Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kevin Baker's "The Big Crowd"

Kevin Baker lives in New York City with his wife. He is the author of the “City of Fire” series of historical novels, Dreamland, Paradise Alley, and Strivers Row, as well as the author or co-author of books on American history, baseball, and the graphic novel, Luna Park.

Here Baker dreamcasts an adaptation of his novel, The Big Crowd:
The Big Crowd is based closely on a series of real events, about a New York City mayor just after World War II who was forced into exile in Mexico, after he was accused of taking part in the greatest unsolved murder in mob history.

It’s a story about politics and crime, with all sorts of conflicting loyalties between what we owe the people we love, and our duty to the rest of those around us, so naturally I thought of Martin Scorsese as the ideal person to direct it. Someone else who understands the nuances of civic and personal corruption in a big city would be James Gray.

For the mayor, Charlie O’Kane, who started out as an Irish immigrant and a beat cop, I thought of Liam Neeson, who can convey that sort of bluff ruggedness but also a certain vulnerability. Someone else like that might be Bryan Cranston. Charlie is married to a much younger woman, his second wife, who was also a socialite and the most sought-after fashion model in the country. January Jones seems like someone who could fit that role, but also maybe Charlize Theron or even Kate Winslet, women who could play someone who is more than just the pretty face, but able to think and maneuver for herself.

For Charlie’s younger, idealistic brother, Tom, who is determined to clear his name, Josh Brolin could do the job, and maybe Barry Pepper. Rachel McAdams or Kelly MacDonald could play Ellie, Tom’s fellow assistant DA, who works on the case with him and becomes his lover, a smart, feisty woman.

A central character in the book, a man everyone called “Mr. Big” because he controlled the Port of New York, a son of famine-Irish parents who worked his way up from nothing, could be played by Sean Bean, or Ray Winstone—maybe even Albert Finney, who is too old for the character officially for the role, but can do anything. Joseph Gannascoli, who played Vito on The Sopranos, would be perfect as Abe Reles, the mob killer turned snitch from Murder, Inc. And for a dying police captain from Brooklyn, a legendary individual known as “The Old Man” by everyone, I can only think of James Cromwell. Who else could possibly be a tough old, dying Irish cop from Brooklyn? Well, maybe Finney…
Learn more about the book and author at Kevin Baker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue