Sunday, September 7, 2014

J. M. Hayes's "The Spirit and the Skull"

J. M. “Mike” Hayes was born and raised on the flat earth of Central Kansas. He studied anthropology at Wichita State University and the University of Arizona and lives in Tucson with his wife and a small herd of German Shepherds.

Here Hayes dreamcasts an adaptation his new novel, The Spirit and the Skull:
Even with the infinite casting ability of someone whose choices are limited only by imagination, this was a tough job for me. The Spirit and the Skull is set 15,000 years ago on the North Alaskan tundra. The main characters are among the earliest immigrants into the New World, on their way to become American Indians. So I think they should look the part. The easiest way to do that is to cast American Indian actors. Since Westerns don't exactly crowd our theaters, TV series, or DVD selections these days, American Indian actors aren't so easy to find. Nevertheless, here goes.

Wes Studi – Raven
Raven is a forty-something Spirit Man and the central character in the novel. Wes Studi is older than that, but Raven would have lived his entire life exposed to wind, sun, weather, heat, and cold. I picture him as still lean and hard, but with a weathered face that's filled with character. Wes Studi has that kind of face, and one many people will recognize, since he's appeared in a lot of films and television. He's probably most famous for playing Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn in Robert Redford's PBS productions of Skinwalkers, Coyote Waits, and A Thief of Time. Studi is Cherokee.

Tantoo Cardinal – Willow/The Mother
Willow was Raven's woman when they were very young, but drowned as they crossed a swift, icy river. Or did she? She's back, claiming to have been restored to her body by The Mother, whose spirit now shares it. And sometimes dominates it. Tantoo Cardinal played in Dances With Wolves with Wes Studi and has a long history in motion pictures and television. She is of Cree and French descent.

Amber Midthunder - Down
Down is a young woman, just coming of age. Amber Midthunder is still quite young, very beautiful, and, with that gleam of intelligence in her eyes, might be ideal for the part. She's had a surprising amount of acting experience. You may have seen her on Longmire. Midthunder is Lakota Sioux, Asian, and European.

Harrison Ford - Ice Eyes
Who else springs to mind when you think of an archaeologist on film? Indiana Jones would add a nice touch to my casting.

Scarlett Johansson – Perfect Woman
“Perfect” pretty much describes Scarlett Johansson. So, since I'm fantasizing, I'll add someone repeatedly listed among the world's most beautiful women, especially since she's also a fine and proven actor.

Given the chance, I might do a walk-on as one of the elders who is no longer considered productive enough to the band's survival—type casting.
Learn more about the book and author at The Words & Worlds of J.M. Hayes website.

The Page 69 Test: The Spirit and the Skull.

Writers Read: J. M. Hayes.

--Marshal Zeringue