Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Jonathan Weisman's "No. 4 Imperial Lane"

Jonathan Weisman is a Washington-based economic policy reporter for the New York Times.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, No. 4 Imperial Lane:
I guess like many fiction writers, I have allowed myself to fantasize about No. 4 Imperial Lane getting the big option and ending up on the big screen. It's not outlandish. I figure with a main character being a quadriplegic -- and a fallen aristocrat to boot -- it has "vanity project" written all over it, if not Oscar bait. To that end, I'd have Ralph Fiennes cast as Hans Bromwell, the cynical quadriplegic. I always saw him as the anti-Hollywood cripple-hero. He does not paint with his teeth or tool around campus on a specially designed hospital gurney operated by his breath. He's the quadriplegic who has his electric wheelchair tossed into the street, as he shouts, "Goddamnit, if I am going to break my neck, somebody is going to push me around in an old-fashioned wheelchair."

Logically, Emma Thompson would latch on to the project as Hans Bromwell's alcoholic sister, Elizabeth. She's perfect for the part. The character is supposed to be a bit flighty, a bit disheveled, not a gorgeous woman, but a soulful one. The question is whether Ms. Thompson can play her younger, 20-year-old self, the character at the center of the back story that leads us through Portugal, Guinea-Bissau and Angola, then South Africa -- and to the family's tragic end. I'd say yes, but if my director disagrees, I'm dragooning Carey Mulligan for the role. I adore her.

My teenage daughters would never forgive me for not casting the dashing and Portuguese Diogo Morgado as the aimless, unraveling Portuguese doctor, Joao Goncalves, who marries Elizabeth Bromwell in a moment of weakness, drags her to war in Africa, and slowly falls apart. Might be a heavier lift than Jesus, but let's give him a chance.

As for my narrator, granted, he's based loosely on my own younger self, but this is Hollywood. I want Miles Teller. He can capture that lost look of a college student with no direction or ambition, but the depth he showed in Whiplash tells me he, like David Heller, can mature and focus over the course of the film.

As for directors, I would have liked nothing more than to reunite Ralph Fiennes with his English Patient director Anthony Minghella. Sadly, Minghella died -- damnit. Given that this would likely be a Ralph Fiennes vanity project, I'd have to let him direct if he wants. Otherwise, I'd really like Danny Boyle to bring the sweep of Slumdog Millionaire and the clear, jaundiced British eye of Trainspotting to No. 4 Imperial Lane.
Follow Jonathan Weisman on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue