Saturday, July 26, 2014

Arthur Allen's "The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl"

Since 1995 Arthur Allen has been writing articles and books, mostly about science and medicine, for publications such as The Washington Post, Science, Smithsonian, Landscape Architecture, The New Republic and His 2007 book Vaccine was the first major U.S. work to examine the anti-vaccine movement, and he has written many articles about the science and anthropology of vaccines. In 2010 he published Ripe, a foray into the world of tomato breeding, genetics, culture and food snobbism, which allowed him to spend time in southern Italy, Mexico and western China.

Here Allen sketches a dream scenario for an adaptation of his new book, The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis:
I’m Steven Spielberg, or Agnieska Holland, or … Steven Soderbergh? Jim Jarmusch? It’s another beautiful day in Hollywood. The casting agent is in my office now (is that how it works?) and, over wheatgrass juice, Ethiopian coffee and macadamia nuts, we’re examining her selections for my pic, The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl….

For some reason I’ve always imagined Ben Kingsley in the role of Ludwik Fleck. He’s monkish, intelligent, sly —a reprise of Kingsley’s 1982 role as Mahatma Gandhi. On the other hand, maybe Kingsley’s too old. Adrien Brody? Moritz Bleibtreu? (Run, Lola, Run; Munich.)

Ernestyna Fleck I had figured as Meryl Streep… but she’s a bit long in the tooth for the role (did it take me that long to finish this book?). Sophie Marceau? Marion Cotillard?

Already, I can see that it’s a good thing I didn’t quit my day job…

For Rudolf Weigl… Gerard Depardieu? Lives large, womanizes, idiosyncratic but lovable. On second thought, Depardieu is too large and wild to play Weigl, although the contrast with Kingsley would certainly be sharp. David Bowie? (Don’t laugh, he played Tesla in 2006)… Anyone can wear a stage goatee, but is there an actor who can play a man simultaneously genius and reticent, perceptive yet indifferent to the affairs of the world, a brave homebody, scornful and fun-loving, ribald and utterly absent-minded?

His wife Zofia Weigl is played by Rachel Weisz. Beautiful, talented, sensitive, troubled, sickly…

In the role of Erwin Ding, the unloved and often vicious SS doctor, Ralph Fiennes is the obvious choice, although what youngish actor worth his salt can’t play an ostensibly genial, deeply insecure, sadistic and opportunistic Nazi doctor? Michael Fassbender? Jason Schwarzman? (There’s a comical element here, which you’ll see if you read the book.)

Hermann Eyer is a tougher choice. A younger Bruno Ganz would have been my first choice—the Bruno Ganz from The American Friend. Thoughtful, moody, preoccupied, skilled. Maybe Marek Kondrat (the Polish actor)?

As Bruno Weber, the SS doctor at Auschwitz, Benno Fürmann (who plays a persecuted Jew in Into Darkness.)

Anyway, it’s a start.
Visit Arthur Allen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Vaccine.

Writers Read: Arthur Allen (July 2007).

--Marshal Zeringue