Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Stuart Rojstaczer's "The Mathematician's Shiva"

Stuart Rojstaczer was raised in Milwaukee and has degrees from the University of Wisconsin, the University of Illinois, and Stanford. For many years, he was a professor of geophysics at Duke University.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his debut novel, The Mathematician’s Shiva:
I just sent an advance copy of my novel, The Mathematician’s Shiva, to a producer with an IMDB credit list as long as a Hummer limo so, of course, I’ve thought about how my novel should be done by Hollywood. The rule of thumb is that bad books make good movies and good books make bad movies, but I think my novel, a good book, can be an exception to the rule and be a good movie. Here’s the elevator pitch. A math genius dies. Rumor has it she’s gone to her grave with a solution to a million-dollar problem that, out of spite, she revealed to no one. The math community descends upon her funeral desperately looking for the solution. There’s greed, chaos, mystery, comedy and lust. All I need is the right screenwriter – me, certainly – and the right cast and director. Here’s my wish list.

Rachela Karnokovitch. She is the queen bee, a mathematical genius to whom others defer to almost always. I need someone who can play royalty with a Polish accent. Meryl Streep? Helen Mirren? Those two would both be fabulous. Let them battle it out with screen tests.

Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch. The mostly dutiful son of Rachela, he’s an inveterate skirt chaser who somehow, in approaching middle age, must find a way to finally grow up. I need someone who can be dark, intense and also can tell a joke. It’s Liev Shreiber or bust.

Anna Laknova. As close to a daughter as Rachela will ever have and an orphan raised in the Soviet Union, Anna is a mercurial figure who never settles for second best. Cate Blanchett would own this role like no one else. But wait, Isabelle Huppert would kill, too. Decisions, decisions.

Shlomo Czerneski. Rachela’s brother - separated from his family by war and Stalinism for nearly twenty years - is by far the most resourceful of a very resourceful family. It’s Mandy Patinkin. In the bloopers section of the DVD, he can say, “My name is Shlomo Czerneski. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”

Cynthia Czerneski. Second wife of Shlomo and Texas born and raised, Cynthia must somehow try to understand and fit into this polyglot, Eastern European family scarred by war and Stalin. It’s Julianne Moore.

Viktor Karnokovitch. Ex-husband of Rachela. Raised in Soviet privilege, Viktor’s reflexive arrogance is softened by his strong paternal instincts and his deep-seated admiration for the intellect of his wife. Ian McKellan, come on down.

Jenny Rivkin. Admirer of Rachela for her strength and ability to operate with panache in a male dominated academic field. I need someone who can do a spot on Wisconsin accent and can believably hold onto her 12-year-old crush for decades. I’m casting a bit against girl-next-door type here, but summon me Heather Graham, please.

Governor Dombrowski. A man with great hair, great teeth who possesses both a once athletic body gone a little to seed and the ability to sound sincere and greasy at the same time. Where are you, Alec Baldwin?

Bruce Czerneski. Son of Shlomo, Bruce is the only one in the family who was born in the US (and the only one who has adopted anything close to American ways). He can sing, he can dance, and his libido gets him into trouble. Neil Patrick Harris, what are you doing in the spring of 2016?

Yakov Epshtein. Stuck in Nebraska and a perennial loser at love, Yakov is a genial soul who never strays too far from a kitchen and who can surprise with both his warmth and intellect. Give Stanley Tucci a month full of knishes and vatrushkas and he’ll shine in this role.

Vladimir Zhelezniak. Arch-enemy of Rachela. He’s come all the way from Moscow for Rachela’s shiva and for what purpose? I need someone who can play a bad, cunning, hot-blooded Slav. Calling John Malkovich.

Now that I’ve assembled this all star cast, I need a modern Ernst Lubitsch, someone who can seamlessly mix sophisticated, witty comedy with slapstick. He’s young, sure, but he’s very, very good: Jason Reitman.
Visit Stuart Rojstaczer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue