Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Josh Weiss's "Beat the Devils"

Josh Weiss is an author from South Jersey. Raised in a proud Jewish home, he was instilled with an appreciation for his cultural heritage from a very young age. Today, Weiss is utterly fascinated with the convergence of Judaism and popular culture in film, television, comics, literature, and other media. After college, he became a freelance entertainment journalist, writing stories for SYFY WIRE, The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, and Marvel Entertainment. He currently resides in Philadelphia with his fiancée, as well as an extensive collection of graphic T-shirts, movie posters, vinyl records, and a few books, of course.

Here Weiss dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Beat the Devils:
What author hasn’t thought about their book becoming a film or television series? If a writer tells you it hasn’t once crossed their mind at least once, then they’re probably lying.

I love, love, love (did I mention love?) movies. While writing Beat the Devils, I tried to be as cinematic as possible, which included peppering a number of doo-wop needle drops throughout the narrative, Martin Scorsese style!

As for who would actually direct the adaptation, I think the Coen brothers’ talent for juggling Jewish concepts with human drama and acerbic irony would be a more-than-perfect fit. A number of years back, the filmmaking duo was attached to helm a film version of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, which was a major source of inspiration for my novel.

Joel, Ethan…if you’re on the lookout for something similar…let’s talk!

I could go down a rabbit hole of who I’d cast for each character, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll stick to four of my personal favorites…


I’ve got three top choices for our cynical and peach-schnapps loving homicide detective. First up is Matthew Rhys of The Americans fame. But it’s not his performance on the FX series that sold me.

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 — when I worried myself sick over whether Beat the Devils would ever be released to the public — HBO began ramping up publicity for its reimagined Perry Mason featuring Rhys in the title role. The Morris Baker who’d been living rent free in my head since 2015 suddenly appeared in the show’s teaser trailer, complete with fedora and a haunted expression.

Now, I very much doubt Mr. Rhys is interested in playing a similar character to Mr. Mason when he’s already got a sweet neo-noir gig, but hey, you never know.

If he decides to pass, however, I’d like to nominate Morgan Spector (who gave a knockout performance as impassioned Jewish patriarch Herman Levin in another HBO project: The Plot Against America) or Oscar Isaac (who proved he could play a hardened Jew with a vendetta against Nazis in Operation Finale).


After seeing The Batman, I think Colin Farrell could easily pull off the role of Baker’s abrasive Irish partner on the LAPD if the actor would once again be willing to disappear behind a mound of burly prosthetics. I also think Liam Cunningham (best-known for playing Ser Davos Seaworth on HBO’s Game of Thrones) would be an excellent casting choice.


In my mind, there are only two actresses who could play the innocent-looking, yet incredibly dangerous, Soviet spy, Sophia Vikhrov: Erin Moriarty (The Boys) and Julia Garner (Ozark). I’d love to see Starlight or Ruth Langmore kick ass and uncover a dangerous conspiracy in a dystopian version of Los Angeles, circa 1958. Who wouldn’t?


Whenever I think of Elizabeth “Liz” Short in Beat the Devils, my mind never fails to conjure up an image of Lizzy Caplan’s Marlena in one of my all-time favorite movies: Cloverfield. Look up the two on Google Images and you’ll see what I’m talking about…or not, I don’t know.

Still, I’m rather determined to get her cast based on a conversation I had with Cloverfield producer Bryan Burk last year. While chatting with me in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, I told Mr. Burk about how Marlena’s death scene (when she explodes after being bitten by one of the monster’s arachnoid parasites) has always stuck with me over the years.

“Here’s what’s gonna happen,” he told me, “you’re gonna go make a movie with Lizzy Caplan and you’re gonna be like, ‘Here was this crazy thing!’”

I just loved that comment. Thanks for believing in me, Bryan!
Follow Josh Weiss on Twitter.

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--Marshal Zeringue