Sunday, March 27, 2016

James Anderson's "The Never-Open Desert Diner"

James Anderson was born in Seattle and raised in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. He is a graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and received his Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Boston. For many years he worked in book publishing. Other jobs have included logging, commercial fishing and, briefly, truck driver. He currently divides his time between Ashland, Oregon, and the Four Corners region of the American Southwest.

Here Anderson shares some ideas for the above-the-line talent to adapt his new novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner, for the big screen:
I like movies very much, but where adaptations are considered, I regard them as a sort of translation. If a novel, for instance, is a cranberry, when it becomes a movie it will be something else. A pear, perhaps. It is unreasonable to expect your cranberry to remain a cranberry in something as collaborative and primarily visual as a film. In this respect I regard the director as being as important as the actors. The choice of director will determine, along with the screenwriter, how the story is told, with the director taking the lead from beginning to end.

As a novelist, if you’re lucky, a director will share your vision, though go about realizing that vision in his or her own way. The idea of putting my novel in the hands of a great director is quite exciting because it opens it up to all kinds of possibilities that I cannot begin to imagine. Unlike some novelists, I welcome that imaginative release.

My dream list of directors begins with the Coen brothers, Ang Lee, Frank Darabont, David Cronenberg, Robert Redford, Kathryn Bigelow, Debra Granik, Sofia Coppola, Kelly Reichardt. All of these directors have certain qualities that I believe would result in a creative vision that I would find both different and yet in tune with my own. To paraphrase Jamie Wyeth, “Terror is often an essential element of beauty.” They also have a real feeling for landscape as character. I also have a sense that these female directors might bring something very special to a film of The Never-Open Desert Diner. If Ida Lupino were still around, I think she’d have done a terrific job. There isn’t room here to elaborate, as much as I would like to. Let’s just say there are some amazing female characters in my novel, and what happens to them as a result of men is central to the story.

Actors: The protagonist is a truck driver, Ben Jones, who was abandoned as an infant on the Warm Springs reservation. To his knowledge his mother was a Jewish social worker and his father a Native American. I’d love to see newcomer Arthur Redcoud, or maybe Tom Hardy.

As for Walt Butterfield, the elderly but fit and haunted (and dangerous) owner of The Never-Open Desert Diner, the obvious choices are Sam Elliott, Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones. But lately I’ve been thinking Billy Bob Thornton could do it. If Lee Marvin were still alive, he’d be my number one choice.

Music: Very important. I’d love to see Dave Grohl or Eddie Vedder score it. And certainly include Yo Yo Ma. There is an alienated punk-grunge-classical vibe to my novel that runs just beneath the surface and contributes to the tension between the characters and the desert. If someone were to lay down a C&W soundtrack it would suck and a huge opportunity missed. A big theme in the novel has to do with opposites attracting and resulting in something extraordinary, both people and music.
Visit James Anderson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue