Saturday, April 6, 2024

Mark Cecil's "Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny"

Mark Cecil is an author, journalist and host of The Thoughtful Bro show, for which he conducts author interviews with an eclectic roster of award winning and bestselling writers. He has written for LitHub, Writer’s Digest, Cognoscenti, The Millions, Reuters, and Embark Literary Journal, among other publications. He is Head of Strategy for A Mighty Blaze and he has taught writing at Grub Street and The Writers Loft.

Here Cecil dreamcasts an adaptation of his debut novel, Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny:
The two lead roles in my book are the white lumberjack Paul Bunyan and the Black steel drivin’ man John Henry. In my book they are friends upon a grand quest through a mythic America of yore. Both of these figures have been represented a great deal in our literature, song, arts, political drawings, and even Disney cartoons, but not so often in film with real actors.

To play my Paul Bunyan, I’d cast Adam Driver. So first, I’m not sure if Adam can grow a beard, so that may be a deal breaker. But if he can, we’re good. The thing about Adam is that he has this particular mix which is necessary for my portrayal of Paul Bunyan—he can be (1) assertively masculine, (2) earnest, vulnerable and passionate (3) over the top funny. Bunyan has the earnestness of Kevin Costner on the spiritual quest of Field Of Dreams. Yet he also has the goofiness of Chris Hemsworth in Thor. I think Adam Driver’s one of the few actors who has both the physical and emotional range to play the part.

My John Henry has a different set of qualities. He’s also a big man, but he’s wary, he’s cautious, he’s on the run from the law. He has a quiet force, a sly intelligence, and an iron will. To me, that’s perfect for Mahershala Ali. Whenever I watch Mahershala, I can always see the range of feelings moving behind his eyes. It’s like he has a world of feeling within him, but he’s always shrewdly choosing just which feelings he can reveal.

That’s the John Henry I’ve written, to a tee.

And best of all? Mahershala and Adam are, according to the internet, both 6’ 2”! So they’d be perfect together—big guys, who are friends and equals.

As for the director, I would love to combine two directors. The book is grand, beautiful and scenic. It’s a fantasy about a mythic America. I’ve never seen the American landscape filmed so beautifully as it was in The Revenant by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. So that’s one. But my film is also a satire of capitalism run amok—the main antagonist is a Yankee swindler named El Boffo—and for that I’d love to get the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. I think any of them could make a brilliant film, but a combination of their sensibilities would deliver the pathos, the grandeur and the humor.
Visit Mark Cecil's website.

--Marshal Zeringue