Monday, June 10, 2013

Peter Carlson's "Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy"

Peter Carlson, a former reporter and columnist for The Washington Post, is the author of three books of American history, including the newly published Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey.

Here Carlson dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book:
My book is the true story of two reporters for the New York Tribune—Junius Browne and Albert Richardson—who covered the Civil War until Confederate soldiers captured them as they tried to sneak past Vicksburg on a hay barge. The reporters were shuffled from one horrendous Confederate prison to another until they finally escaped and attempted to walk across the snow-covered Appalachians with the help of slaves and pro-Union bushwhackers. When I learned about their story, my first thought was: Wow! This would make a great movie!

I don’t make movies, though, so I wrote the book instead. But I still think it would make a fantastic film—part adventure story, part comedy, part buddy movie, a cross between Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

You’ve got two buddies, each 29 when they were captured. Albert was handsome and strong. Maybe Bradley Cooper could play him. Junius was scrawny, prematurely bald, a nerdy intellectual type. Woody Allen or Wally Cox could have played him decades ago; now maybe Jesse Eisenberg.

They meet many interesting characters during their travels, including Abraham Lincoln—a good opportunity for Daniel Day Lewis to dust off his stovepipe hat. They also encounter a handsome, colorful and corrupt Confederate prison warden, who happened to be a playwright and a former pirate—a great part for Russell Brand, who has played charismatic sleazeballs in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. Dan Ellis, a tough, grizzled pro-Union bushwhacker leads Junius and Albert over the mountains—a good role for Johnny Depp or Mark Ruffalo.

During their worst moment of danger, the reporters were rescued by a mysterious and beautiful teenage girl riding a horse through the mountains. (Yes, this stuff all really happened!) This part would be perfect for Rooney Mara or Scarlett Johansson or Jennifer Lawrence but I think it ought to go to some beautiful young unknown actress who really knows how to handle a horse.

Shouldn’t the author of the book get a small cameo role in the movie? As a former newspaper reporter, I’d love to play Richard Colburn, a reporter for the New York World, and a pal of Junius and Albert. Colburn missed the Battle of Pea Ridge but had the audacity to write a first person account of the battle anyway. Sitting in a comfortable hotel room 200 miles from the fighting, he began his story with this hilarious bit of balderdash:

“Even now, while I attempt to collect my blurred and disconnected thoughts, the sound of booming cannon and the crack of rifle rings in my ear, while visions of carnage and the flame of battle hover beyond my sight. Three days of constant watching, without food or sleep, and the excitement of the struggle, have quite unstrung my nerves.”

It’s a story of adventure and absurdity, and as such, it would be a great vehicle for the Coen brothers. Are you reading this, Joel and Ethan? The screen rights are currently available. Give me a call. Let’s make a deal.
Learn more about the book and author at Peter Carlson's website.

The Page 99 Test: Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy.

--Marshal Zeringue