Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Joanna Hershon's "The German Bride"

Joanna Hershon is the author of Swimming, The Outside of August, and the highly acclaimed The German Bride. Her writing has appeared in One Story, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Post Road, the literary anthology Brooklyn Was Mine, and was shortlisted for the 2007 O. Henry Prize Stories.

Here she shares her thoughts on cast and director for a cinematic adaptation of The German Bride:
I do love a good casting session and when Vanity Fair asked me last March to "cast my novel" shortly after The German Bride was published, I admit to becoming so engrossed with the process that I had to remind myself that I did not, in fact, have Gael García Bernal on speed dial. I do think that this book would be a sweeping and juicy movie (if expensive to make, although thankfully that miraculous southwestern light is still free of charge) and there are terrific roles for actors.

Natalie Portman is the obvious choice for Eva-- complicated and intelligent, with just a touch of imp. Rachel Weisz would bring her inimitable warmth and charm to the part of Henriette-- Eva's beloved sister, while darkly sexy Christian Bale is perfect for the role of Eva's illicit lover Heinrich, a portrait painter. Eva's ambitious (and duplicitous) husband Abraham would be a great role for either Liev Schreiber or Javier Bardem (since this is a fantasy cast I don't have to decide!) and his noble brother would be played by the whip-smart Ben Shenkman. Once Eva arrives in America she has a "frienemy" in Beatrice Speigelman, who'd be played to witty and stylish perfection by Emily Blunt, and a possible love interest in Levi Ehrenberg, who I see as the (aforementioned!) Gael García Bernal. Last but not least, Erykah Badu would bring her considerable talents to the soulful Pauline.

Anthony Minghella would have been the perfect director for this movie. His mastery of both historical and deeply emotional material was remarkable. I'd also be interested to see what Jane Campion would do with this story, as her vision would doubtlessly bring something new and strange to the already new and strange world of my book.
Read an excerpt from The German Bride, and learn more about the author and her work at Joanna Hershon's website.

The Page 69 Test: The German Bride.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Marie Brennan's "Midnight Never Come"

Marie Brennan holds an undergraduate degree in archaeology and folklore from Harvard and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology and folklore at Indiana University.

Her academic background comes in useful for the fantasy stories and novels she writes.

Here she shares some ideas for the actors and director for film adaptations of the novels in her Onyx Court series:
I'm very bad at visualizing faces, so I do occasionally try to "cast" my characters, in order to have a reference point to work from. In my Onyx Court series of London-based historical fantasies -- installments so far are the Elizabethan Midnight Never Come and Civil War-era In Ashes Lie -- I've had variable luck with finding suitable choices.

Michael Deven, the human protagonist of Midnight, was the first one I cast. My choice for him is a younger James Purefoy, whom I first saw playing Edward, the Black Prince, in A Knight's Tale. (Without the scar he sported in that movie, though.) Good-looking, but not excessively Hollywood-pretty, and unlike some actors, he doesn't look weird in a historical context. Lune, the faerie protagonist, took much longer; it's hard to find a human with the right kind of delicacy. I only recently settled on Olivia Wilde, most famous as Thirteen on House M.D. She's got an austere beauty that's pretty close to what I had in mind. As for Invidiana, the cruel faerie Queen, I've never found anyone suitable at all. Strangely, Hollywood seems to have a shortage of women who are both inhumanly gorgeous and utterly terrifying. If you dressed up Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent in Elizabethan clothing, though, you'd come close.

For the sequel, In Ashes Lie, I knew even before I wrote Jack Ellin that he looked like Paul Bettany. If you combine the smart-ass-ness of his Chaucer (also in A Knight's Tale) with the medical intelligence of Stephen Maturin (Master and Commander), that's pretty much Jack right there. By contrast, Sir Antony Ware is still completely uncast. I've tried to find someone appropriate for him, but no luck. And it's not because he's particularly odd-looking; quite the reverse, in fact, as he's a very ordinary, solid man. But nobody has leapt out at me and said "Hi, I'm the face you're looking for."

Midnight Never Come is the one book for which I've ever felt I know who I'd want to direct it, too. It's kind of a no-brainer: Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth was a strong visual influence on that novel, often cold and dark and full of intrigue, and so naturally I think of him when I imagine that book turned into a movie. Despite being in the same series, though, I don't think Ashes would benefit from the same director. There's still plenty of intrigue in that book, but it also has the giant spectacle of the Great Fire of London, and that isn't as much Kapur's style. Unfortunately, it needs a more intelligent hand than, say, Michael Bay, or lots of the other directors known for Blowing Stuff Up Real Good, and off the top of my head I don't know who could do both backstabbing politics and shiny 'splosions, all of it with a fantasy touch.

Sadly, none of it's likely to come to pass; this isn't the kind of fantasy Hollywood generally looks to adapt. I can dream, though.
Learn more about the books and author at Marie Brennan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Julie Compton's "Tell No Lies"

Julie Compton practiced law in St. Louis, Missouri, and more recently worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

About Tell No Lies, her first novel, from the Florida Sun-Sentinel:
Tell No Lies has all the requisites of legal thrillers including courtroom dramas and lawyers' behind the scenes work… Compton proves she has real storytelling skills. Tell No Lies' final twist is as stunning as that classic surprise in Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent.”
Here Compton shares some ideas for the principal cast should Tell No Lies be adapted for the big screen:
As a novelist, the second most common question I hear after "Are any of your characters based on real people?" is, "If someone made a movie of Tell No Lies, who would you like to see play the characters?"

It's a tough question. The characters are crystal clear in my head, but I didn't write the novel with any particular actor or actress in mind.

Finding the right actor to play Jack, my main character, would be the toughest task. He must have the right look (ruggedly handsome but with a youthful face, not too pretty, but still, a golden boy), but he must also have the acting skills to convey Jack's personality. On the exterior, Jack is sensible, smart, always the professional. But inside, he's impulsive, over-analytical, and "a hopeless romantic" (which is what Jenny, the woman who causes him to stray, rightly accuses him of being). There was a time when I thought Brad Pitt could play Jack, but he's become too old and too famous; I find it hard to watch him and not be aware that I'm watching Brad Pitt play someone else. So, my vote goes to Bradley Cooper.

Claire is only slightly easier. Again, I'd want the actress to look like the Claire I imagine in my head (honey-blonde, wavy hair and pretty in a natural, earthy way), but she must also be able to capture Claire's calm, grounded nature. Early in the writing of the first draft, I saw a model in an Eddie Bauer catalog who was a ringer for Claire. I ripped out the page and kept it, mostly for reference as I wrote. But even if authors had any say over casting (and they don't; once movie rights are sold, authors kiss all control goodbye, right?), and even if I could locate this model, who knows if she can act? And then there's another problem: characters in your book never age, but the real-life people you want to play them do. It's been almost ten years since I first began writing Tell No Lies. The gal in that catalog may have grandchildren by now! So, I'm left with the typical Hollywood choices. In my opinion, only one actress comes to mind who has the acting chops to nail Claire's subtle nuances: Kate Winslet.

Next up, Jenny. There was a time when I would have insisted that the perfect casting of Jenny was impossible. She existed in my mind only. I once saw a woman on a snorkeling boat in the islands who came close, but not close enough. But all that changed when I saw Slumdog Millionaire. When Freida Pinto (who plays the adult Latika) first appeared before me on the big screen, I immediately thought, "There's my Jenny." Her physical appearance matched the Jenny in my head, and though she plays a more simple type of woman in that movie, I think she could pull off Jenny's enigmatic and often contradictory personality traits: manipulative yet vulnerable, outgoing yet guarded, intellectually intelligent but emotionally damaged.

Finally, the easiest to cast of all: Earl, Jack's boss. If Brian Keith was still alive, he could play him. But he's not, so the next best thing would be Tommy Lee Jones. Simply stated, Tommy, as Earl, wouldn't put up with Jack's crap.

P.S. Any doubts I might have had regarding my picks for Claire and Jenny ... well, let's just say this picture dispensed with them all. Seeing Winslet and Pinto together confirmed my sense that these two women need to be my leading ladies. Hollywood, are you listening?
Read an excerpt from Tell No Lies, and learn more about the novel and author at Julie Compton's website and her blog.

The Page 69 Test: Tell No Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 17, 2009

Karen Harrington's "Janeology"

Karen Harrington is a former speechwriter, turned stay-home-mom. Her psychological suspense novel, Janeology, debuted last year.

Here she shares a few thoughts about the potential challenge of adapting her uniquely structured novel and offers a few ideas about casting the lead roles:
When I was invited to participate in My Book, The Movie, I had the same thought as Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish when he said something like “If you asked me if my novel could be made into a movie, I would have said it had just as likely a chance as being made into a car.”


Like Wallace’s work (which has been a big influence on my writing), I like reading and writing linked stories and novels that are short, but feature a large cast of loosely connected characters or ideas. Janeology is a such a composite novel so I’d be surprised if it could be adapted into a film. (Although you good-looking producer reading this, please don’t let that stop you from trying. In fact, I’m throwing down the challenge. Ha!) After all, I used a genealogy pedigree chart to keep track of eight of Jane’s eclectic ancestors as I was writing the novel. However, the novel has one narrator: Jane’s husband, Tom. From his point of view, the story reveals not only Tom’s own guilt about not really knowing his wife, but also shows the character of Jane through the lives of her ancestors, going back four generations, in hopes of teasing out that dark gene she may have inherited that predisposed her to violence.

Now, that’s a lot of casting. There’s her mother. Her mother’s mother. Her father. Her father’s mother. And so on.

But fear not! After I slept on it, I realized the screenplay might focus on Jane’s maternal family tree. It would be interesting to use the same actress who portrays Jane in the roles of her ancestors spanning different eras. I think Ashley Judd would be a fine fit for this role. And it would be fun to see the gene pool go back in time vis-a-vis the same actress, wouldn’t it? Perhaps in black and white sequences?

Who to play her besotted, grieving professor husband, Tom? How about Mark Ruffalo? Like Ms. Judd, he has quite a range of performance from comedic to dramatic. What I like best about him is his ability to show skepticism or heartbreak just with a look – a key trait for the character of Tom Nelson. And then there’s the great hair, too. Hair counts for a lot when the actor is grieving as in, “He ran a hand through his hair, then held his head with two hands, unable to look at the beautiful face he once loved.” (I’m just riffing here, folks, but you get the idea.)

Now, you’re probably asking yourself – what is the literary device Ms. Harrington used to great effect giving readers a glimpse into Jane’s family tree? Answer: A clairvoyant named Mariah who uses objects once owned by Jane’s relatives to discover something about their lives. Mariah’s talents are central to the connections weaving throughout the novel. You don’t have to believe in retrocognition for the story to work, but the reader/viewer does have to suspend belief in order to dive into, say, an old black and white photograph and get it to tell a story. I suspect that if there was ever an Oscar contending role within Janeology: The Movie, Mariah’s character would be it. This actress would have to make you BEE-LIEVE. (Think Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost.) So, I should probably leave this character to the casting wizards. Of course, if you’ve read the book, wouldn’t I LOVE to know your opinion on Mariah and the potential future actress who might play her? Oh, yes. Yes, I would.
Read an excerpt of Janeology and learn more about the book and author at Karen Harrington's website.

The Page 69 Test: Janeology.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cheryl Norman's "Running Scared"

Cheryl Norman won the 2003 EPPIE award for her contemporary romance, Last Resort. Her debut with Medallion, Restore My Heart, earned her a mention in Publishers Weekly as one of ten new romance authors to watch.

Here she shares some casting ideas for her latest novel Running Scared, should it be adapted for the large or small screen:
I first wrote Running Scared so many years ago that the actors I had in mind at the time have aged beyond the roles. I based Ashley Adams, the newly divorced marathon runner who witnesses a murder while training, on Lisa Hartman-Black. Homicide Detective Rick Edwards was Ed Harris—when he still had hair. I rewrote the book several times, and the characters changed, too. Since both hero and heroine are mid-thirties, I’ve had to look for younger actors for casting my book.

If someone─the Lifetime Network, perhaps─offered to make a film of Running Scared, I hope they’d cast Alison Eastwood as Ashley. Alison has the blond hair and thin but athletic build of my heroine. She also has a fair, natural beauty that fits my character’s image. I’ve seen Alison play a role of a strong woman who must fight for her safety and freedom. If you aren’t familiar with Alison, you should be. She’s a talented actress and the daughter of Clint.

Josh Lucas, with those gorgeous blue eyes, makes a perfect Rick Edwards. He may be a bit young for the role, but I don’t care. He’s perfect. He can play sensitive and stern, although he also shows a playful side. I see him as the dedicated, honorable homicide detective who is tortured by the recent deaths of his wife and daughter, the man who leaves no stone unturned when investigating a case. On the movie screen in my mind, I see Josh Lucas giving his all to keep Alison Eastwood safe while solving the murder she witnessed. Of course, I can see them falling in love, too. Running Scared is ROMANTIC suspense, after all!

There’s a third character I need to mention, Ashley’s unstable ex-husband, Peter Adams. Johnny Depp, absolutely. He can make insanity and danger believable. He’s a doll, but he can do scary. I realize this is a dream cast, but it’s my dream.
Learn more about the book and author at Cheryl Norman's website and MySpace page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dan Elish's "The Misadventures of Justin Hearnfeld"

Dan Elish is the author of the novel Nine Wives as well as several books for young adults and children including the award-winning Born Too Short, Confessions of an 8th Grade Basket Case, The Worldwide Dessert Contest, Jason and the Baseball Bear, and The Great Squirrel Uprising.

Here he explains which actors and directors he would like to see adapt his latest novel, The Misadventures of Justin Hearnfeld, for the big screen:
Who would I want to star in my novel, The Misadventures of Justin Hearnfeld, if it were turned into a movie? I’ll answer like this: it almost was. Well, not quite. But there was a long weekend in the fall of ’07 where it looked like the movie rights were going to be bought. What happened was my literary agent hooked me up with a movie agent, who fell in love with the book and sent it out en masse. Within hours, I was being forwarded these wildly enthusiastic emails from producers.

“I love this!” one said.

“Oh, my God!” gushed another. “Yes!”

One (whose name I won’t mention) was so excited it looked like the whole thing was a lock. All she needed was approval that Monday morning from the studio head. Apparently, that studio head didn’t exactly share her enthusiasm. Just like that, the emails stopped coming. Seventy-two hours after it began the ride was over.

But for those three days I spent a lot of time thinking about the movie version of the novel. The book tells the tale of a slightly hapless, slightly horny, highschool English teacher who gets stuck teaching at the New York City private school that he attended and detested as a boy. “Good-bye, Mr. Chips meets Portnoy's Complaint meets The 40-Year-Old Virgin in contemporary Manhattan” – that’s how Kirkus Reviews described it (much to my delight), and I was happy to note that all the reviews took note Justin’s general good heartedness.

So the movie? Well, sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one. In this case, Judd Apatow to direct with Seth Rogen as the lead. In fact, though the book is funny (or professes to be) I’d even be happy to have Judd and crew adapt the whole thing. The scenes are all there (an opening where Justin thinks about the girl he loves while visiting a bio lab and inadvertently rubs himself against a Bunsen burner, igniting a fetal pig), but I think Apatow and crew would spice it up a bit, adding lots of witty guy-banter. Another director who might do the material justice, is Chris Weitz of American Pie fame, a movie I admired for its bawdiness and sweetness. In fact, Chris and I went to the same highschool (I won’t mention the name) – the same highschool that is the basis of much of the book. So Chris, if you’re out there and are looking for the perfect novel to adapt – this might be it.

For the third option, we’d need a time machine. To star, a young Tom Hanks. (All due respect to Seth Rogen, Tom Hanks can be funny and real and lots of other great things). To direct, I’d choose the Ron Howard who made Cocoon and Parenthood.

Finally, there is the question of the lead actress. Actually there are three women who pop in and out of Justin’s life, but in interest of keeping with the Apatow theme, Katherine Heigl would work. Or Anna Faris? Then again, I could just lobby for Cate Blanchett, because she can do anything and I’d love to meet her.

Most of all, I have made a vow. If the Hollywood feeding frenzy ever happens for me again, I will take as a given that it will all probably fall through. I will not get my hopes up or think about the massive amounts of money that will rain down on my head. I will remain calm.

Yeah, right.
Read an excerpt from The Misadventures of Justin Hearnfeld, and learn more about the author and his work at Dan Elish's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Misadventures of Justin Hearnfeld.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Joel Shepherd's "Crossover"

Joel Shepherd was born in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1974. He has studied Film and Television, International Relations, has interned on Capitol Hill in Washington, and traveled widely in Asia. His first trilogy, the Cassandra Kresnov Series, consists of Crossover, Breakaway and Killswitch.

Here he gives some guidance for casting some of the characters in a film adaptation of the novel:
Casting Crossover the movie actually isn’t going to be that easy... or at least not if it’s done well. The supporting cast could be relatively straight forward, but Cassandra Kresnov herself is another story -- maybe someone reading this would have a better idea than me.

Cassandra (Sandy) is an android, but unlike anything Hollywood’s ever seen. She was created from technology that copies human beings in synthetic form, with appropriate improvements. So she’s basically human, only made of different stuff. The ‘improvements’ are that she’s death on legs, the ultimate killing machine. The catch is that the same added intelligence that makes her the most deadly of her kind, also makes her more emotional, more vulnerable, and sends her in search of a life free from violence (that bit doesn’t work out so well for her though).

The actress playing Sandy would need to be very pretty (no shortage there) but would also need to have a strong physical presence -- what Sandy can do is pretty scary, and the intimidation factor needs to be convincing. Unfortunately Hollywood actresses are encouraged to starve themselves more and work out less, which limits the pool. She also needs to be capable of abandoning all the standard cliches of ‘sexy female action hero’, because Sandy doesn’t really understand any of them -- despite her active libido she’s not the type to seduce the camera with sultry poses, and as a life-long soldier, she barely knows a mini skirt from a ball gown. Not that she’s not intrigued by the difference, as she’s intrigued by all civilian and pointless things. It’s just that she is what she is, and isn’t going to feel any more comfortable wearing silly things than a dog would be happy wearing rollerskates.

Sandy has a curious combination of wide-eyed innocence and worldly cynicism, disarming self-deprecation and lethal confidence. So she’d require someone who can not only look convincing while kicking ass, but who can really act, too. In other words, I’ve really no idea who might play Sandy, but whoever she is would have a lot of fun.

Supporting cast... well Sandy’s new best friend Vanessa Rice is fair game for any actress who typically gets cast as ‘girly’ or ‘cute’, and is sick of it. Natalie Portman could do it. Ari Ruben would only make an appearance if there were a sequel, only entering the Cassandra Kresnov Series in the second novel, Breakaway -- but he’s the only character who was partly inspired by an actual actor, Adam Goldberg. Anyone who saw his character in the short-lived TV show Relativity might recognise some of Ari’s mannerisms.

As for the Director... well, anyone who understands that the story matters more than the FX. For all the cool action, the fastest way to screw up the movie would be to make it ALL ABOUT the action. We all know Sandy can kick pretty much anyone’s butt, the real drama comes from her trying to figure out WHOSE butt, and why, and can she live with herself afterward. This isn’t some shoot-em-up where the primary drama is whether our hero will run out of bullets. I don’t know how many Directors know these things, but there are some out there, certainly.
Read an excerpt from Crossover, and learn more about the author and his work at Joel Shepherd's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mike Brotherton's "Spider Star"

Mike Brotherton is a professor of Astronomy at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, and the author of the novels Star Dragon and Spider Star.

Here he shares some ideas about who might direct and star in a cinematic adaptation of Spider Star...and establishes without equivocation the director he most definitely does not want to see anywhere near the project:
My novel Spider Star from Tor Books is a far-future space adventure with starships, aliens, advanced technology, and a lot of astronomy. Unfortunately a lot of Hollywood movies with these elements wind up being pretty dumb, with Armageddon at the top of the heap. With this in mind, my first notion about my book as a movie is that Michael Bay be assassinated if he even hears the slightest whisper about Spider Star. I might become suicidal if my ideas became transformed into a Michael Bay movie.

Having said that, my choice for director would be Zombie Kubrick, but he worked slowly even when he was alive, so let's go with Robert Zemeckis. He did a good job of making the science fiction elements of Contact realistic, and I love the way he uses special effects as a tool rather than an end product (e.g., Michael Bay).

There are three point-of-view characters in Spider Star. Frank Klingston is an older family-oriented man of Nordic stock who has put his days of exploration behind him, but when his world is threatened, he takes up the challenge. A lot of the book is about him struggling with sacrifice for his family, which he must give up in order to save, and how discovery and risk are a young man's game that he must learn how to play all over again. I see William Hurt pulling off Frank Klingston, mixing elements from his roles in The Accidental Tourist, Lost in Space, and the Sci-Fi Channel adaptation of Dune. He can do wise patriarch, and disconnected man searching to feel that fire of life again.

While Frank is big, blond, a little soft and reluctant to embark on an extended mission to deep space, his counter point is Manuel Rusk. Rusk is smaller, younger, darker, and much more ambitious and anxious to prove himself. My first thought was Antonio Banderas, but he's getting a bit old himself, and also perhaps a bit too old would be Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert on Lost, and BatManuel on The Tick, and the Mayor in The Dark Knight). I'd prefer a younger, more ambitious actor. Freddy Rodriguez, who played El Wray in the Planet Terror segment of Grindhouse, would be terrific.

The third main character is Sloan Griffin, sometimes lover to Rusk, and fellow Specialist with a passion for security and spotting the things that are out of place. She's focused, dedicated, and extremely competent in her work. I see Carrie-Anne Moss who played Trinity in the Matrix movies and the mission commander in Red Planet. She seems to exude the qualities in her roles that I think of when I consider Sloan Griffin.

I would trust Trinity to off Michael Bay if his name came up with association with the project.
Read the prologue and first four chapters of Spider Star. Learn more about the author and his work at Mike Brotherton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Spider Star.

--Marshal Zeringue