Thursday, April 23, 2015

Martin Goldsmith's "Alex's Wake"

Martin Goldsmith, author of Alex's Wake: The Tragic Voyage of the St. Louis to Flee Nazi Germany--and a Grandson's Journey of Love and Remembrance, is the host and classical music programmer for Symphony Hall on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and previously hosted NPR's daily classical music program, "Performance Today," from 1989 to 1999. He is the author of The Inextinguishable Symphony and lives in Maryland.

Here Goldsmith dreamcasts an adaptation of Alex's Wake:
I cannot imagine an author alive today who has not dreamed, either by day or by night, of his/her words being made flesh and flickering on a screen, either large or small. More than a few of those kind readers who have contacted me after undertaking the journey that is Alex's Wake have declared it to be movie-worthy, to which I often respond with the time-honored, "From your lips to God's ears!" Just in case that Almighty Casting Director is paying attention, here are some hopeful suggestions:

I first encountered Kenneth Branagh in London in the late '80s, where he was appearing nightly in repertory in Shakespeare's As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet. I couldn't take my eyes off him when he was on stage and have loved his work ever since, convinced that he can bring any character to vivid life. Since part of the irrational impetus for my writing Alex's Wake was to save the lives of my relatives who were murdered ten years before I was born, the idea of Mr. Branagh bringing Grandfather Alex back to life is immensely appealing. For the role of Alex's son, my Uncle Helmut, a generous, inquisitive, good-humored young man, I would love to cast the sweet yet whip-smart Eddie Redmayne, who so recently and memorably gave life to Stephen Hawking. Young Mr. Redmayne also shares a birthday with my mother, which I consider a most auspicious sign.

Three smaller yet crucial roles in the story are those of Gustav Schroeder, the dedicated and righteous captain of the SS St. Louis, the infamous refugee ship that Alex and Helmut boarded with such hope in Hamburg in May of 1939; Federico Bru, President of Cuba, who turned the St. Louis away from Havana as part of a power play with his fellow Cuban officials and some American negotiators; and Morris Troper, the representative of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee who brokered a deal to allow the St. Louis passengers to avoid going back to Germany. Those roles I would eagerly deliver to three actors of range, intelligence, power, and depth: the Academy Award-winning Christoph Waltz, the Emmy Award-nominated Giancarlo Esposito, and the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning Paul Giamatti.

Finally, and a bit uncomfortably, I need to cast a couple of actors to play two people I know quite well: my wife and me. Alex's Wake tells the tale of Alex and Helmut's odyssey between 1939 and 1942 through Germany and France to their eventual murder in Auschwitz. But it is also the story of our attempt to follow in their footsteps seven decades later, to breathe the air they breathed before they breathed their last, and to bear witness. My dear wife Amy is loving, supportive, clever, decisive, and very funny, qualities captured so effectively so often by the Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore. How much fun would it be to spend time on the set with the creator of Maude Lebowski and of the only slightly less believable character known as Sarah Palin? To play Martin Goldsmith on screen I would nominate the amazing Bryan Cranston, whose Walter White in Breaking Bad is one of the sublime performances in dramatic history. It strikes me as more than right that for such an uncertain prospect as a movie based on Alex's Wake, one of the leading parts should go to an actor famous for creating a role inspired by the author of the Uncertainty Principle: Werner Heisenberg.
© 2015 Martin Goldsmith
Visit the Alex's Wake website.

The Page 99 Test: Alex's Wake.

--Marshal Zeringue