Friday, October 30, 2015

Margaret Randall's "Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary"

Margaret Randall is the author of dozens of books of poetry and prose, including Che on My Mind, and the translator of When Rains Became Floods: A Child Soldier's Story.

Here Randall dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression:
As Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary is about a real person, and I knew her in life, I had only her--powerfully her--in mind when I wrote it. My aim was to bring her to life in its pages. Because Haydée's life was spectacularly imaginative and daring, though, I think it would make a terrific film. For several reasons, I think of Nicole Kidman in the lead role: she could play the young and aging Haydée equally convincingly, her emotional range is broad and deep, and I think her brilliance would find some interesting challenges.

To direct the film? I'm not so sure. My favorite directors have long since passed into film history. Perhaps it would be most appropriate for a Cuban filmmaker, particularly a woman (of whom there are very few). Several names comes to mind: Rebeca Chávez, Belkis Vega... Since the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States in December, 2014, it might be interesting for this to be among the first US/Cuban co-productions (well, Cuban/International, since Kidman is Australian).
Visit Margaret Randall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Jamie Blaine's "Midnight Jesus"

Jamie Blaine is a licensed psychotherapist and crisis interventionist who has worked in mental hospitals, megachurches, rehabs, radio stations, and roller rinks. His writing has been featured in such outlets as Salon, OnFaith, Bass Guitar, Drummer UK, The Weeklings, The Nervous Breakdown, and Ultimate Classic Rock.

Here Blaine dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Midnight Jesus: Where Struggle, Faith, and Grace Collide...:
My influences are not that common for Christian writers. I didn’t read Buechner or C.S. Lewis or Merton. Not much, at least. I read screenplays and scripts like Raising Arizona and Escape from New York and Mean Girls and Freaks and Geeks and The Gilmore Girls. If you want to learn how to write great dialogue, read The Gilmore Girls. If you want insight into poignant without sentimentality, get both volumes of Freaks and Geeks, The Complete Scripts.

Midnight Jesus was written with adaptation in mind. It’s a screenplay turned into memoir. That hopefully will get turned back into script again. But my vision would be more Orange is the New Black than feature film. I like television. You can take your time telling the story and mine are episodic anyway.

Inspirational writers would do well to study scripts. Show, don’t tell. Cut needless words. Everything must move the action forward. Dialogue is king.

As for directors – I love the Freaks and Geeks / Undeclared era of Apatow and Feig. Love some of the Coen Brothers work. I mean, we’re just dreaming, right? Anton Corbijn’s ability to capture dark elegance. Certainly, David Lynch. Mike Judge’s clever touch with parable. Amy Heckerling, of course, the mastermind behind Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless. Do I have to pick one? Can’t they all work together? How about a team of Amy, Mike, Feig and Anton? Let’s throw Amy Sherman-Palladino in as well. Ah, wait. We gotta have Cameron Crowe.

How do you pick someone to play yourself? Hard to be objective. Heath Ledger that’s about 88 percent 10 Things I Hate about You and 12 percent Joker. Keanu Reeves split between Speed, Bill & Ted and Point Break. Kurt Russell equal parts Snake Plissken, Overboard and Tango and Cash.

In reality? I’ll likely get Dustin “Screech” Diamond or that kid who played Napoleon directed by whoever lands the Hallmark movie of the week gig. But that would still be fortuitous. Everyone dreams of getting their book translated to the screen.

Long as I get a cameo as a psych ward patient or late night crisis call. I want to see what the other end is like for a change.
Visit the Midnight Jesus website.

The Page 99 Test: Midnight Jesus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2015

Shane White's "Prince of Darkness"

Shane White is the Challis Professor of History and an Australian Professorial Fellow in the History Department at the University of Sydney specializing in African-American history. He has authored or co-authored several books, including Playing the Numbers, and collaborated in the construction of the website Digital Harlem.

Here White dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire:
I would hardly be the first historian to think that my just published book, to which I have devoted several years’ work, should have a larger audience and be made into a Broadway musical or a film. Or both.

Although Prince of Darkness is about a Wall Street broker named Jeremiah Hamilton, his was a life of cinematic vividness. There were feats of derring-do, including a foiled foray running counterfeit coin into Port-au-Prince harbor, vigorous disputes about business ethics (or Hamilton’s lack of them) including one spectacular incident in which a slanging match in a New York courtroom broke out into a brawl on the steps of the Tombs building, and the violent eruption into the New York Draft Riots, arguably the worst week in the city’s history, where an Irish mob stormed into Hamilton’s house with the intention of lynching him on the lamppost outside. What is most appealing about him, though, is his large style. He may have been a pioneer but he was anything but polite and deferential. Hamilton never turned away or turned the other cheek.

Making a film about African Americans always seems to depend on signing up a big well-known bankable star. And depending on what part of the story the film concentrates, and thus how old he is (from say 20 to 67 when he dies), any of the usual suspects would surely do a great job—Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Will Smith etc. Hamilton’s white wife, Eliza, was 14 to his 28 or 29 when he married her—so for once Hollywood’s insistence on casting the female lead decades younger than the male lead would be accurate enough. Very little is known of Eliza Jane Hamilton, but she must have been a formidable person to cope with all that New York threw at her throughout her life.

As to director. Scorsese always manages to convey a New York feel to his pictures—you may (and I would) argue with some of the history of Gangs of New York but some of his shots of New York were heartbreakingly beautiful. Spielberg has a feel for history and an interest in the African American past in say Amistad or Lincoln. To be honest, though, one of my favorite directors is Ridley Scott. The color and look of many of his films is achingly beautiful as well.

I have no doubt that Prince of Darkness could be made into a great film. It is a wonderful and surprising story that runs against the grain of the history Americans have been taught for so long.
Learn more about Prince of Darkness at the St. Martin's Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2015

Craig Packer's "Lions in the Balance"

Craig Packer is professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior and director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Lions in the Balance: Man-Eaters, Manes, and Men with Guns:
Craig Packer, lion researcher and naïve optimist – either Daniel Day-Lewis or Clive Owen

Susan James, Packer’s wife and collaborator – either Allison Janney or Charlize Theron

Ingela Jansson, Swedish researcher who works with Maasai and lions – Noomi Rapace

Daniel Rosengren, Swedish researcher who was hacked by a machete - Alexander Skarsgård

Emmanuel Severre, the murderous Director of Wildlife – Don Cheadle

Gerard Pasanisi, the French Godfather of the hunting industry – Gerard Depardieu

Erasmus Tarimo, Severre’s reform-minded successor – Denzel Washington

The duplicitous Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources – Angela Basset

Dennis Ikanda, Packer’s student who betrays him, forcing his eventual exile – Andre Royo

Bernard Kissui, Packer’s student who rises up from humble beginnings – Larry Gilliard, Jr

Sara Bambera, animal-rights activist – Franka Potente

Luke Sidewalker, the undercover investigator - either Clive Owen or Daniel Day-Lewis

Joanna, the undercover investigative journalist – Amy Adams

Manic Mike, homicidal hunting operator – Matthew McConaughey

Steve Chancellor, American multimillionaire and lion hunter – Anthony Hopkins

Chancellor’s wife – Amy Schumer

Chancellor’s museum – The Smithsonian

Benson Kibonde, the eloquently honest wildlife officer – Forest Whitaker

Prof Maghembe, Severre’s partner while a government minister – Wendell Pierce

Sidewalker’s Source A – Sonya Sohn

Sidewalker’s Source B – Wood Harris

John Jackson, American hunting industry lawyer & John McCain look-alike – Steve Buscemi

Eric Pasanisi, son of the French Godfather – Pierce Brosnan

Sheni Lalji, Asian business tycoon, Tanzanian politician and hunting kingpin – Anil Kapoor

David Barron, American entrepreneur and Republican aide – Dennis Quaid
Learn more about Lions in the Balance at the University of Chicago website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Molly MacRae's "Knot the Usual Suspects"

Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town.

MacRae lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois, where she connects children with books at the public library.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Knot the Usual Suspects, her latest Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery:
My pie-in-the-sky dream is for Octavia Spencer to make her directorial debut with one of the books in my Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries. Why? Not only will she do a fantastic job, but she and I have several things in common. Did you know she writes mysteries for kids? The Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective series is terrific. I’m in the children’s department at the public library, and I love turning kids onto her books. They feature a strong, red-headed female protagonist. So do mine. Her books are set in a small town in east Tennessee. So are mine. And if Octavia agrees to direct the movie, and she’d also like to be in it, then she can play any part she wants. But if she’d rather stay behind the cameras, here’s who I’ll cast for the main characters.

For Kath Rutledge – Amy Adams. Kath, thirty-nine, is a textile preservation specialist who inherits her grandmother’s yarn shop in Blue Plum, Tennessee. She also ends up with a depressed ghost on her hands. She’s the only one who sees and hears ghost, though, and that creates problems. The versatile Amy Adams can handle them.

For Geneva, the ghost – Holly Hunter. This is more of a voice role, because Geneva is a damp fog of a ghost. She’s the color of raindrops on a dark window pane and no more vivid. Hunter’s soft accent and comic timing are exactly right for Geneva.

For Ardis Buchanan, longtime manager of the yarn shop – Meryl Streep. Streep isn’t old enough (Ardis is seventy), and she isn’t tall enough (Ardis is six feet), but she became Julia Child, and she’ll be wonderful as Ardis. Besides, Ardis sometimes sings “Dancing Queen,” and we know Meryl Streep can do that.

For Joe Dunbar, Kath’s possible love interest – Jake Gyllenhaal. Joe’s lean, bearded face reminds Kath of a monk in an El Greco painting, and Gyllenhaal can fit the description well enough. He’s a few years too young for the part, but that’s what makeup is for.

For Deputy Cole (Clod) Dunbar, Joe’s older brother – Vince Vaughn. Clod is a starched and mulish sheriff’s deputy. Vaughn can pull that off and also make an audience believe he (Clod) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Joe) are brothers.

For Shirley and Mercy, the Spivey twins – Frances McDormand. The twins are in their early seventies, identical, and intrusive. They’re Kath’s several-times-removed cousins and, as Kath’s grandmother used to say, the further removed the better. McDormand isn’t nearly old enough, but she’s a genius, and with split-screen technology we’ll have it made.

For Mel Gresham – Park Overall. Mel, strong and no nonsense, owns and runs the café in town. Park Overall is from east Tennessee, and although she doesn’t act much these days, she’ll be perfect in this role. One catch: Mel spikes her hair and dyes it to match her aprons – anything from lime green to magenta. Will Park go along with that? I wait with bated breath to find out.

For Thea Green – 1st choice, Octavia Spencer, 2nd choice Queen Latifah, although those choices are reversed if you ask the real Thea Green (with whom I work at the Champaign Public Library). Real life Thea is under the impression that she and Queen Latifah are practically twins. Either actress will bring the character of Thea, director of the town library, to stylish life.
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 19, 2015

Gregory D. Smithers's "The Cherokee Diaspora"

Gregory D. Smithers is associate professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of numerous books and articles about Native American and African American history.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity:
The Cherokee Diaspora is filled with incredible stories about people both known and unknown to historical writing. If a movie was to be made that was based on my book I’d suggest a film about Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee syllabary and a man whose personal history embodied the ideals of Cherokee ingenuity, determination, and strength of spirit.

There’s only one actor who could play the lead role: Wes Studi. Studi’s a Cherokee actor and is brilliant in everything he appears in. In the recent comedy short Ronnie BoDean he was amazing. Studi has skill and range as an actor; I think he was born to play the role of Sequoyah.

Hollywood has a long history of using racial clichés to represent Native people. In fact, there’s been surprisingly little cinematic treatment of Cherokee history, including the infamous Trail of Tears. A film focused around Sequoyah would begin the process of correcting Hollywood’s past errors and present audiences with a complex portrayal of a Cherokee hero.

Sequoyah was born in what is today Tennessee around 1770 to a white father and a Cherokee mother. His mother, a role that’d be perfect for Kimberly Guerrero (an enrolled member of the Colville Tribe, and who also has Salish-Kootenai and Cherokee ancestry), raised her son with the assistance of her brothers. This upbringing provided Sequoyah with the springboard from which he invented the Cherokee system of writing, a syllabary that he believed would remind Cherokees that they, like the white man, could also speak without talking.

But Sequoyah’s life involved more than his invention of the syllabary. He was also prominent in Cherokee politics, was part of Cherokee migrations to the Arkansas Valley and Indian Territory prior to the Trail of Tears, and breathed his last breathe while visiting family in Mexico. Sequoyah, in other words, lived a diasporic life and gave diaspora Cherokees the ability to communicate in their own language over vast distances.

Who else but Wes Studi could do cinematic justice to such an important Cherokee life?
Visit Gregory D. Smithers's website, and learn more about The Cherokee Diaspora at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 16, 2015

Gil Troy's "The Age of Clinton"

Gil Troy has been a professor at McGill University since 1990. Maclean’s Magazine has repeatedly identified him as one of McGill’s “Popular Profs” and History News Network designated him one of its first “Top Young Historians.” His many books include Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism.

Here Troy dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s:
Any casting director working on a movie about Bill and Hillary Clinton has to deal with four amazing actors who have already filled the roles. In Primary Colors John Travolta oozes charm as Governor Bill Clinton, running for president in 1992, and Emma Thompson telegraphs (too much) coldness as his frustrated wife Hillary. And in the long-running series West Wing, Martin Sheen and Stockard Channing, don’t play the Clintons – but did help mold Americans’ impressions of what the ideal presidential couple should be and, in an odd way, what the Clintons were like.

For Bill Clinton today, I think I’d go with Brad Pitt, Robert Downey, Jr., or another West Wing regular, Rob Lowe. Each of them, in their own way, has that combination of charisma and genius necessary for the role – and Clinton, like Lowe and Downey, has been quite the bad boy over the years and survived because, like Downey, he is The Ironman. For Hillary, I wish I could have given the role to Katherine Hepburn, to capture Hillary’s combination of smarts and suffering over the years but Meryl Streep would do brilliantly. Another interesting choice would be Reese Witherspoon – Hillary spent years forced to play a Southern belle as wife of the Arkansas Governor. It would be fun to see Witherspoon forced to play a Northerner playing a Southerner. The great actress from Weeds, Mary-Louise Parker, who plays a suburban housewife turned drug dealer could be compelling as Hillary, a Braniac policy type called Sister Frigidaire in high school forced to play a gladhanding celebrity politician.

Beyond the casting challenge of playing the Clintons – who continue to play themselves quite colorfully – there’s a host of other celebrities who appear in the book, which looks at the culture and technology of the 1990s, not just the Clinton presidency. I would cast Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad as Bill Gates –I’d rather imagine Cranston playing the man who helped invented the 21st century than playing a character who destroyed so many minds in the 21st century with his powerful “Batches.” Aaron Paul – Jesse from Breaking Bad – could play Kurt Cobain, or anyone else from the Seattle Grunge scene, or the New York drugged out Rent scene or the Beverly Hills spoiled suburbanite scene, all of which appear in the book. And, of course, Oprah could play herself, especially if she revives Oprah’s Book Club to feature my book, The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s or even if she just promised to produce either a documentary based on the book or a fictionalized version capturing all the color of the Clinton presidency and that rollicking peace and prosperity decade.

Finally, the biggest challenge, the supporting cast. The book tries to tell the story of 300 million plus Americans over the course of a decade. All of us who were alive then were part of that story, and we will all clamor to see ourselves onscreen, because, even more so than before, in the 1990s, we all believed that if it wasn’t on a TV screen, a movie screen, or increasingly, a computer monitor, it didn’t really happen.
Learn more about the book and author at Gil Troy's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Moynihan's Moment.

My Book, The Movie: Moynihan's Moment.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Amy Sue Nathan's "The Good Neighbor"

Amy Sue Nathan was born and raised in Philadelphia and is a graduate of Temple University with a Bachelor’s in Journalism (a degree she actually uses). She has called the Chicago area home since the late 1990s, and is the proud mom of two grown children (her favorite oxymoron). In addition to being a writer, editor, and blogger, she's a dog-lover, vegetarian, not-so-secret crafter, and lover of all things wine and chocolate.

Nathan's debut novel, The Glass Wives, was published by St. Martin’s Griffin in May 2013.

Here Nathan dreamcasts an adaptation of her second novel, The Good Neighbor:
When I wrote The Good Neighbor, just like with my first novel and now my third, I didn’t see faces. I don’t imagine doppelgangers. I don’t envision actual people. Still, when I think about it, I imagine who could capture the essence of the character. For Izzy Lane, after much consideration and thought, I’ve come up with the perfect actress for the role: Sandra Bullock. I think Bullock would bring Izzy’s kind heart and crazy confusion to life. And, as the single mother of a young son, Bullock would definitely get Izzy’s single mom part perfectly. For Mrs. Feldman, I come up with Betty White because of her age. I see Mrs. Feldman though (when I force myself) more of an aged Meryl Streep. Mrs. Feldman is wise and kind of quirky with a big secret. I’d love to see Streep in that role. For Andrew, again, though neither of these actors are the right age, I picture someone like Josh Gad (who’s too young) or Albert Brooks (who’s too old – so let’s go with the 1991 Brooks from Defending Your Life). Izzy’s best friends are Jade and Rachel. Anne Hathaway would make a great urban Jade and Drew Barrymore would be a great suburban Rachel—again, they’re both moms and that would come through. I don’t think these actors are the right age either but hey, it’s Hollywood. We’ll hire a great make-up artist.

See you on the red carpet!
Learn more about the book and author at Amy Sue Nathan's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Amy Sue Nathan & Mitzi and Lizzie.

My Book, The Movie: The Glass Wives.

The Page 69 Test: The Glass Wives.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Neighbor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 12, 2015

Homer Hickam's "Carrying Albert Home"

Homer Hickam is the bestselling and award-winning author of many books, including the #1 New York Times memoir Rocket Boys, which was adapted into the popular film October Sky. A writer since grade school, he is also a Vietnam veteran, a former coal miner, a scuba instructor, an avid amateur paleontologist, and a retired engineer.

Here Hickam dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator:
Carrying Albert Home is a family legend about my parents, Homer (Sr.) and Elsie Hickam, and told by them over decades. When I first heard their various stories of Albert and how they carried him (along with a rooster) from West Virginia to Florida in the backseat of an old Buick during the Great Depression, I just thought I was hearing tales of youthful misadventure. That was true but it turns out the family legend of Albert is a bit more. When I put their stories together sequentially for the purposes of my novel, I discovered that my parents had actually sent me a message from their present location which I am fairly certain is heaven. Rather than being a story of an outlandish road trip, Carrying Albert Home was nothing less than their explanation of why they stayed together during sixty years of marriage while essentially not agreeing on much of anything. It was, of course, all because of love, that inadequate word that describes the most marvelous and least understood of human emotions.

If there is a movie made based on Carrying Albert Home (actually a very real possibility), I think it would be inspired casting to put Jake Gyllenhaal into the role of Homer and his erstwhile girlfriend Taylor Swift into the role of Elsie. True, Jake is a little old for the 23-year old Homer in Albert but I think there would be a lot of sexual and every other kind of tension automatically between him and Ms Swift. I'm aware that she is a singer, not an actor, but I think she's got some acting chops that would come out if paired with Jake. It would also be kind of cool for Jake to not only have played me in a movie (October Sky) but my father!

As for Albert, I would imagine a great deal of work would have to be done to find just the perfect little alligator. He'd have to be a happy creature, be able to say "Yeah, yeah, yeah" on cue, and generally be cute as only little alligators can be. For the rooster, that might be even more difficult because I don't really know why he was in the novel, just that he was.
Visit Homer Hickam's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 9, 2015

Simon Toyne's "The Searcher"

Simon Toyne is the bestselling author of the Sanctus trilogy: Sanctus, The Key, and The Tower. A writer, director, and producer in British television for twenty years, he worked on several award-winning shows, one of which won a BAFTA. His books have been translated into twenty-seven languages and published in more than fifty countries. He lives with his wife and family in England and the south of France, where he is at work on his second Solomon Creed novel.

Here Toyne dreamcasts an adaptation of The Searcher, the first novel in the Solomon Creed series:
The Searcher has just been optioned by Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, so who knows, maybe the boss will play my hero, Solomon Creed. I always tend to cast my books as I’m writing them and have a character document with visual steers and notes about what they look like and how they act. It’s a useful way of keeping track of who’s who in the long process of first draft and then revisions. It also means I can jot down notes that occur to me and refer back when I’m writing different characters. Sometimes I’ll have an idea about one character, for instance, while I’m writing another so it’s a useful and easy way to capture these thoughts before they vanish into the ether.

Solomon Creed is very thin and elegant and pale, almost albino-like with white skin and hair and pale grey eyes. One character describes him as looking like a beautiful marble statue that has come to life. When I was writing the character I started off seeing him as Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, then he morphed into David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth. For a while he looked like Michael Fassbender and then ended up as Cillian Murphy, only with white blonde hair. Now the book is finished, however, he kind of looks like all of these people, which I suppose means he probably now looks exactly like Solomon Creed.
Learn more about the book and author at Simon Toyne's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Sanctus.

My Book, The Movie: The Tower.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Laura Anne Gilman's "Silver on the Road"

Laura Anne Gilman is the Nebula-nominated author of many pretty-damn-good-according-to-reviewers F/SF novels and short fiction. She also dips her pen into the mystery field, writing the Gin & Tonic series as L.A. Kornetsky.

Here Gilman dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Silver on the Road:
Disclosure: Silver on the Road is the only book I’ve ever written where I had a pretty good idea of who I’d like to cast in the roles as I was writing it. Interestingly enough, my casting had very little to do with matching looks, but some aspect of the actor that caught the core of the character.

The boss (aka the Devil) was first and foremost and always Rupert Graves (aka Inspector Lestrade on BBC’s Sherlock). It’s his raspy voice, and his eyes, and the slightly exhausted look of jaded competence he can project - you trust him, but you’re always wondering why, exactly. Then again, the boss tends to shift his appearance randomly, so we could get a whole bunch of actors to play him, and overlay those eyes…. (Yay digital FX!)

For Izzy, 16 years old and torn between wanting to be an adult and being terrified that she’ll fail these new and terrible duties she’s taken on, I knew I wanted someone young, and someone Latina (Izzy is of Spanish descent by way of Mexica, something my fabulous cover artist caught perfectly). Caitlin Sanchez, a young actor best known for her voice work, has the ideal combination of innocent eyes and determined chin that I always visualized for Izzy.

(Casting under-20 characters is hard. You can find actors in their 20’s who can play teenagers, but it rarely entirely convinces, in my experience. If I were time-traveling, Judy Reyes might have been my first choice for Izzy, for that same combination).

Gabriel, my advocate-turned-rider-turned-mentor, was a difficult one. We only get bits of his backstory, but I knew he was northern-born, of a Metis mother and white father, and educated back East. In his first incarnation, I thought maybe Misha Collins - the right physical presentation, quietly coiled and watching, like the rattlesnake that seems to follow the character. He can do sweet and then turn a dime and be cold, just by a shift in the jaw and a flicker in the eyes, and that is very much Gabriel. It didn’t seem like quite the right fit… but it’s pretty damn close.

If I could dial back time for a bit, I would consider Timothy Hutton for this role, for the same reasons as above - that ability to slip between soothing and deadly with the flicker of the eyes.

And Farron the Magician? He gave me conniptions. I could not ‘see’ him in my head at all, the dialogue falling flat, flipping from one actor to another, waiting to hear something click, until I was stress-binging on older episodes of Supernatural, and hit the “soulless Sammy” episodes. And I realized that Jared Padalecki, now that he’s put on a few years, could rock the screen as the slightly mad, entirely deadly, and yet unnervingly amusing Farron Easterly. And he fit the physical description of Farron, too!

(Jared, have your people call my people. Seriously.)

And Marie, the boss’ Right Hand? I’m going to call for a time-turner on that on, and demand a late-30’s Jodie Foster for Marie. You’ll know why when you meet her.
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Anne Gilman's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 5, 2015

Julia Buckley's "The Big Chili"

Julia Buckley is the author of the Undercover Dish Mysteries, the Teddy Thurber Mysteries, and the Madeline Mann Mysteries. She’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Romance Writers of America, as well as the Chicago Writers Association. Buckley has taught high school English for over twenty years.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The Big Chili:
I think authors often dream of their characters coming to life, and I certainly have wondered what a casting director might do with these people of my imagination.

If I had my druthers, here’s who I might choose.

My main character, Lilah Drake, is smart but sweet—honest and loyal. She also feels unlucky in love, despite the interest of two very handsome men. So here’s an attempt to capture the personalities of that love triangle.

For Lilah, I’m thinking Greta Gerwig. She’s twenty-ish and very pretty without looking overly made up. She has a natural look, and she projects friendliness, which I think Lilah does, as well.

Lilah falls pretty quickly for a handsome dark-haired police detective. In fact, she is often almost confused by how good-looking he is. For the character of the enigmatic Jay Parker, I think the closest match is Henry Cavill, the actor from Superman. Cavill has the dark-haired mystery, but also the slightly aloof look that Jay tends to project.

Lilah also has an ex-boyfriend. He too is extremely good looking: a dark-haired Italian who has all the charisma that Jay keeps to himself. Lilah soon tired of Angelo Cardini’s easy charm, though, which is why she is currently unattached.

For Angelo, l like the actor Alessio Boni (though I would need a younger version of him). Boni looks ruggedly handsome and eye-catching. Angelo, who owns a restaurant on the main drag of Pine Haven, is always catching the attention of local women, much to Lilah’s chagrin.

Finally, for Perpetua Grandy, a local woman and a devoted parishioner of St. Bart’s Church (for whom Lilah makes a pot of ill-fated chili), I would cast the amazing Melissa McCarthy. McCarthy would bring out the earnestness of Pet, as Lilah calls her, and convey the homey quality of this character.

It’s fun to try to put a face on something that is, in essence, just a little fume of the imagination. These concrete images make the story more real, and pay tribute to the creative intentions of the author.
Learn more about the book and author at Julia Buckley's website and her blog, Mysterious Musings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 2, 2015

David O. Stewart's "The Wilson Deception"

David O. Stewart is the author of several works of history, including Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America, which have been awarded the Washington Writing Award and the Society of the Cincinnati History Prize.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Wilson Deception:
The Wilson Deception, set at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 at the end of World War I, has a wide roster of complicated and intriguing characters to cast.

The first challenge is finding an actor who can embody the contradictory elements of Woodrow Wilson. He seemed physically robust but was actually rather fragile; he combined idealism with charm and intelligence, yet also could be prejudiced and inflexible. He loved to sing hymns, make up limericks on the fly, and tell embarrassing darkie jokes from his Southern boyhood. Though he’s a Brit, Tom Wilkinson does a great American accent and can capture all of these contradictions. He’d be great.

With two central protagonists in their late fifties – Dr. Jamie Fraser and the ex-ballplayer Speed Cook – we stay with more mature actors. I would lean toward William Hurt for Fraser. Hurt has the physical size and superficial blandness of middle-America that Fraser embodies, but he also conveys a surprising depth and complexity. Fraser is often a step slow in picking up the thread, particularly with his very clever wife, and Hurt does that extremely well. You can watch him think.

For Speed Cook, it’s hard not to see Denzel Washington in the role. He could bring the physical grace and power of the over-the-hill athlete, combined with the barely-suppressed rage of the “race man” of that Jim Crow era. If Denzel is busy (always a risk), I also think Ving Rhames would be an outstanding option. He does the glowering rage thing better than anyone, and is likely ready for more challenging roles after all those sweet paydays in the Mission Impossible movies.

I would take a chance on a young unknown for Joshua Cook, Speed’s son, a soldier in the Allied Expeditionary Force fighting for his life and future against a racist, segregated military establishment.

For Eliza Fraser, the worldly theatrical impresario with a knack for targeting husband Jamie’s self-esteem, Diane Lane would be wonderful. It also would be wonderful to meet her, but I digress.

Finally, John Goodman with a French accent and a malevolent gleam in his eye would be a brilliant Colonel Boucher of the French spy service. But then, he’s brilliant at everything he does.

Damn, we are talking large budget! But why not dream big?
Learn more about the book and author at David O. Stewart's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue