a feature film by Fox 2000, and I have absolutely no idea how). These days, when I think about adaptation, I'm as drawn to high-end cable as to film: building out a story over several seasons, instead of shaving the novel down into a two hour story.

That said, I feel like Rage Is Back moves quickly to enough to go either way, and I've been lucky enough to have some film and theatrical interest already. I didn't write it with any actors in mind – though there are real-life graffiti writers like PHASE 2, RAMMELLZEE and KASE 2 who are partial models for some of the characters.

Danny Hoch performs most of the audiobook, with The GZA and Wyatt Cenac contributing smaller roles, and I think Danny, who's an old friend of mine, would be great as Billy Rage, the famed graff writer who returns to NYC after sixteen years on the run, and also makes his way back to sanity after a psychic attack by a rival shaman in the Amazon basin.

As Cloud 9, a graffiti writer and grand larcenist who was Billy's best friend back in the day and plays a crucial role in the epic mission to paint every subway train in the NYC system in one weekend, I'm thinking Michael K. Williams, or maybe the rapper Sean Price.

As Dondi, the book's eighteen-year-old biracial narrator, I'm really not sure. Probably some incredibly talented unknown kid who shows up to auditions and blows everybody away with how naturally he inhabits this code-switching, brilliant stoner who grew up in the shadow of his parents' outlaw fame, got kicked out of his prep school for selling weed, and is equally comfortable quoting Homer and Jay-Z.

As Dondi's mother Karen, a tough-as-nails literary agent and former graff writer, Nia Long comes to mind.

As Ambassador Dengue Fever, a blind, housebound, glue-sniffing mad genius who somehow has his finger on the pulse of everything happening in the underground tunnels of the city, I'd have to go with Forest Whitaker. Or Wendell Pierce.

As Lou, the (female, 6'6") chief of the underground tunnel-dwellers known as the Mole People, I have no idea.

As Supreme Chemistry, graffiti originator and ideologue, beef-starter, camouflage-suit-wearer, and liberal user of a blackjack, Jeffrey Wright.

And as Anastacio Bracken, the villainous (and possibly demon-affiliated) former Vandal Squad cop whose run for mayor sets much of the book's action in motion, Robert De Niro.
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mansbach's website.

--Marshal Zeringue