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