Thursday, November 29, 2018

Fran Hawthorne's "The Heirs"

Fran Hawthorne spent more than three decades as a reporter and editor (on staff at Fortune and BusinessWeek; as a regular contributor to The New York Times and many other publications), and as the author of award-winning nonfiction books, before finally returning to her childhood dream: writing fiction.

Her debut novel The Heirs was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in May 2018 and sold out its first printing within two months. It’s a story of second-generation Holocaust guilt among soccer families in suburban New Jersey in 1999.

Here Hawthorne imagines the dream cast for the movie version of The Heirs:
Four of the six main characters in The Heirs are women over 40; in fact, one is 72 years old. In an industry where women are ignored after age 30, I figure that my casting call would attract some attention.

I mean, how could Barbra Streisand turn down the juicy part of Rose Ritter, a no-nonsense Jewish grandmother who has refused for 50 years to discuss how she survived the Holocaust in Poland? Rose even lived in Streisand’s native Brooklyn for many years.

Angelina Jolie actually looks more like my vision of Natalie, the cousin -– tall, confident, stylish -- rather than the more fumbling protagonist Eleanor But I don’t suppose she’d settle for a Best Supporting Oscar. Okay, Jolie can be Eleanor; I’ll just rewrite Eleanor’s description a little. (A lot.)

Too bad Mark Ruffalo has gone grey. I picture the sexy, divorced soccer coach, also named Mark, as the version of Ruffalo in the 2010 film The Kids Are All Right.

Obviously, Rosanne Korenberg (co-executive producer of I, Tonya) will produce the film. She says my novel is “a compelling read.”

And might there be a bit part for me? Perhaps Rose’s mother in Poland? After all, I did some acting in community theater about 30 years ago. And I know exactly what the author wants in every character.
Visit Fran Hawthorne's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Eric Rauchway's "Winter War"

Eric Rauchway is a distinguished historian and expert on the Progressive and New Deal eras at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of several acclaimed books on the subject, including The Money Makers, The Great Depression and the New Deal, and Blessed Among Nations, and has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, Dissent, and The American Prospect.

Here Rauchway dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal:
Winter War covers the conflict between Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover in the months between the 1932 election and Roosevelt's first inauguration in March 1933. It was an especially fraught period in US and world history: the depression worsened into a crippling bank panic, Hitler took power in Germany, and Japan rejected the League of Nations—all while the defeated Hoover still held the presidency and Roosevelt remained a private citizen.

If I were making it into a movie, I would write it from the point of view of the aides to the two men, as indeed for the book I relied largely on the diaries and correspondence of their aides. Making the staff the story helps us, I think, to understand what kind of people flocked to these leaders' political agendas—much as The West Wing sometimes did. Roosevelt's aides were, many of them, marginalized figures: Jews, Catholics, disabled people (like Roosevelt himself) and politically active women. Hoover, by contrast, tended to attract and employ middle-aged white men with firm views. Over the period of time the book covers, Roosevelt's people had to learn to move out of the margins, and to wield power; Hoover's men learned that while they had to give up power, they did not have to accept defeat.

So now the fun part: casting; just for fun, keeping myself to living actors. I'd like to see Alec Baldwin and Stephen Root as Roosevelt and Hoover, respectively. They both have great range, and about the right look, and I have tremendous respect for actors who have both comic and dramatic chops, as I think they do. But as I say, if I were writing a movie I'd put the two presidents into important, but not point-of-view, roles.

In the Hoover camp, I'd want to see Garret Dillahunt as James MacLafferty, Hoover's informal liaison to Congress and a real political operator; Kurt Fuller as Edgar Rickard, Hoover's business partner (who, while Hoover was not addressing the bank panic, quietly withdrew the president's money for emergency use); Ray McKinnon as Ray Lyman Wilbur, the pious Secretary of the Interior; Michael Stuhlbarg as Hoover's press officer Theodore Joslin, who was deeply afraid for the president's life; and John Goodman as Ernest Walker Sawyer, a political operative who was sure the Republican Party's future in California lay in forgetting about the black vote and going after the Klan, small businessmen, and white evangelicals.

In the Roosevelt camp: John Turturro as Louis Howe, the loyal aide who began working with Roosevelt in the earliest days of his political career (no slight on Turturro, but Howe described himself as "one of the four ugliest men, if what is left of me can be dignified by the name of man, in the State of New York"); Noah Segan as the fixer Bob Jackson (not the later Supreme Court justice; this Bob Jackson partied with Joe Kennedy and arranged to get illegal liquor during Prohibition); and Cherry Jones as Molly Dewson, the head of the women's division and, as another Roosevelt aide said, the best "she-politician" in the business.

And for good measure, for the First Ladies, Margo Martindale as Lou Henry Hoover and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Eleanor Roosevelt.
Learn more about Winter War and follow Eric Rauchway on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Eric Rauchway's Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 26, 2018

Steph Post's "Walk in the Fire"

[editor's note: this entry was first published January 2018]

Steph Post is the author of A Tree Born Crooked (2014) and Lightwood (2017) as well as a short story writer, reader, teacher and dog lover (among many other things...).

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Walk in the Fire:
Walk in the Fire is the sequel to my 2017 novel Lightwood and therefore many of the casting choices are the same as the list I created for that book. I will stand by Margo Martindale playing Sister Tulah until the day I die…

As with any new story, however, there are additions to the line-up and so here are my actor choices for the characters new to the Cannon saga.

Clive Grant- Seth Gilliam

Gilliam might not be the most well-known actor, but you’d recognize him for sure if you’ve ever seen The Wire (Sgt. Carver) or The Walking Dead (Father Gabriel). I actually had Gilliam’s earnest smile in my head as I writing Clive’s character, so I think he’d be perfect for the role.

Everett Weaver- Javier Bardem

This is hard one, because although I can see Weaver so clear in my head, I didn’t have anyone particular in mind when I was writing the character. Javier Bardem could certainly pull off the creepiness of this character, but I’d give a chameleon actor like Gary Oldman a chance in a heartbeat.

George Kingfisher- Lance Reddick

Reddick is the actor that first comes to mind when I think of Kingfisher. This part needs an actor who could completely control a room just with his eyes and I think Reddick could do so. I wouldn’t say no to Idris Elba, though, if he was interested in the role…

Victoria Lopez- Zoe Saldana

In the novel, we only hear Lopez through her phone conversations with Clive, but I’m sure she’d have screen time in the movie. This role requires a tough, no-nonsense type of woman and I think Saldana would be perfect.

Miguel- Oscar Isaac

It’s a small role, but I’d love to see Isaac take it on.

Lesser- Freddie Highmore

Another small role, but an important one, and Highmore could definitely make the most of his limited screen time.
Visit Steph Post's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Steph Post & Juno.

My Book, The Movie: Lightwood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Simon R. Green's "Murder in the Dark"

Simon R. Green was born in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, England, where he still lives. He is the author of more than fifty science fiction and fantasy novels.

His new novel is Murder in the Dark.

Here Green shares some thoughts on casting an adaptation of the novel for the screen:
I never create a character with any particular actor in mind. They tend to be based on people I know; a bit from one, another bit from another. When it comes to casting, I honestly don’t know. It would depend more on what the take on my material is, and who they’ve chosen as director. My work has been optioned repeatedly, but as yet no one’s actually made anything. Apart from the one film I wrote myself, Judas Ghost. And I couldn’t be happier with how the casting on that one worked out.
Visit Simon R. Green's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 19, 2018

Elliott J. Gorn's "Mother Jones"

Elliott J. Gorn is Joseph A. Gagliano Chair in American Urban History at Loyola University Chicago. He is author of several books, including Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year that Made America's Public Enemy Number One. His latest book is Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till.

Here Gorn shares some ideas for the lead in an adaptation about his book, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America:
I just finished a book about the 1955 murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi. Let the People See tells the story of the racist lynching of the fourteen-year-old who whistled at a white woman, the trial of his killers, and how the memory of those events changed over the years. I won’t ever make a movie about Emmett Till because good documentaries have already appeared, and now Hollywood is producing a feature film.

But I would love to help make a movie about a book I wrote a few years ago, Mother Jones, The Most Dangerous Woman in America.

Who? Mother Jones was one of the most famous Americans back in 1910 or 1920. She was an old woman, an Irish famine immigrant, widowed, poor. Yet she knew presidents and captains of industry. She was the Johnny Appleseed of activists, especially organizing workers, especially coal miners. Her friend the author Upton Sinclair, described her at the podium: “she had force, she had wit, she had the fire of determination; she was the walking wrath of God.”

She regaled her audiences with stories. She’d describe the prisoner who told her that he’d stolen a pair of shoes; you should have stolen a railroad, Mother Jones said, then you’d be a United States Senator. She told how, when asked her address by a Congressional Committee, she replied my address is like my shoes, it follows me wherever I go. She’d admonish women audiences not to be ladylike, because God Almighty made the women, but the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies. And she’d tell them all to pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living. Tough men wept, their wives cheered, and all stood up for the union.

We keep hearing that Hollywood has no good roles for older women. The role of Mother Jones is made to order, not some historical romance or mythical figure, but a real flesh and blood woman, straight out of history, who faced prison, armed guards, and the army in defense of workers’ rights. Some friends of mine have even written a fine script about Mother Jones in the Colorado Coal Wars. Here is a great role about a great woman, just waiting for a great actress. Meryl? Frances? Judy? Helen?
Learn more about Mother Jones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Rosemary Simpson's "Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets"

Rosemary Simpson is the author of two historical novels, The Seven Hills of Paradise and Dreams and Shadows, and the Gilded Age Mysteries, What the Dead Leave Behind, Lies that Comfort and Betray, and Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets.

Here Simpson shares her take on dreamcasting adaptations of her novels:
I have to admit that I rarely picture an actor playing any of the characters I develop in the Gilded Age Mystery series. I think that's because I know them so well and have such a clear picture of them in my head that they don't closely resemble any real individuals. I've also seen enough film adaptations of novels I've enjoyed, and some I haven't, to realize that no matter how good the actor's portrayal, it can never match the scene I imagined as I read the book. That's the beauty of the written word. What the writer writes calls up a slightly different conception of his reality in every reader's imagination.

So I'll back off from trying to suggest who could or should play Prudence MacKenzie or Geoffrey Hunter or even Josiah Gregory. If the Gilded Age Mysteries ever hit the large or small screen I'll happily deposit the check and turn my characters over to someone else. They won't belong to me anymore.
Visit Rosemary Simpson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 16, 2018

Catherine Reef's "Mary Shelley"

Catherine Reef is the author of more than 40 nonfiction books, including Noah Webster: Man of Many Words, Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse, Victoria: Portrait of a Queen, and other highly acclaimed biographies for young people. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

Here Reef shares a scenario for adapting her latest young adult biography, Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator, for the big screen:
My Dinner with Frankenstein

On an unspecified date in the eighteenth century, on an Alpine summit overlooking a sea of ice, Victor Frankenstein encountered the intelligent creature he had built and endowed with life. This is a pivotal scene in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as the creature informs his creator (and the reader) about all that has happened to him since he ventured alone into the world.

Imagine a film built around this section of the novel but set more than two hundred years later, in 2018. A luxury resort has been built at that mountain site, complete with a four-star restaurant and vast windows that offer a stunning view of sunset on the glacier. Victor and the creature meet there for dinner.

For Victor, the encounter is a surprise. He has climbed to this mountain retreat to be alone with his feelings after the murder of his young brother William. Having anticipated his arrival, the creature has reserved a table and is waiting for Victor at the bar. Fearful of causing a potentially violent scene, Victor accepts the creature’s invitation to dine.

A host leads them to their table. We observe that Victor is dark-haired and slight and looks to be in his early thirties. The lumbering creature towers over him and everyone else in the room. Diners gaze down at their plates, having been made uncomfortable by his watery yellow eyes and shriveled skin. Once seated, the pair orders wine, and we listen as the creature tells his story.

He explains how he learned to speak and read by observing humans. He admits to bestowing kindness, secretly, on a country family, only to suffer hurt and rejection upon stepping forward to offer friendship. “I was benevolent and good; misery has made me a fiend,” he says. Victor urges hope and insists that love and charity dwell in the human heart, but the creature counters that humans’ eyes have been clouded by prejudice: “Where they ought to see a feeling and kind friend, they behold only a detestable monster.”

A waiter unobtrusively serves dinner. Victor has ordered papet vaudois, a heavy meal of sausages, potatoes, and leeks. The creature, accustomed to foraging for acorns, has chosen a salad. Yet as they eat and the creature continues his story, it is he who displays a hearty appetite. Victor plays with his food, and when the creature declares “everlasting war” against humanity and especially “him who had formed me,” Victor’s face takes on the pallor of indigestion. His companion then confesses that in his rage he strangled William.

Victor sits sick and bewildered as coffee is brought to the table. Filmgoers hear his voiced-over thoughts, how he wishes he were at home with Elizabeth, his intended bride, curling up to read a good book and forgetting every care; how he believes that he bears responsibility for William’s death. The creature then spells out what is to happen next. Victor must return to his laboratory and fashion another being, a female companion for his first creation. Initially Victor refuses, but the creature leans close and taps a thick finger on the table as he whispers a threat, mafia-style: Comply, or “I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you curse the hour of your birth.”

The meal finished, a benumbed Victor separates from his dining companion, who has promised to be watching him. He wanders the grounds of the lodge, until sitting beside a fountain he gives way to miserable tears.

The movie now cuts to another setting for a final, brief scene, because we must remember that my book is about Mary Shelley, Frankenstein’s author. We see Mary, a twenty-first-century teen, type the words “miserable tears” on her laptop and click “save,” before she answers a call on her iPhone. “Hey, Percy,” she says. “What’s up?”
The Page 99 Test: Mary Shelley.

Writers Read: Catherine Reef.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Norman S. Poser's "The Birth of Modern Theatre"

Norman S. Poser is professor emeritus at Brooklyn Law School.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Birth of Modern Theatre: Rivalry, Riots, and Romance in the Age of Garrick:
A film based on The Birth of Modern Theatre? Why not? The book has plenty of action, taking place both on and off the stage, as well as fascinating characters: love affairs and romances; bitter backstage rivalries and close friendships; audiences that consider themselves essential participants in the theatrical experience and riot when they don’t care for a play or a performer; a criminal trial over a claimed sexual assault; a zany restaurant and lecture center run by an eccentric actor; an out-of-control bigamous duchess; and much more.

So who should play the leading roles in the film? I have a few suggestions.

The most important character in the book is David Garrick, actor, playwright, and theatre manager, a man of short stature (only 5 foot 4) but with boundless energy and talent to match. He was as compelling in comedies and farces as in Shakespeare’s tragic roles. His management of the Drury Lane theatre for thirty years made it the envy of Europe. He charmed everyone: dukes and earls sought him out; his circle of friends included artists, politicians, and judges. His marriage to a Viennese dancer was a lifelong romance. My choice to play David Garrick is the versatile Dustin Hoffman.

Peg Woffington was the leading actress of her day. She was slightly taller than average, with a graceful figure, luminous eyes, and soft, full lips. The word “witchcraft” was often used to explain the hold she had on audiences, whom she thrilled as Shakespearean heroines, aristocratic ladies, and even as a young man about town. Before Garrick’s marriage, she had a steamy affair with him, which ended only when he refused to marry her. While she had a reputation for sexual promiscuity, she was devoid of hypocrisy. I would choose Scarlett Johansson to play Peg Woffington.

Samuel Foote was known for his skills as a social critic. In the plays he wrote (and starred in), he mercilessly lampooned corrupt politicians, hypocritical preachers, war profiteers, quack doctors, dishonest lawyers, social climbers, and other questionable or shady members of contemporary society. He was the leading wit and humorist of his day. But when he dared to satirize a member of the nobility, he found himself in deep trouble. Eddie Murphy should play the role of Samuel Foote.

Kitty Clive was the London stage’s queen of comedy. She delighted audiences as a giggling, plotting chambermaid, but also as the quick-witted Portia in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Off the stage, her direct manner and kind heart made her a den mother to her colleagues. She was generous to those who pleased her but ready to unleash her fury on those who crossed her. Melissa McCarthy would be a natural as Kitty Clive.

Charles Macklin was rough and blunt in his speech and manner, irascible and didactic, with a temper that sometimes led to violence; he once killed a man in a backstage brawl and narrowly escaped hanging. But he was an innovative actor, who introduced natural, psychologically based acting to English audiences. His signature role was Shylock in The Merchant of Venice; for over forty years, his appearance in that role would guarantee a full house. He remained devoted to the theatre throughout his life, which spanned nearly a century. I would choose Al Pacino to play Charles Macklin.
Learn more about The Birth of Modern Theatre: Rivalry, Riots, and Romance in the Age of Garrick.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 12, 2018

David S. Heidler & Jeanne T. Heidler's "The Rise of Andrew Jackson"

David S. Heidler is an author and retired professor. Jeanne T. Heidler is professor emerita of history at the United States Air Force Academy. They have collaborated on numerous books, including the critically acclaimed Henry Clay: The Essential American and the award-winning Washington’s Circle: The Creation of the President.

Here the Heidlers dreamcast an adaptation of their latest book, The Rise of Andrew Jackson: Myth, Manipulation, and the Making of Modern Politics:
The Rise of Andrew Jackson is about Jackson’s quest for the presidency after the War of 1812 It features a large cast of characters, many of them major figures in the twelve-year political campaign that ultimately won the White House. Our preferences then are not necessarily contemporary but are guided by the aim of matching the physical characteristics of the original as closely as possible. Consequently, we’ve drawn our cast from people living and dead to include:

Andrew Jackson - Dennis Quaid
Young Rachel Jackson - a young Winona Ryder
Mature Rachel Jackson - a mature Olivia De Havilland
John Overton - Henry Fonda
Sam Houston - a young Howard Duff
John Henry Eaton - a young Jeff Daniels
Margaret O’Neale Timberlake - a young Ava Gardner
John Coffee - Billy Bob Thornton
John Quincy Adams - Paul Giamatti
Henry Clay - F. Murray Abraham
John Randolph - David Wenham
Martin Van Buren - a young David McCallum
John C Calhoun - William Atherton
Learn more about the book and author at David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler's website.

My Book, The Movie: Washington’s Circle.

The Page 99 Test: Washington’s Circle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 9, 2018

P. J. Vernon's "When You Find Me"

P. J. Vernon was born in South Carolina. He holds a PhD in immunology and published science before turning his hand to publishing fiction.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, When You Find Me:
While in grad school at Pitt Med, I was an extra in The Dark Night Rises’ stadium scene. I usually (and inappropriately) lead with this in all social settings… except the one it was almost-nearly-but-not-really-tangentially-relevant: my first call with United Talent Agency when my book-to-film agent was offering rep. Since I bungled pitching myself for All The Roles, here are my ideas for When You Find Me: The Movie.

My lit agent had rightfully prepped me for the UTA call with explicit instructions not to add my own Secret Diary castings for When You Find Me, so I was thrilled when my film agent asked! I obliged as follows…

Gray Godfrey has always been Rose Byrne in my mind (think less Bridesmaids and more Damages). My lit agent loved the idea of Jessica Chastain, which I also agree with. Angela Bassett would knock Detective Nina Palmer outta the park! As for Annie, I never really settled on who would be the best fit, but Charlotte Gainsbourg is a dead ringer for Charlotte Barfield.

And Joanna King? Patricia Clarkson has my vote. Her interpretation of Adora in Sharp Objects was chilling, and Adora and Joanna have quite a bit in common. But oh-my-gawd, I’d die to see Joan Crawford take on Joanna! Ditto Grace Kelly as Gray.

And a huge shout out to the narrators who brought the audio production of When You Find Me to life: Amy McFadden as Gray and Bahni Turpin as Nina. If I’m not mistaken, both do Film/TV. After listening to their amazing voice talent on Audible, I’d love to see them in any screen adaptation!

I believe that’s a When You Find Me casting call wrap!
Visit P. J. Vernon's website.

The Page 69 Test: When You Find Me.

Writers Read: P. J. Vernon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Montgomery McFate's "Military Anthropology"

Montgomery McFate is a cultural anthropologist who works on defense and national security issues. Currently, she is a professor in the Strategic and Operational Research Department at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Here McFate dreamcasts a film (or two) that might be adapted from her latest book, Military Anthropology: Soldiers, Scholars and Subjects at the Margins of Empire:
Military Anthropology has 9 chapters, each of which tells the story of an anthropologist in uniform who did something amazing, from the era of British colonialism in Africa all the way to the Vietnam War.

One of the chapters concerns Tom Harrisson, a British OSS officer who “went native” with a group of headhunting Kelabit tribe in Borneo during WWII. Harrisson was an iconoclastic military genius: he was ordered to build an intelligence network in Borneo, but instead built an army of barefoot warriors, armed with guns, spears, and blowpipes who eventually killed or captured over 1,500 Japanese with only eleven casualties. This was arguably one of the most successful unconventional warfare operations in history, yet it is almost entirely forgotten by both the military and anthropologists.

Harrisson was successful because he adopted the Kelabit mode of jungle stealth for hunting Japanese. He forced his men to go barefoot in Borneo so that their foot prints could not be identified by the Japanese. He forced his unit to eat the same food as the Kelabit, and live in their compounds. Harrisson also took one of the last surrenders of WWII. After the Armistice, a Japanese unit of 350 men was still marching through the Borneo jungle, unaware that the war had ended. Harrisson assembled a makeshift force, and set off into the jungle. After a two day battle, on the last day of October 1945, the Japanese commander handed Harrisson his sword.

Harrisson’s experiences in Borneo were the basis for Farewell to the King (1989), a terrible film. This time around, instead of a bare-chested Nick Nolte, the star should be Matt Damon or Hugh Jackman or Christian Bale. The leading man needs to be arrogant, charismatic and brilliant.

Another chapter from my book would also make a great movie. In 1937, a young British debutante named Ursula Graham Bower travelled to India. Her mother hoped that Ursula would meet a nice husband. But instead she hiked into the hills and encountered the Naga, a group of tribal headhunters. The Naga accepted her into their community and some even worshipped her as a goddess, believing that she was the reincarnation of the prophetess.

In 1942, it was clear that the Japanese were going to plow through Naga territory on their way to India. Ursula Graham Bower recruited, trained and organized the Naga to fight against the Japanese. She was the only woman to have a de facto combat command in the British Army during World War II. Bower’s Naga warriors were so effective that the Japanese – ironically – offered a bounty to the Naga of 100 rupees to bring in Bower’s head. American pilots nicknamed her the Jungle Queen and a comic was devoted to her exploits. Two BBC Radio 4 plays, The Naga Queen by John Horsley Denton and The Butterfly Hunt by Mathew Solon were based on her life, and that of her husband Tim Betts. In recognition of her bravery, although she never had an official military title or rank, she was honored as a Member of the Order of the British Empire and awarded the Lawrence of Arabia medal.

Ursula Graham Bower was fearless, independent, beautiful, brilliant and only 34 when she led the Naga in combat. Actresses with the grit and beauty to play her would be Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, or Kate Winslet.
Visit Montgomery McFate's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 5, 2018

Jennie Liu's "Girls on the Line"

Jennie Liu is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Having been brought up with an ear to two cultures, she has been fascinated by the attitudes, social policies, and changes in China each time she visits. She lives in Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons.

Here Liu dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Girls on the Line:
If you’re Asian, and maybe if you’re not, you’ll know about the release of the movie Crazy Rich Asians and Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I Loved Before (Netflix) in which Han held out for Asian lead.

That being said, I would love to see Katherine Hepburn (The Good Earth) play a part in Girls on the Line.

Just kidding. (Ms. Hepburn passed in 2003).

I’m a fan of the long shot or the little guy, so I like the idea of unknown Chinese or Chinese-American actors taking the leads, the two girls who age out of the orphanage, in Girls on the Line. Pulling in unknowns would help expand the presence of even more Asians in Hollywood, which is much needed. But I’d love to see some established actors in supporting roles, for they could guide the new actors and hopefully give the film some traction and good press. How about Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) playing Yong, the boyfriend of ill-repute; Ming-Na (Joy Luck Club) in the role of Ma; and Constance Wu as Dali who helps in a birthing scene?
Visit Jennie Liu's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 2, 2018

Fernando Santos-Granero's "Slavery and Utopia"

Fernando Santos-Granero is a senior staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, Panama, and a specialist on the Yanesha of Peruvian Amazonia. His books include Vital Enemies: Slavery, Predation, and the Amerindian Political Economy of Life.

Here Santos-Granero dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Slavery and Utopia: The Wars and Dreams of an Amazonian World Transformer:
While writing this book, it never occurred to me that it could be turned into a movie. Coming to think about it, I now believe that the story of the charismatic Amazonian shaman-chief Tasorentsi would make a captivating film, full of action, magic and drama. Since the life of its protagonist extended from 1875 to 1958, at least three actors would have to play his character. In the absence of professional Ashaninka actors, I would choose Native American actors Martin Sensmeier (acted in The Magnificent Seven, 2016), Adam Beach (acted in Suicide Squad, 2016), and the extraordinary Wes Studi (acted in Hostiles, 2017) to play the young, middle age, and mature Tasorentsi.

Javier Bardem would undoubtedly be great as Tasorentsi’s archenemy, Peruvian rubber extractor and slaver Francisco Vargas, who ordered the shaman-chief’s imprisonment and torture.

For the roles of the fanatical Franciscan friar Gabriel Sala, I would select Joaquin Phoenix; whereas for Ferdinand Stahl, the stern but compelling German-American Adventist pastor that inspired Tasorentsi to conceive the mixed shamanic-Christian creed that so much appealed to his people, I would go for John Ratzenberger.

Latino actors Richard Cabral and Benjamin Bratt would be perfect in the antagonistic roles of Samuel Figueroa, the scheming Rural Police Constable that relentlessly pursued Tasorentsi for subversive activities, and Carlos Gensollen, the incorruptible Army officer, who regarded with sympathy the plight of Ashaninka people.

Finally, I can see Native American actors Tina Keeper and Althea Sam playing the roles of Santana, Tasorentsi’s bright first wife and fellow preacher, and Lucrecia Pérez, his much younger second wife.

Because of the empathy, sensitivity and respect for indigenous lifeways that he displayed in Dance with Wolves, Kevin Costner would be my first choice for directing this film. If there is someone who could transform a scholarly non-fiction work like Slavery and Utopia into a work of art that would certainly be him.
Learn more about Slavery and Utopia at the University of Texas Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue