Sunday, September 8, 2019

Scott Johnston's "Campusland"

Scott Johnston grew up in Manhattan and graduated from college in the 1980s. From there, Wall Street (Salomon Brothers of Liar's Poker fame) and a stint in Hong Kong. On the side, he opened a couple of nightclubs in New York City and wrote popular books on beer drinking and golf betting games. More recently, Johnston shifted gears and co-founded two tech startups. He lives in Westchester with his wife and three children.

Here Johnston dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Campusland:
I know this sounds unlikely, but I really didn't have any actors in mind when I wrote Campusland. There were one or two characters where I had actual, real people in mind, but perhaps it's best to keep that to myself. Also, Campusland is a (biting) satire. I happen to think this is by far the most difficult form of fiction to translate to film. Anyone remember Bonfire of the Vanities, the movie? Maybe the worst movie made from the best book ever. None of the carefully crafted tone of the book was captured by the movie. Tom Wolfe had to distance himself. The fact is, arch humor is tricky to get across. Some of my favorite scenes in Campusland are really difficult for me to imagine on the big screen. One director who I do think could do it would be Whit Stillman (see: Metropolitan).

Okay, casting. My protagonist, Eph Russell, is in his mid-thirties, is boyishly good looking, and a bit naive. I'm thinking Paul Rudd? Maybe Ron Livingston? (He of my second favorite movie ever, Office Space.)

Next up is Lulu Harris. This is a tough one - Lulu is only 19, so I don't think anyone over 25 should play the role. She should be beautiful in a severe, jaded way. She should be able to turn on the charm but have a very hard edge constantly lurking below the surface. Very ambitious and also scheming and cynical. I'm going to nominate Emma Watson. (Guessing, though, given her politics, she would turn down any part that involved leveling a false allegation of sexual assault.)

For Milton Strauss, president of Devon University, I have to go with Paul Giamatti, since he's the son of the great Bart Giamatti, who was president of Yale when I was there.

The other major character is Red Wheeler. He's a stoner cum campus radical. Red dreadlocks. Honestly, I'm at a loss here. I'm imagining Sean Penn circa Fast Times, but I just don't know who the twenty-something actors are right now. Any suggestions?
Learn more about Campusland and follow Scott Johnston on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Campusland.

--Marshal Zeringue