Thursday, August 31, 2023

Kathleen Rooney's "From Dust to Stardust"

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, as well as a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches in the English Department at DePaul University, and her recent books include the national best-seller Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (2017) and the novel Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey (2020). Where Are the Snows, her latest poetry collection, was chosen by Kazim Ali for the X.J. Kennedy Prize and published by Texas Review Press in Fall 2022.

Here Rooney dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, From Dust to Stardust:
What’s funny is that the real-life person (Colleen Moore) that the heroine (Doreen O’Dare) of my novel From Dust to Stardust is based on is herself the real-life inspiration of the oft remade Hollywood classic A Star Is Born.

During the silent era, Colleen was good friends with Hearst reporter and screenwriter Adela Rogers St. Johns who wrote the script for the 1932 pre-Code drama What Price Hollywood? directed by George Cukor and starring Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman. St. Johns based the story loosely on Colleen’s marriage to the alcoholic producer John McCormick who helped her become the star she always wanted to be but also made her life miserable through his addiction and erratic behavior.

St. Johns’ script inspired the original 1937 A Star Is Born starring Janet Gaynor, which has gone on to be remade three times, including in 1954 with Judy Garland, in 1976 with Barbra Streisand, and most recently in 2018 with Lady Gaga.

If From Dust to Stardust gets adapted into a movie, I’d cast Saoirse Ronan as Doreen O’Dare for her skill in period dramas and for her ability to convey so much intelligence in addition to whatever other emotions she’s communicating. And I’d cast Nicholas Hoult as Jack Flanagan for his combination of energy and charm mixed with a slight air of instability. My dream director would be Greta Gerwig.
Visit Kathleen Rooney's website.

The Page 99 Test: Live Nude Girl.

The Page 99 Test: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

The Page 69 Test: Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.

My Book, The Movie: Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.

The Page 69 Test: Where Are the Snows.

The Page 69 Test: From Dust to Stardust.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Sung J. Woo's "Deep Roots"

Sung J. Woo’s short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, PEN/Guernica, and Vox. He has written four novels, Deep Roots (2023), Skin Deep (2020), Love Love (2015), and Everything Asian (2009), which won the 2010 Asian Pacific American Librarians Association Literature Award. In 2022, his Modern Love essay from The New York Times was adapted by Amazon Studios for episodic television. A graduate of Cornell University with an MFA from New York University, he lives in Washington, New Jersey.

Here Woo dreamcasts an adaptation of Deep Roots:
Deep Roots is the second in the Siobhan O'Brien mysteries, and back in 2020, I wrote up My Book, The Movie for the first volume, Skin Deep. Since it would be very gauche to recast the lead, I once again implore Awkwafina to take on Siobhan. Since 2020, Nora Lum (her real name) has starred in seven full-length features and a TV show, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, which has already had three seasons, so there's no question my imaginary casting has had a very positive effect on her career. No need to thank me, Nora! The only other returning character I've previously fake cast is Seth Rogan for Craig, and even though his role is diminished in this outing, I'd love to continue to hear his instantly recognizable laughter.

Now there is another returning character, but because it was a small role, I hadn't bothered to hold a make-believe audition: Beaker. Here's a snippet of Beaker from Deep Roots, where he makes his initial entrance:
Except as soon as my phone touched the desk, somebody knocked on my door. Jesus Christ, it was going to be one of those days, wasn’t it?

“Come in,” I said.

After staring at the five-inch screen of my phone for more than an hour, if a little person had walked in, they would’ve seemed like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But the man that now stood in front of me was actually tall enough to be an NBA center, so it felt like I was craning my neck up at a skyscraper.
Now Beaker, Siobhan's soon-to-be-intern, is supposed to be a sophomore in college, but since we are in fantasy land, let's jump in a time machine and go back, say, fifteen years to when Nicholas Braun, none other than Cousin Greg from Succession, was a strapping twenty-year-old. I imagine he was already 6'7" then, so he'd be a perfect fit. His goofy energy absolutely channels Beaker.

Since this novel takes place in a mansion not unlike Downton Abbey's, I hope the owners of Highclere Castle would allow the cast and crew to come in and...okay, well, even my own pretending has its limits. I'm sure we can find a financially strapped castle somewhere who'd love to have us, since then after the movie they can give tours and such.

There are so many people in this novel that a genealogy/flowchart is included, but the main ones to address are:

Phillip Ahn, patriarch - Russell Wong is still too young and entirely too handsome, but he's now 60 and makeup can do its magic.

Ruth Ahn, first wife - Michelle Yeoh, of course. In Crazy Rich Asians, she played one hell of a hardass; in this one, she'd have to be an even harder ass, but there's nothing Michelle can't do.

Cassandra Ahn, second wife - one of the few non-Asian roles. Of Greek origin, let's get Tina Fey -- today I learned that she's Greek from her mom's side.

Lola Ahn, third wife - she's a terrible actress, so someone who's a great actress could only play her -- step right up, Ali Wong.

Eve Ahn, first daughter from Ahn's first marriage - Greta Lee's got the acerbic chops.

Lady Mary, second daughter from Ahn's first marriage - elegant and beautiful with a touch of haughty: Elodie Yung.

Duke, the son and heir from third marriage - Bowen Yang was born to play him.

Cameron, butler - I envisioned Mr. Carson from Downton, so why not have Jim Carter himself?

Thomas and William, footmen - I literally used the same names as the two footmen from Downton, so again, let's bring them in: Rob James-Collier and Thomas Howes.

Evie, granddaughter - as sharp, smart, and cutting as her grandfather: Lana Condor would kill, no question.

That's quite a cast. Hopefully they'll all be willing to work for scale...
Visit Sung J. Woo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Everything Asian.

My Book, The Movie: Skin Deep.

Q&A with Sung J. Woo.

The Page 69 Test: Skin Deep.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Ali Bryan's "The Crow Valley Karaoke Championships"

Ali Bryan is a writer based in Calgary, Alberta. Her first novel, Roost, won a Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction and was an official selection of One Book Nova Scotia. Her second novel, The Figgs, was released in 2018 and was a finalist for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. She won the 2020 Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story. She is a Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Emerging Artist recipient. Her debut YA novel, The Hill, was long-listed for the 2021 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize.

Here Bryan dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Crow Valley Karaoke Championships:
I'm a big fan of movies with ensemble casts, tight thematic cores and storylines that intersect, surprise and appease. Think Moonstruck, Little Miss Sunshine, The Royal Tenenbaums, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Barbie. Think The Crow Valley Karaoke Championships. The story takes place over the course of a single night, the hottest of the year, and the most important. The town is hosting a high stakes karaoke competition to commemorate the one year 'deathversary' of Crow Valley's local hero, Dale Jepson, who died after wildfires devastated the town. The prize? Big money and a chance to represent Crow Valley at the National Championships. But as the competition for vocal supremacy heats up, a prisoner (an arsonist and murderer no less) escapes from the local correctional facility and all of Crow Valley is thrown into chaos.

The story is told from five alternating POVs, each of whom share a connection to Dale. There's Roxanne, honorary karaoke judge, mid-life and Dale's widow. She works for the town and after a year, is still knee deep in grief. She carries his ashes around in a Thermos, talks to him through an empty Tic Tac container and wears a headlamp (the equivalent of leaving a porch light on) in case he comes back. She's unhinged, sarcastic and common. She's Melissa McCarthy.

There's Brett, Dale's best friend. They played ball together and volunteered for the local search & rescue. Brett was always second best and even with Dale gone, he still can't fill his late friend's shoes. Not even one of them. All he wants is to win karaoke. He's a self-deprecating, underachiever with a big-heart. Also, a cheater. Major Will Ferrell vibes, but he's actually Zach Galifianakis or Seth Rogen. Or Owen Wilson.

Next is Val. A prison guard (and former coworker of Dale). She's also Brett's wife. She's at work when the prisoner escapes and spends a good portion of the night trying to maintain her sobriety, which becomes increasingly difficult. Especially when she runs into the escaped convict on the outside. She's crude, tough but vulnerable with a big sense of humour and a broken heart. She's Rebel Wilson or Olivia Colman.

All Molly wants is to be seen as someone--anything--other than "someone's mom" which is a hard task given she's the mother of four boys and runs the town's daycare. Suffering long-term postpartum depression, she really needs a win. She also believes she's the reason Dale died. But boy, can she sing. Empathetic, sad, complex. She could be anyone: Hilary Swank, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, a diminutive Lady Gaga, an up-and-comer with chops making her debut.

Last is Marcel. A young prisoner with daddy issues and big dreams. Gen Z. Handsome, hard, complicated. Everyone I imagine him as, is too old. (Adrien Brody, Adam Driver). I'd love a wildcard here: Barry Keoghan, Pete Davidson or Justin Bieber.

Supporting: Colin Farrell as Gary (Molly's husband), Dan Levy as Silas (Judge #2), Ahmed Magdy as Kabir (karaoke singer) and Gil Birmingham as Norman Blanchard (prison guard).

As for directing, someone with a track record for quirky dark comedy, so it’s a Gen-X toss-up between Jason Reitman, Wes Anderson or Mike White. I’m a huge fan of Mike White. Mike White, are you there?
Visit Ali Bryan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Corinne Demas's "The Road Towards Home"

Corinne Demas is the author of 38 books including two collections of short stories, six novels, a memoir, a collection of poetry, two plays, and numerous books for children. She is a professor emeritus of English at Mount Holyoke College and a fiction editor of the Massachusetts Review.

She grew up in New York City, in Stuyvesant Town, the subject of her memoir, Eleven Stories High, Growing Up in Stuyvesant Town, 1948-1968. She attended Hunter College High School, graduated from Tufts University, and completed a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She lived in Pittsburgh for a number of years, teaching at the University of Pittsburgh and at Chatham College.

Here Demas dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Road Towards Home:
The Road Towards Home is a love story (of sorts) between a most unlikely pair of retirees. Noah and Cassandra rediscover each other at Clarion Court, a senior living community (they knew each other fifty years before in college) and end up sharing a rough cottage on Cape Cod and trying to figure out if they have a future together. There are really three main characters here—the third is the setting, and I would hope any director who turns my novel into a movie is someone who’d love the Outer Cape and understand how important sea, sand, and sky (not to mention oysters and American Woodcocks) are to the story.

My novel was published June 1, and since then I’ve been hearing from many readers who say they’re eagerly awaiting the film version and send on their suggestions for actors. Several have pointed out that because the novel relies heavily on dialogue writing a screenplay would be a piece of cake.

When Brilliance Publishing was selecting two actors for the audiobook of The Road Towards Home they asked if I wanted to have input in the casting. Of course I did! The actors in the audition tapes they first sent me didn’t quite capture my characters, so I listened to samples of audio books in search of two voices who sounded like my Noah and my Cassandra, and whose voices worked well together. I realized how hard it is to have an entire character created by voice alone. Cassandra is seventy two, but she’s youthful and lively, as well as sharp and funny. Noah is a bit pedantic, but he’s witty and wry, and actually much kinder than he would like you to think he is. Voice actors David De Vries for Noah and Erin Bennett for Cassandra proved to be the perfect pairing!

Casting an actor when it’s not their voice alone is a different matter. Noah and Cassandra are turned on by each other physically (imagine waiting half a century for a first kiss!) as well as intellectually, and the film version of The Road Towards Home requires actors who can do septuagenarian sexy. They can be younger, in reality, of course, since in film as well as in life (alas) it's easier to age someone than rejuvenate them.

I would love to cast Colin Firth for Noah. I’ve long been enamored by his Mr. Darcy in the film version of Pride and Prejudice, and I’ve admired his range since then, especially in The King’s Speech. He’s known for his British accent, but he can certainly pull off an American accent to portray an erudite retired English professor like Noah.

Helen Hunt was quirky, ironic Jamie Buchman in the television series Mad About You where she was great at the fast, humorous dialogue with co-star Paul Reiser. She’s demonstrated a broad range of other characters since then. I think she’d be just right for conveying Cassandra’s spontaneity.

My first choice for director would be Eric Rohmer, who so beautifully explored the complexities of desire, but, sadly, he’s no longer available. Three great, living directors I’d choose: Greta Gerwig (she might need a reprieve from Barbie), Sarah Polley (who was a terrific Ramona when she was young), and Kelly Fremon Craig, who not only did a admirable job being true to the book Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret? but also gave author Judy Blume a walk-on part. I’d hope for that!
Visit Corinne Demas's website.

Q&A with Corinne Demas.

The Page 69 Test: The Road Towards Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 18, 2023

Sara Flannery Murphy's "The Wonder State"

Sara Flannery Murphy is the author of the novels The Possessions and Girl One. She grew up in Arkansas, studied library science in British Columbia, and received her MFA in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in Utah with her husband and their two sons.

Here Murphy dreamcasts an adaptation of her newest novel, The Wonder State:
I’m biased, but I think The Wonder State could make a riveting movie. The story is familiar – friends drawn back to a hometown they swore they’d leave behind. And setting a movie in the Arkansas Ozarks seems like an overlooked opportunity. The natural landscape there is dramatic and gorgeous, a character in and of itself.

If I could choose my dream director and screenwriter, I’d go with Brit Marling and Zat Batmanglij, the brains behind The OA. The OA has a dreamlike quality that I absolutely love, and Batmanglij and Marling would capture the nostalgic, magical feeling of The Wonder State while also weaving in its strangeness and darkness. The second season of The OA even features a mysterious house with a complex backstory, so I know they could handle The Wonder State’s many houses.

Casting actors to play my characters is tricky since I picture them so distinctly inside my head. It almost feels like casting a movie based on people I actually know, like finding an actor who best represents my mother or my close friend … something’s always lost in translation. The Wonder State presents an additional challenge because it’s a dual timeline story, requiring both teen and adult actors. I’m a massive Yellowjackets fan, so I know how well this can work when it’s done right, but I struggled to find actors who:

1. Captured the spirit of the characters as both teens and adults

2. Looked reasonably alike

I came away with a renewed respect for the casting director of Yellowjackets. The friends’ group in my novel has six people, but I focused on the two who form the core of the story. Jay, the protagonist, and Brandi, her best friend who’s left behind in their hometown (and then calls Jay and the others back home).

I decided that a young Jay could be played by Maude Apatow, who’s good at portraying a reflective, quieter teen who finds herself on the fringes of things, but who can also step into the spotlight. And when Jay returns home after years away, I can see Rachel Brosnahan playing the more cynical, uncertain version. I’m used to Brosnahan in a more comedic role, but I know she could give Jay the gravity and bittersweetness that defines her as an adult grappling with her past. (In reality, there are only eight years between Apatow and Brosnahan, but hopefully I can take some artistic license.)

A young Brandi could be played by Sophia Lillis, who has a gentleness and sense of wonder that could work perfectly for Brandi. As a teen, Brandi has trouble asserting herself, and tends to be dismissed, but she’s a lot more perceptive than the other characters give her credit for. Although the older Brandi isn’t onscreen as much, she needs to shine. That’s why I think an older Brandi could be played by Elizabeth Olsen. I first saw Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and she brings a depth and complexity to traumatized characters.
Visit Sara Flannery Murphy's website.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Mark Pryor's "The Dark Edge of Night"

Mark Pryor is a former newspaper reporter and felony prosecutor, originally from England but now living in Austin, Texas. He is the author of the Hugo Marston mystery series, set in Paris, London, and Barcelona. Pryor is also the author of the psychological thrillers, Hollow Man, and its sequel, Dominic. As a prosecutor, he appeared on CBS News's 48 Hours and Discovery Channel's Discovery ID: Cold Blood.

Last year Pryor introduced Detective Henri Lefort in his first World War II mystery, Die Around Sundown.

Here Pryor dreamcasts an adaptation of the second book in the series, The Dark Edge of Night:
Detective Henri Lefort - Misha Collins. He's a brilliant actor, and I think would convey Henri's quirky and disrespectful sense of humor really well. But he also has kind of a brooding aura, so I could see him holding Henri's secrets behind his eyes.

Nicola Prehn - Bel Powley. I saw her in A Small Light and she made me cry half a dozen times. Incredible performances, episode after episode. Obviously she's beautiful, and she has a European look, so I would love to see her play Nicola.

Princess Marie Bonaparte - Kate Winslet. This character needs to be strong, regal, and confident. Kate Winslet has the range to pull this real-life character off, and the charisma to make an ongoing character fascinating for the viewer.

Police officer Daniel Moulin - Nicholas Hoult. I think he's been great in everything he's been in, and would be a great foil for both Nicola and Henri, which is a large part of Moulin's character.
Visit Mark Pryor's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dominic.

My Book, The Movie: Die Around Sundown.

Q&A with Mark Pryor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 10, 2023

James Byrne's "Deadlock"

James Byrne is the pseudonym for an author who has worked for more than twenty years as a journalist and in politics. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he lives in Portland, Oregon.

Here Byrne dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Deadlock:
This challenge is really fun for me. I teach mystery writing occasionally, and I often tell new writers to “cast” their books. I always do. Not only do I cast the major parts, but I create a PowerPoint with images of the actors, and keep it up, visible, next to my Word document, as I write first drafts.

The reason: It helps tremendously with dialogue. I don’t want any character to sound like, well, me.

Your readers should take this test: Imagine a quick scene of heated dialogue in your head. Anything at all. Got it? Good.

Now imagine that the female protagonist is played by Dame Judi Dench. OK, write it in your head (or write it for real, it’s a good test). Sound pretty good? Sure.

Now imagine that the female protagonist is played by Margot Robbie. Write the exact same scene of heated dialogue.

Did the dialogue change? Of course it did. You’d never write the exact same words for Dench and Robbie. So by writing for a specific voice, you differentiate your dialogue.

Neat trick, yeah?

You can use actors from the past (I recently cast David Niven in a manuscript; his death in 1976 didn’t hinder me much) and people who aren’t actors (I once cast my high school principal in a book).

As for a director, how about Mimi Leder (The Morning Show, On the Basis of Sex)? She’s not as well-known as a lot of hot thriller directors, but her work on the 1997 movie The Peacemaker with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman (written by, with others, Michael Schiffer) was terrific.

Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) can knock an action sequence outta the park.

And both know how to get the most out of strong female characters. Plenty of them in my books.

Now to the jackpot question: Who would play Dez?

In case you haven’t read The Gatekeeper and Deadlock, Desmond Aloysius Limerick is a former soldier who grew up in the United Kingdom. At 35, he’s touring the United States with a guitar and a collection of scars from battles in the world’s hot spots. He thinks he’s the luckiest bloke in the world, he’s very good in a fight, loyal to friends, loquacious and funny.

I would cast for three things: A sturdily put together guy who knows how to fight; somebody who can deliver the comedy elements; and somebody who can carry off the working-class British accent.

Dez himself is 5-8, sandy haired, pinkish complexion, bowlegged and “built like a Buick,” as I describe him.

For the first three characteristics, I might pick an actor who looks nothing like my Dez. Jason Statham (The Fast and the Furious franchise, The Meg) clearly can lead an action film. He can fight, and he’s funny. The accent: no prob.

Another interesting choice: Brett Goldstein (Roy F****** Kent of Ted Lasso). Insanely funny and muscular build. Doesn’t look like Dez, but I bet he’d make me laugh while speaking these lines out loud.

Who did I cast? I don’t usually tell anyone, because I fear readers will be disappointed if my Dez doesn’t look like the one in my head. For physical characteristics, he’s Warren Brown (Justin Ripley in Luther with Idris Elba; Thomas McAllister in Strike Back.) Baby-faced but powerfully built (a two-time world Thai boxing champion, I’ve been told). And his accent’s spot-on.

If you have read my books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the casting of Dez and other major characters.
Visit James Byrne's website.

Q&A with James Byrne.

The Page 69 Test: Deadlock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 7, 2023

Jennifer Cody Epstein's "The Madwomen of Paris"

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of four novels that have been published in a total of twenty-one countries around the world: The Madwomen of Paris (2023), Wunderland (2019), The Gods of Heavenly Punishment (2012), and The Painter from Shanghai (2007).

She is the recipient of the 2014 Asia Pacific American Librarians Association Honor Award for fiction, and was longlisted for the 2020 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize.

Here Epstein dreamcasts an adaptation of The Madwomen of Paris:
The Madwomen of Paris is a Gothic tale of hysteria, hypnosis, and theatrical spectacle set at the 19th century Salpêtrière asylum. Drawn from real—if often unbelievable—events, it follows two young women who must solve a murder mystery and escape a powerful (and possibly evil) doctor. The novel features scenes in which towering male medical figures (think Jean-Martin Charcot, Georges Gilles de la Tourette and Sigmund Freud) hypnotize female “hysterics” in front of rapt Parisian audiences, and would make for a pretty wild movie; not only in the challenging roles it would offer actors, but in the jarring relevance of its themes. To be honest, though, my first thought in sitting down to write this was not about actors I’d cast in the movie version. It was about who I’d cast as director.

And that—unquestionably—would be Greta Gerwig.

Ok, yeah. I did just see Barbie last weekend (along with the rest of the world), and left pretty much thinking Gerwig should direct every movie, ever made, about anything, from hereon in. But I was also—and completely unexpectedly—struck by just how much Barbie had in common with my book. Sure, one is about a busty doll in heels fighting to dismantle the patriarchy, and the other about traumatized young women in petticoats turning the tables on men who’ve dismissed them as hysterical, hypnotized them without consent and paraded them before a leering public. But in the end, both Barbie and Madwomen speak to the same, painfully enduring issues: the way women’s health is simultaneously ignored and fetishized. And the way society still uses terms like “hysteria” to demean and dismiss us. And, most of all, the ways in which men exert control over our bodies and behavior to achieve their own ends. Gerwig has already masterfully displayed her historical fiction creds in her brilliant 2019 reimagination of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which also had some pointedly feminist undertones. But the fact that she turned Barbie into a feminist magnum opus for me makes her a shoo-in to adapt and direct The Madwomen of Paris, perhaps while also signing off on a line of fetchingly Hysterical Barbies. I’d trust her with the casting as well. As I think I’ve made clear, I’d trust her with anything. But if she were looking for suggestions here are a few:

Laure Bissonnet: As the novel’s (mostly) reliable narrator, a woman who has essentially cured herself of the “malady of the age” (hysteria), Laure is slowly awakening to the injustices and outright horrors of the male medical establishment. She should be played by someone with a strong, nurturing and thoughtful vibe; someone who could believably see through the medical machismo of Charcot, champion the vulnerable Josephine once she falls under his care, and form a plan to help her escape him. Annalise Basso would be a strong option; she’s got experience in horror movies (Slender Man, Bloodhound). But I could also see Mallori Johnson. She wowed me in the series Kindred (based on Octavia Butler’s seminal 1979 time-travel novel) playing Dana, a woman tasked with comprehending a surreal and terrifying reality, plotting to escape it, and loving and losing people in the process. She definitely has the kind of clear-eyed strength and eloquence that I think Laure needs to have.

Josephine Garrau: The fiery-haired ingénue at the heart of The Madwomen of Paris who wins Laure’s heart needs to be something of a paradox: outwardly delicate, but fiercely independent. Mesmerizingly charismatic, but uninterested in physical appeal. Achingly vulnerable, but also capable—just maybe—of murder. Rose Leslie, who played Ygritt in Game of Thrones, has the right vibe for me. But I could also see Bailee Madison, who like Basso has helpful horror film experience (she starred in Guillermo del Torro’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark).

Rosalie Chardon: Charcot’s reigning hysterical “queen”—the woman whose blonde beauty and sensual, hypnotic hallucinations make her a Parisian celebrity—needs to be played by someone with complexity, lightening-quick mood switches, an outsized stage presence and more than a hint of the diva. Maybe I’m still just under Barbie’s spell, but Margot Robbie seems born for this. But I could also see Florence Pugh knocking it out of the park. (Yes, I saw Oppenheimer last weekend too).

Babette: The Hysteria Ward’s long-serving head nurse needs to be serious Nurse Ratched material: ice cold, imperious and pitiless when it comes to everyone but her secret celebrity crush, asylum director Jean-Martin Charcot. I think Kathy Bates could kill in this role, though I’m also thinking Michelle Feiffer—who does ice like it’s no one’s business—could be great.

Jean-Martin Charcot: The legendary father of modern-day neurology—a man who begins his illustrious career solving Parkinson’s and ALS, and ends it entrancing young women into hysterical fits—needs to be played by someone with a ponderous, commanding presence and a piercing dark gaze. Two thoughts: Clive Owen, who brilliantly played a misguided and narcissistic medical genius in The Knick, though he’d have to wear brown contact lenses. Or Javiar Bardem, who wouldn’t have to change a thing. He has just the right level of “tortured soul” in his vibe, and can easily play a character who might maybe be a villain, but is so complex and charismatic that you’re never quite sure. (There’s also the fact that he’s my secret celebrity crush, though that probably shouldn’t play a role in casting a film about exploitatively showcasing people based on sex appeal.)

Sigmund Freud: Hopkins is the latest actor to play the father of modern psychiatry, in the upcoming Freud’s Last Session. But we need a young and highly-impressionable Freud for this film; a man whose life will be so transformed by working with Charcot and hysteria that he will not only go on to found psychoanalysis as a result, but will name his first child after Charcot. Timothée Chalamet would certainly be interesting in this role (let’s face it: he’s interesting in pretty much every role). But I think Tye Sheridan also has the right kind of sober intensity to pull it off.

The Marquis: The book’s true villain: an elderly, scheming, and inarguably sleazy nobleman who is disturbingly fixated on attractive young hysterics. No question on this one: Willem Dafoe.
Learn more about the novel and author at Jennifer Cody Epstein's website.

Q&A with Jennifer Cody Epstein.

The Page 69 Test: The Madwomen of Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Ann Garvin's "There's No Coming Back from This"

Ann Garvin, Ph.D. is the USA Today bestselling author of five funny and sad novels. She writes about people who do too much in a world that asks too much from them.

Garvin worked as an RN and after receiving her Ph.D. taught Exercise Physiology, Sport Psychology Nutrition, Stress Management, and Global Health for thirty years in the University of Wisconsin system. She currently teaches creative writing at Drexel University in their low residency Masters of Fine Arts program and has held positions at Miami University and Southern New Hampshire in their Masters of Fine Arts Creative Writing programs.

Garvin is the founder of the multiple award-winning Tall Poppy Writers where she is committed to helping women writers succeed. She is a sought-after speaker on writing, leadership and health and has taught extensively in NY, San Francisco, LA, Boston, and at festivals across the country and in Europe.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, There's No Coming Back from This:
Writing a novel set on the Backlot of Universal Studios in Los Angeles against the backdrop of the remake of When Harry Met Sally – but with dogs – is the perfect setup for this blog post.

There's No Coming Back From This – the movie – is just waiting to be made.

This is the story of Poppy Lively, who is on the verge of losing everything—think Tina Fey in Date Night. Like everyone, she is a hardworking woman trying to make it without going under.

Her old flame, a now hotshot producer, gives her a costume job on a Hollywood film set. I would want someone you almost trust, an actor who could go either way—good guy/bad guy like Bradley Cooper. A charismatic player who really likes the ladies.

Poppy is a single mother who is out of place in the fast and loose world of movie stars, iconic costumes, and backlot intrigue and runs into a young handsome Timothée Chalamet character who is good friends to the bratty Emilie who seems to be trying to take Poppy down. I love the idea of Millie Bobby Brown as Emilie because you never know what she is hiding behind her smile.

When Poppy stumbles upon corruption, she relies on everyone underestimating her in order to discover who is truly to blame. And that is precisely how Poppy plans to best the divas of TinselTown—if only she can stay employed and keep her plans a secret. One of those divas is a character that Steve Carell would perfectly play.

I may or may not have crushes on most of the movie stars, but it's unlikely I will meet any of them, so I won't make a fool of myself.
Visit Ann Garvin's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Dog Year.

Coffee with a Canine: Ann Garvin & Peanut.

--Marshal Zeringue