Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jason Gurley's "Eleanor"

Jason Gurley is the author of the novels Greatfall, The Man Who Ended the World, and the ongoing Movement series. His bestselling self-published novel Eleanor was acquired by Crown Publishing in the U.S., HarperCollins in the U.K., Editora Rocco in Brazil, Arunas in Turkey, and Heyne Verlag in Germany. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine and numerous anthologies, among them Loosed Upon the World and Help Fund My Robot Army!!! from editor John Joseph Adams. Gurley lives and writes in Oregon.

Here Gurley dreamcasts an adaptation of his novel, Eleanor:
If I were in charge of casting a film adaptation of Eleanor, I’d have to take my cues from the nature of the book itself. The novel plays fast and loose with the concept of time, and I’d dive into that wholeheartedly, and select my cast mostly from years gone by—with a twist.

Eleanor, the novel’s protagonist, is seen at several ages, but predominantly as a teenager. She’s quiet, strong-willed, carrying her entire broken family upon her back. For this part, I’d leap back in time to the late 1970s, shortly after Taxi Driver, and cast Jodie Foster in the role.

Eleanor’s mother, Agnes, is a heartbroken, grieving woman who has forsaken her family to indulge her sadness. She’s drunk, angry, embittered; it all stems from the great losses she’s experienced. For this part, I’d rewind time a little less far, and cast Jodie Foster from the early 2000s—think Panic Room Foster.

You might already have spotted a trend here. In fact, the titular Eleanor of my novel was named for Eleanor Arroway, the heroine of Carl Sagan’s Contact—who, of course, Jodie Foster portrayed in the film adaptation. I suppose I’ve always thought of Ms. Foster as a sort of soulmate for this character. So it seems quite natural to me to bend time, just a bit, to place her in each of the novel’s major roles.

In the novel, Eleanor is named for her grandmother, Agnes’s mother. This Eleanor despairs of ever being able to make choices for herself. She’s unexpectedly found herself in motherhood, married to an older man, and once again pregnant. In her late twenties, she makes a dire choice that informs much of the novel that follows. For this, I’d leap backward in time to cast the Jodie Foster of the early 1990s—Silence of the Lambs Foster.

The novel spends some time with Agnes’s twin daughters, Eleanor and Esmerelda, when they are children of six. For these roles I take my inspiration from Robert Zemeckis, who in Contact cast Jena Malone as the young Jodie Foster. Malone wasn’t acting at age six, but I’m suspending that bit of reality here. For both parts, Jena Malone, circa 1990 or so.

Eleanor’s father, Paul, plays an important role as she grows up and begins her timeless journey toward her family’s redemption. He’s in his early forties for these scenes, and is a failed architect who sells real estate in a dwindling market; he and his wife have divorced in the wake of family tragedy. To bring Paul to life, I’d select Matthew McConaughey—and hey, trendspotters: McConaughey played Palmer Joss in Contact, so we’re keeping this trend alive.

As her family collapses around her, Eleanor has only one real friend, a boy her age named Jack. He loves her dearly, and would do anything for her—and does, many times. He comes from a similarly disrupted home, and knows what Eleanor’s going through. For this part, I have to break the trend; Jodie Foster can’t play it, and there are no male youngsters in Contact. Tye Sheridan, so good in Mud and The Tree of Life, would probably be my choice. Might have to rewind time a few years to get the character’s age right, but Sheridan’s a perfect Jack.
Visit Jason Gurley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Eleanor.

--Marshal Zeringue