Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Michelle Wildgen's "Bread and Butter"

Michelle Wildgen is the author of the novels Bread and Butter, You’re Not You, and But Not For Long. The film adaptation of You’re Not You, a New York Times’ Editor’s Choice and one of People Magazine’s Top Ten Books of 2006, stars Hilary Swank and Emmy Rossum. Wildgen’s work includes fiction, essays, reviews, and food writing. She is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher, and an executive editor at the literary magazine Tin House. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Here Wildgen dreamcasts an adaptation of Bread and Butter:
The first thing that would probably be jettisoned in making Bread and Butter a film would be the family tendency toward red hair. I mean, there are only so many out there. But I can try.

The oldest of the three brothers, Leo, is the sort who might take a few glances to see the attraction: reserved, a little serious, a little hard to know, a little rumpled. Oh, wait--actually, this is easy: Louis CK. He’s brilliant, unpredictable, perfect for Leo, and he and I have been looking for a project to do together. (Note: This last part is not actually true.)

Britt is the handsome, stylish middle brother, one of those annoying people who is always more chic than anyone else even though you can’t put your finger on why. Paul Bettany is cool—literally, I mean, with the pale hair and icy eyes—but also witty and acerbic in a distinctly non-cuddly way. You also get the feeling that man wears the hell out of a good suit.

I picture the youngest brother Harry as tall, rangy, bearded, bespectacled, noticeably intent and intelligent. Ever since I began this book, I’ve had the vague sense that he resembles someone I know in real life, but not till I sat down to write this do I realize who it is: my old friend from Bread Loaf, Austin Bunn, writer of the much-lauded indie film Kill Your Darlings. Austin, I had no idea you’d haunted me this way, but clearly you did, and I hope you’re ready to give acting a try.

The executive chef of Leo and Britt’s restaurant is the formidable Thea: skilled, stern, the epitome of the boss who does. not. fuck. around. She’s usually funny, and I think she’d still have the glimmer of it here, but Frances McDormand would also have the intensity. I could see her rolling out of bed, putting her hair in a bun, and running that line like a beast. Also, she looks like an actual person, and nothing ruins a character like having her played by someone all smoothed out and flat and shiny. I think she could handle the hard work of the kitchen, and plus, I like to cast Frances McDormand in all of my imaginary movies.

Finally, there’s Camille, whom both Harry and Britt pursue at different points. In creating her I had in mind one of Laurie Colwin’s great characters, the sort whose surface is so precise that her messy human vulnerabilities and desires come as a bit of a shock. Rebecca Hall has that sultry low voice and she can seem either statuesque and stunning or very approachable, and part of Camille’s draw is that she’s more perfectly put together than unshakably lovely. Hall’s gorgeous, but she’s also just plain interesting to look at.

Now I’m off to cast parents, pastry chefs, and local restaurateurs….
Learn more about the author and her work at Michelle Wildgen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bread and Butter.

Writers Read: Michelle Wildgen.

--Marshal Zeringue