Tuesday, January 21, 2020

M.L. Huie's "Spitfire"

M.L. Huie is a writer, teacher and actor. In addition to working ten years as a features journalist he has written several plays that have been performed throughout the US and in the UK. He is a proud member of Actor's Equity Association, and teaches theatre and acting at the university-level. He is married to a brilliant woman and has two genius kids.

Here Huie shares some thoughts on the lead and director of an adaptation of his new novel, Spitfire:
I write historical fiction and movies are a large part of my research. My debut novel Spitfire takes place in London and Paris of 1946. I’ve traveled to both of those cities, but only film can allow me to venture back in time. So, it’s natural that I also “cast” my book with actors to help me more clearly “see” the book as I’m writing.

My protagonist Livy Nash is a young woman of 26 in this book. She’s English and grew up in Blackpool, Lancashire. She’s working-class, direct, funny and pretty damaged when we first meet her. Livy was one of many women recruited to serve as a spy behind enemy lines during World War Two, and her war ended in tragedy. She comes home a broken woman, but soon after the book begins she’s recruited anew by Ian Fleming. Yes, that Ian Fleming.

So, the actor who plays Livy in the film or HBO series of Spitfire (hey, I’m not picky) would have to have a pretty wide range as well as be believable in physical confrontations. Livy is not glamorous or regal. She’s not a character who will be hobnobbing with dukes and countesses in later books.

When I wrote the book I cast every character with famous actors except Livy. I saw her very clearly in my own mind. As a result I’ve had a hard time pinning down who would do her justice. After considering the question to amuse myself for a while my wife Brook suggested an actor she had seen in HBO’s adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. It was Shailene Woodley.

I watched her in a few episodes and felt she had the requisite toughness along with a certain vulnerability, which I feel are part of Livy’s character. To my mind she certainly looks the part. Ms. Woodley also has a bit of action star on her resume in the Divergent series, where she leads a group of resistance fighters in a dystopian future. Of course my one concern would be whether could she pull off Livy’s specific British dialect. Ms. Woodley is originally from California. But as an actor myself, I know most of us are trained in dialects. How many times have you discovered that one of your favorite actors was actually Australian and British? I’m sure given the time she could look and sound like any one from anywhere.

Choosing a director for the sprawling, star-studded, big-budget adaptation of Spitfire (a boy can dream, ya know) proved much easier. The movie needs a woman at the helm and Greta Gerwig is ideal. Her film of Little Women proved she could take a period piece and make it feel relevant. It is possible that Ms. Gerwig might bring along the wonderful star of her films Little Women and Ladybird, Saoirse Ronan, to play Livy.

Sigh. OK, fine, Greta, if you insist.
Visit M.L. Huie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Maureen Johnson's "The Hand on the Wall"

Maureen Johnson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, The Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), and The Bane Chronicles (with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan).

Johnson's new book, The Hand on the Wall, is the third title in Truly Devious Series, which is set at Ellingham Academy, a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. In pursuit of the mystery behind Elligham's ghastly crimes: student and true-crime aficionado, Stevie Bell.

Here Johnson shares some thoughts on casting an adaptation of The Hand on the Wall:
This is a tough one for me because I genuinely never think about this. I have a total mental blind spot in this department. This may come from working in theater for several years and having to keep my mind open about how things would be cast and staged. I had to keep my thoughts on the writing only.

I had a long think about this, though, and came up with Millie Bobby Brown as Stevie. I think she’d be very good. Stevie may have a bit of Stranger Things’ Eleven’s otherworldly focus. I think she would be a good fit. She’s got a great American accent (she’s one of these secretly English people, they are very sneaky).

Other than that—and that took me a really long time to think up—I’ve got nothing. My ability to not mentally cast is almost my superpower. I’m really focused on the book as a book. Anyone you want for the movie is okay with me. You can be in it, if you want.
Visit Maureen Johnson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Chad Dundas's "The Blaze"

Chad Dundas’ debut novel Champion of the World was a 2016 Boston Globe Best Book of the Year as well as a finalist for the David J. Langum Sr. Prize for Historical Fiction and Reading the West Book Awards. His short fiction has appeared in the Beloit Fiction Journal, Sycamore Review, Sou’Wester and Thuglit.

Since 2001, he’s worked as a sportswriter for outlets such as ESPN, NBC Sports, The Sporting News, Bleacher Report, and the Associated Press, among others.

Here Dundas dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Blaze:
A person much wiser than myself, a hardened publishing industry veteran, once advised me that if Hollywood ever comes calling with an offer on one of your books, you cash the check and never think about it again. If they ever actually start filming, he said, then it’s OK to get excited. Maybe for that reason, I seldom imagine my characters as famous actors while I’m writing.

In fact, one of the main characters in my first book, Champion of the World, is a 40-something African American wrestler training for a chance to compete for the world championship while dealing with his own long-buried secrets. Yet it wasn’t until months after the book came out that a reader pointed out to me there’s a very famous actor who fits that physical description almost exactly. Sorry, Dwayne!

After having it painstakingly pointed out to me that maybe I dropped the ball not checking to see if The Rock and his Seven Bucks Productions company were interested in the movie rights to Champion of the World, I tried to be a bit more mindful of such things while writing The Blaze. Though, honestly, just barely.

The Blaze is a very different book than Champion. It’s a contemporary mystery/thriller set in my hometown of Missoula, MT. Matthew Rose, the male lead, is a late-twenties Iraq war veteran who returns to Montana having suffered significant memory loss after sustaining a traumatic brain injury during an IED explosion. To play him, you’d need somebody age appropriate who can bring an innate likability while also having an edge to them and capturing the confusion and vulnerability of a man who remembers very little of his own life. I’m reminded by the job Rami Malek did on USA Network’s Mr. Robot, even though Malek is a good 10 years older than Matthew and now a bonafide Oscar winner. I think a young actor like Logan Lerman or Josh Hutcherson might fit the general physical requirements and have the depth to pull it off.

The female lead, Georgie Porter, is Matthew’s lifelong friend and former romantic partner. She’s working as a small-town newspaper reporter when Matthew comes back to town. Georgie is smart, ambitious, stubborn and totally perplexed by the version of Matthew who reappears in her life after the two of them have been estranged for a few years. After seeing her in The Leftovers and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I’m a little bit partial to Margaret Qualley in that role. As an added bonus Qualley, the daughter of longtime in-state resident Andie McDowell, is actually from Montana. So, she wins the role based on that alone.

The book takes place during a brutal Montana winter and my hope is that any movie adaptation would be cold and atmospheric and – maybe – could even be filmed on location.

But I’m not holding my breath.
Visit Chad Dundas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

J.T. Ellison's "Good Girls Lie"

In J. T. Ellison's new thriller, Good Girls Lie, Ash Carlisle leaves the U.K. after the death of her parents to attend the Goode School, a prep school for young women located in a small Virginia town that is a stepping stone to the Ivy League. Initially unprepared for the mean girls and the hazing, things get worse when students start dying...and suspicion falls on Ash.

Here Ellison shares a couple of ideas for the leads in an adaptation of the novel:
I’m always reticent to cast my own books, because there are so many people who would be brilliant in the main roles. So I turn to friends for inspiration.

For example, my friend Gare Billings has cast Florence Pugh as Ash, which I love. And he sees Anne Hathaway as Dean Westhaven, which I also love.

Because in my mind, I was envisioning Blake Lively or Jodi Comer as Dean Westhaven.

Any of the three actresses would bring a different dimension to the role.

That’s just little taste of how a great actress can shape a role.
Learn more about Good Girls Lie.

Visit J.T. Ellison's website and follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Lars Iyer's "Nietzsche and the Burbs"

Lars Iyer is a Reader in Creative Writing at Newcastle University, where he was formerly a longtime lecturer in philosophy. He is the author of the novels in the Spurious Trilogy, and more recently the widely acclaimed Wittgenstein Jr.

Here Iyer dreamcasts an adaptation of his newest novel, Nietzsche and the Burbs:
My title character, Nietzsche, is dark, remote and brilliant. He’s also touched by madness. As such, he’s the perfect lead singer for Nietzsche and the Burbs, the band at the heart of my novel. Could we persuade a young James Duval, who’s appeared in so many great Gregg Araki films to play him? I’m sure he could master the posh English accent.

Paula, the band’s rock-solid bassist, tough but sensitive, open to love, could only be played by the queen of cool, Kirsten Stewart circa the so-so Adventureland. Kirsten would need a Mohican, though.

Art, who thinks of himself as the ideas-man of the band, is a leader of teens, but not conventionally comely. He puts me in mind of Leo Fitzpatrick, who’s fantastic in those terrific Larry Clark films, Kids and Bully. Leo’s an artist, too, so he could do some set-design for us.

For Chandra, guitarist and narrator, I’d like to persuade the infinitely cool Alap Momin, AKA Oktopus, who used to be part of the great hip hop act Dälek, to try his hand at acting. We’d have to reverse-age him, à la The Irishman, but he could give musical advice too. He really knows how to use drones – important to the band.

Merv, marimba player extraordinaire, is a genuine Dostoevskian innocent, a holy fool. I think we could approach my namesake Lars Rudolph to play him, following his brilliant turn as János Valuska in Belá Tarr’s The Werckmeister Harmonies.

Bill Trim, who becomes the band’s drummer, is a thug with a queer heart. Following his performance in Hail Caesar!, can I elect Channing Tatum to play him?

I’d like to persuade two other musicians to play Noelle and Tana, friends of the band: respectively, the Billie Eilish, so funny, so sad, so bored-eyed, and my current favourite, Clairo, whose woozy, gauzy, dreamy album Immunity is on repeat in my office. I think she could summon up all of Tana’s sadness.

Who would direct the film? There’s Terry Zwigoff, who made Ghost World – one of the teen films by which all other teen films should be judged. He’s been quiet of late; we need to get him out of enforced retirement. There’s also the magnificent Catherine Hardwicke, who made another electrifying teen classic, Thirteen. She should be given the opportunity to go wild again. But I think Gregg Araki is my man, the director of Nowhere, of Mysterious Skin, of Now Apocalypse, with his outsider teens, full of queer energy, looking for love but making do with friendship. No one does teen apocalypticism better. His soundtracks are great, too.
Visit Lars Iyer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Nietzsche and the Burbs.

--Marshal Zeringue