Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Brian Carso's "Gideon's Revolution"

Brian Carso, a lawyer and historian, has studied the American Revolution and the life of Benedict Arnold for more than two decades.

Here Carso dreamcasts an adaptation of Gideon's Revolution, his first novel:
Gideon’s Revolution is based on true events, an actual secret mission launched by George Washington to capture Benedict Arnold following his treason at West Point in 1780. It would make a great movie, so here are my thoughts about actors to play the two central characters.

To play Gideon Wheatley, the story’s central character and narrator, I looked at the long list of actors who have played Hamlet on stage, because Wheatley has a problem not unlike the Prince of Denmark’s. Wheatley’s intelligence, courage, and empathy make him highly capable in life and in battle, but, when he sets out to capture Arnold—which would surely result in the traitor’s execution—these same virtues muddy the clarity he needs to accomplish his mission.

The first time Wheatley sees Arnold, the general is on horseback, courageously leading soldiers into battle at Saratoga. When both Wheatley and Arnold are wounded, Wheatley discovers the secrets of Arnold’s personal history that reveal the general’s vulnerability. Over several months, Wheatley becomes Arnold’s close confidante and friend.

It's because of this familiarity with Arnold that, three years later, Wheatley is chosen for the spy mission to capture the treasonous general. Indeed, Arnold will readily trust Wheatley and not recognize his ulterior motive. Gideon Wheatley despises Arnold the traitor, but he has known Arnold the hero, and the bond he once had with the general complicates his task.

With this in mind, having considered the actors who have played Hamlet, I’ve made my choice. I’ll cast a different Benedict—Cumberbatch, to be precise—to play Gideon Wheatley.

Who should be cast as Benedict Arnold? By no account did Arnold have movie-star looks; he has been described as “stoutly made, with a ruddy complexion.” I could envision Paul Giamatti in the role (who, incidentally, I once saw play Hamlet at the Yale Repertory Theatre), but I’m not entirely convinced. On the one hand, Arnold should look physically ordinary, but also have the ability to switch on a mad passion as he charges on horseback across a battlefield, and a smoldering anger at feeling cheated, such that he would abandon all principle to stick it to his detractors. Additionally, he must show an occasional vulnerability, for the moments we see into the tragedies of his early teenage years that most likely caused the defects of his character.

My pick? Despite his 2021 selection as People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive,” (which doesn’t work at all for Arnold) I’m ready to contact Paul Rudd’s agent. I’m casting against type, but I see something we can work with in his current portrayal of Ben Glenroy in the TV show, Only Murders in the Building. Makeup can handle the “ruddy complexion,” and padding in the costume can be “stoutly made.” Ant-Man as Arnold, anyone?

Postscript: my wife isn’t buying it. She says Leonardo DiCaprio should be cast as Arnold. Maybe she has a point. In any event, Liam Neeson as George Washington, all the way. And Daisy Ridley (Rey in the Star Wars sequels) as the young English woman, Louisa Baxter.
Visit Brian Carso's website.

Q&A with Brian Carso.

--Marshal Zeringue