Saturday, October 30, 2010

Toby Ball's "The Vaults"

Toby Ball works at the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. The Vaults, his first novel, was published in September by St. Martin's Press.

Here he shares his preferences for the above-the-line talent for a cinematic adaptation of the novel:
I definitely did not write The Vaults with any particular actors in mind, though the sensibility of gangster movies from the 1930s and 40s was very much an influence. That said, casting the film had become a popular conversation topic, generally over drinks.

Here's my vision:

Frank Frings would be played by Ed Norton of ten years ago or possibly George Clooney.

Arthur Puskis would be played by a sixty-year-old Bruce Dern. No one else will do.

Ethan Poole would be played by either a mid-twenties Mark Wahlberg or seventies icon, John Saxon.

Nora Aspen would be played by Scarlett Johansson.

Carla would be played by a mid-twenties Nastassja Kinski or a big money producer's girlfriend if we have to go that route.

Red Henry would be played by Alec Baldwin who doesn't have the size to play the hulking mayor, but can convey the outsize personality necessary to capture the essence of a bully.

I'm a big Stanley Kubrick fan and think he would do a great job directing. The hallway scenes in The Shining could easily be translated to Puskis in The Vaults.
Visit Toby Ball's website and blog.

Writers Read: Toby Ball.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Anna Elliott's "Dark Moon of Avalon"

Anna Elliott is the author of the Twilight of Avalon Trilogy from Simon & Schuster's Touchstone imprint. The trilogy comprises Twilight of Avalon, Dark Moon of Avalon, and the upcoming Sunrise of Avalon.

Here she lays out her actor preferences for the lead roles in an adaptation of Dark Moon of Avalon:
In Dark Moon of Avalon, the young former High Queen Isolde and her friend and protector Trystan are reunited in a new and dangerous quest to keep the usurper Lord Marche and his Saxon allies from the throne of Britain. Using Isolde's wit and talent for healing and Trystan's strength and bravery, they must act as diplomats, persuading the rulers of the smaller kingdoms, from Ireland to Cornwall, that their allegiance to the High King is needed to keep Britain from a despot's hands.

If I were casting the roles of Trystan and Isolde for a movie, one of my first choices for Trystan would be Matt Bomer, currently starring on the hit TV show White Collar. He's very similar in appearance to the way I've always pictured Trystan in my head with his intense blue eyes and lean, angular good looks. But more than that, the character he plays on White Collar is a man of mystery, a rogue with a conscience and a sense of honor, and that describes Trystan perfectly. Trystan is a mercenary warrior and a spy, adept at subterfuge and disguise. His sense of honor is not always in accordance with the law, yet he does have his own strict code of honor and loyalty that he will not violate under any terms. And like Matt Bomer's character in White Collar, Trystan's highest loyalty is to the woman he loves.

Isolde is harder for me to cast than Trystan, maybe because she's so close to my heart. But I loved the performances Eva Green gave in Kingdom of Heaven and Casino Royale. Like the character of Sibylla in Kingdom of Heaven, Isolde is a woman of courage fighting for the right to control her own destiny in a male-dominated world. She is strong, but wounded by trauma in her own past, and her journey in Dark Moon of Avalon is one of healing her heart and winning the right to chose her own love.
Read the prologue to Dark Moon of Avalon, and watch the video trailer.

Learn more about the book and author at Anna Elliott's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Moon of Avalon.

Writers Read: Anna Elliott.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meg Gardiner's Jo Beckett series

Meg Gardiner's novels include the Jo Beckett series -- The Dirty Secrets Club, The Memory Collector, and The Liar's Lullaby.

Here she shares her thinking about casting a big screen adaptation of the novels:
I’m outside the box, thinking.

The characters in the Jo Beckett series live vividly, and sometimes obstreperously, inside my head. I know what they look like. So do readers—when I asked them who should play the characters in the movie, I got twenty-five different answers.

So, how can I pick a single cast? In this era of HD, 3D, avatars and performance capture, why collapse the possibilities to a single face? Let’s not. I’m casting Jo Beckett, The Movie with a few mashups.

Jo is a forensic psychiatrist—a deadshrinker. The Kirkus Mystery and Thriller Review called her a “rock climber, monkey wrangler, and confessor extraordinaire.” She needs spunk, intelligence, and some serious physicality.

Movie Jo: Rachel McAdams crossed with Zoë Saldana (in either Uhura or Neytiri mode). She’d be feisty, tenacious, and could climb mountains until the banshees carried her away.

Gabe Quintana: He’s Jo’s boyfriend—a pararescueman with the California Air National Guard, a grad student, and a single dad. Make him the love child of Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me, Ranger in the upcoming One For The Money) and Timothy Olyphant.

Amy Tang, SFPD homicide detective—she’s a tough, smart cop, and Jo has been known to call her Spiky, the Goth Gnome: Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica) with a punk haircut.

Ferd Bismuth, Jo’s hypochondriac neighbor—he’s ungainly, smart, and hopelessly in love with Jo: Mike White combined with Dileep Rao.

There. Piece of cake.
Learn more about the author and her work at Meg Gardiner's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Meg Gardiner's Evan Delaney series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Joan Frances Turner's "Dust"

Joan Frances Turner was born in Rhode Island and grew up in the Calumet Region of northwest Indiana. A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, she lives near the Indiana Dunes with her family and a garden full of spring onions and tiger lilies, weather permitting.

Dust, her first novel, is a story of the undead from their own point of view, as they battle time, decay, the loved ones they left behind, encroaching humanity and each other. Or, think Watership Down with zombies instead of rabbits.

Here she explains who ought to do the makeup on a cinematic adaptation of well as her choices for actors in the main roles:
Whenever anyone asks me--as they occasionally do--who my dream cast for Dust might include, my answer is always an immediate, "I honestly have no idea but please, please, please let Rick Baker do the makeup." Having the man responsible for An American Werewolf in London, The Ring, Videodrome, Star Wars, The Howling and dozens of other films--not to mention, of course, the dancing zombies in Michael Jackson's "Thriller"--as my makeup and special effects impresario would be a genuine honor, and at that point they can honestly do whatever they like with the script. (Not that anyone ever consults the writer about such things, anyway.)

That said, imaginary-casting Dust is still great fun, for the simple reason that Hollywood thrives on prettiness and most of our players would have to be willing to get down in the dirt and spectacularly ugly. Assuming, since this is all fantasy, that I can cast without regard to time, place or real-world age, here's a few suggestions:

--Jessie: Our POV protagonist, Jessie is an "everywoman" zombie, an angry teenage girl turned angry young woman trapped in a slowly decaying body and searching, with little success, for a surrogate family like she never had alive. Busy Philipps, who played the tough, needy Kim Kelly on Freaks and Geeks, springs to mind right away, or possibly Kristen Stewart.

--Joe: Jessie's…not quite boyfriend, since zombies don't have libidos or romantic attachments as humans imagine them, but the closest to such a thing as she'll get while undead. A few folks have spoken of the book having an Outsiders vibe, and a friend called Joe "Ponyboy with maggots"--so who better than C. Thomas Howell, who played Ponyboy in the Francis Ford Coppola Outsiders adaptation. If he's willing to let himself be covered head to toe with seething artificial grubs, he's a shoo-in.

--Renee: A friend of Jessie's, Renee is not just freshly dead but also "conventionally" blonde, girlish and pretty, so really any Hollywood ingénue who wants to mix it up in a big fight scene--and let her scalp get torn off in the process--could fit the bill.

--Florian: The zombie gang paterfamilias, a walking skeleton who's lost most of his earthly appetites. The character actors Peter Weller and Peter Greene both have the right vaguely cadaverous vibe for the part, though they'd have to be aged up. Actually, since this is fantasy casting an elderly Henry Fonda would be ideal.

--Billy: A big, bloated shambles of a corpse, the gang comic with a vicious, ravenous edge: a perfect part for a character actor or comedian who can go funny or frightening as the situation demands. "Big and bloated" he isn't, but with some judicious padding and makeup Steve Buscemi would be a great choice.

--Linc: The "thinker" of the gang, quiet and meditative and far stronger than he appears. Either a teenaged Marlon Taylor (who played the younger Mike Hanlon, future town librarian, in Stephen King's It) or, based on his work in the 1993 indie film Suture, a similarly aged-down Dennis Haysbert.

Of the above, my "dream" choices no matter who they played would be Steve Buscemi, Peter Weller and Peter Greene. But as noted, if Rick Baker raised a hand to participate, they could cast Lady Gaga as Florian and I'd still be good with it.
Read an excerpt from Dust, and learn more about the book and author at Joan Frances Turner's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dust.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 18, 2010

Joanne Rendell's "Out of the Shadows"

Joanne Rendell's novels include The Professors' Wives' Club, Crossing Washington Square, and the recently released Out of the Shadows.

Here she shares some ideas for director and cast of a big screen adaptation of Out of the Shadows:
When I fantasize about Out of the Shadows coming out on the big screen, I can’t help but think of the 2002 movie Possession (Neil LaBute’s screen adaptation of A.S. Byatt’s novel of the same name). My novel tells the story of Clara Fitzgerald, a woman who thinks she is related to the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. On her journey to learn the truth, Clara uncovers startling secrets about the past and her present. The book is told from alternating points of view between Clara and the young Mary Shelley preparing to write Frankenstein. Like Possession, it weaves a historical story into a very contemporary one and tries to tease out the echoes between past and present – and our possible future too.

Because of the similarities with Possession, I’d love to see Gywneth Paltrow playing Clara just as she played the lead in the LaBute movie. Paltrow has a fascinating and paradoxical quality about her: aloof yet vulnerable; feminine and beautiful but also regal and tough. Clara is a similarly paradoxical woman in Out of the Shadows. She’s an accomplished professor, a beautiful and tender woman. But she’s been living too long in the shadow of her very successful fiancé. They have moved from city to city, university to university, following his meteoric rise in the world of genetic research. Somewhere along the way, Clara’s dreams and passions have been lost. Her mother has also just died and this loss has set her adrift. Out of the Shadows charts her journey of self-discovery and finding out where her heart truly belongs.

Alongside Paltrow, I imagine an actor like Billy Crudup playing Clara’s fiancé. Crudup did a great job playing the slick, handsome, but ultimately spiky ex-husband in the recent movie Eat Pray Love. Anthony is a similarly handsome and polished man, but he has a darker side too where his hubris and narcissism reside.

A movie adaptation of Out of the Shadows would need two actors to play Mary Shelley as a young girl and as a teenager. I recently watched the new BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (so wonderful!) and a young actress called Lucy Boynton played the youngest Dashwood sister, Margaret. Boynton exuded a feisty, adventuresome but sweet charm that would fit a young Shelley. As for the teenage Mary, I imagine someone like Anna Paquin, although she is a teenager no longer! Like the headstrong but thoughtful Mary, there is something soulful and smart, passionate and strong about Paquin.

Anna Paquin reminds me of my dream director too. In short, Jane Campion (Paquin was the little girl in the beautiful and tragic movie The Piano, of course). No one does atmospheric historicals or unique dramas about women quite the way Campion does.
Learn more about the book and author at Joanne Rendell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rick Mofina's "The Panic Zone"

Rick Mofina is a former crime reporter and the award-winning author of several acclaimed thrillers. He's interviewed murderers face-to-face on death row and patrolled with the LAPD and the RCMP. His true-crime articles have appeared in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Reader's Digest and Penthouse. He's reported from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, Qatar and Kuwait's border with Iraq.

Mofina's novels include Every Fear, A Perfect Grave, Six Seconds, Vengeance Road, and the latest, The Panic Zone.  His thoughts about the actors who might star in an adaptation of The Panic Zone:
If my book The Panic Zone were made into a movie, I would cast Ethan Hawke in the role of Jack Gannon, the New York-based wire service reporter on the trail of a global plot to change the world. As the architect of that plot, Doctor Gretchen Sutsoff, the former CIA scientist, I would cast Meryl Streep or Glenn Close. I see George Clooney as Lancer, the federal security agent, working desperately connecting the dots and in the role of Emma Lane, the tormented young mother searching for her baby boy, I would cast Ellen Page.
Learn more about the book and author at Rick Mofina's website.

The Page 69 Test: Every Fear.

My Book, The Movie: A Perfect Grave.

The Page 69 Test: Six Seconds.

The Page 69 Test: Vengeance Road.

Writers Read: Rick Mofina.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Katrina Kittle's "The Blessings of the Animals"

Katrina Kittle is the author of Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, and The Kindness of Strangers. The Kindness of Strangers was a BookSense pick and the winner of the 2006 Great Lakes Book Award for Fiction. Early chapters from that novel earned her grants from both the Ohio Arts Council and Culture Works. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University in Louisville.

Here she shares her preferences for the above-the-line talent in an adaptation of her latest novel, The Blessings of the Animals:
What a fun, fun game! I've been playing "casting director" for my other novels for some time, but since The Blessings of the Animals has only been out a couple of months, it was the first time I was exploring casting for these characters. I had some readers help me out with suggestions. It's a blast to cast A-list actors in ALL the roles, even the smaller ones and not have to consider budget at all. Oh, if only it really worked that way!

First of all, I'd want Jodie Foster to direct it. Her direction of Home for the Holidays was brilliant, and showed her deft hand with the drama/comedy balance in family stories.

My top choice for Cami is Laura Linney (but the short list included Julianne Moore and Kate Winslet). My top choice for Bobby was Dominic West (but top contenders were Hank Azaria and Robert Downey Jr. Of course, friends accuse me of casting Robert Downey Jr. in everything!)

The only casting choices no one questioned and that everyone who participated in my little poll embraced with total approval were the Davids. As Davy, I want Neil Patrick Harris, and for his partner, Big David, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

My dream actors to play Cami's parents would be Meryl Streep and John Lithgow.

Vijay would be played by Naveen Andrews (I think my friends have forgiven me for suggesting, "Don't forget that Robert Downey Jr. was nominated for an Oscar for playing an African-American, so I see no reason why he couldn't play an Indian").

Dubey would be played by Michael C. Hall, since he's so genius at capturing that frozen emotional depth. He could show us how shut off and afraid Dubey is, at the same he could show us the potential underneath all that.

I guess I should stop there, with the major roles...but it was fun to assign big name stars to even the smaller parts! We can dream, can't we?

All I know for sure is that this movie would need a big, talented team of animal handlers!
Learn more about the book and author at Katrina Kittle's website.

Writers Read: Katrina Kittle.

The Page 69 Test: The Blessings of the Animals.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thomas W. Young's "The Mullah's Storm"

Thomas W. Young has logged nearly 4,000 hours as a flight engineer for the Air National Guard in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and elsewhere, including Latin America, the Horn of Africa, and the Far East. Military honors include two Air Medals, three Aerial Achievement Medals, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. He continues to serve with the Air National Guard as a Senior Master Sergeant.

He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and studied writing there and at the Sewanee Writers' Conference, among other places. He is also the author of the oral history The Speed of Heat: An Airlift Wing at War in Iraq and Afghanistan, and contributed to the anthology Operation Homecoming, edited by Andrew Carroll.

Here Young explains which actors might best portray the lead characters in a big screen adaptation of  The Mullah's Storm, his first significant work of fiction:
If a director chose to bring The Mullah's Storm to the screen, he or she wouldn't need a lot of special effects. With the exception of the opening scene involving the shootdown of a C-130 transport plane, the bulk of the film would require only two strong leading actors--one male and one female--a few extras, and mountains and snow. Lots of mountains and lots of snow.

The two main characters, Air Force navigator Michael Parson and a woman Army translator--Master Sergeant Gold--embark on a journey of survival through the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. While fleeing for their lives, they must also hold onto a prisoner--an important Taliban mullah--who was bound for prison and interrogation when their aircraft went down.

Parson can handle himself on the ground--he's a lifelong outdoorsman from Colorado. But as a flyboy, he's not a Special Forces badass. The actor playing him would need to show competence and military bearing, but with a hint of vulnerability. I've always thought Eric Bana did a fantastic job in Black Hawk Down. Barry Pepper made a highly believable World War II sniper in Saving Private Ryan. Either of these gentlemen could make a good Parson--an aviator who's just had an aircraft blown out from under him and seen his best friends killed.

The question of who would play Sergeant Gold is even more interesting. Though Gold is not the book's point-of-view character, early readers have responded to her with an enthusiasm I honestly did not anticipate. Some of the real-life military women with whom I have served inspired that character. Though Parson outranks Gold, she becomes the functional leader on the ground in Afghanistan. She speaks fluent Pashto; she knows Afghan cultures. She's an expert in the human terrain she and Parson must navigate. In addition, she possesses a wisdom and perspective that Parson lacks. Her knowledge helps keep him sane, while his outdoor skills help keep her alive.

Though Gold is a soldier, a senior noncommissioned officer, at her core she is a scholar. Think of the smartest girl in the class, then give her a rifle and the know-how to use it, and that's Sergeant Gold. She doesn't talk a lot, but when she does you want to listen. When she doesn't, you wonder what she's thinking. She would be a great role for an actress who can project quiet strength. Imagine the intensity of Angelina Jolie, the heart of Evangeline Lilly, and the cerebral appeal of Jodie Foster.

Finally, the mountains themselves are practically a character in The Mullah's Storm. Since I don't recommend shooting a film in the Hindu Kush just now, the Rockies or the Alps would make a good substitute. The sweep and grandeur of the terrain inform the novel's tension, and a cinematographer could capitalize on the forbidding beauty of the locale as an engine of the story.

For some visuals relevant to The Mullah's Storm, please take a look at a video from Putnam. The video includes stills of the Hindu Kush that I took from the flight deck of a C-130 on missions in Afghanistan.
Read an excerpt from The Mullah's Storm, and learn more about the book and author at Thomas W. Young's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gerald Elias' "Danse Macabre"

A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.

Here he shares his preference for casting the lead in adaptations of his novels, Devil's Trill and the recently released Danse Macabre:
Move over, De Niro and Pacino. For Daniel Jacobus in Devil's Trill and Danse Macabre I want Alan Arkin, in my mind one of America's greatest actors ever, who can play any kind of role convincingly. That's why I want him for Jacobus, flinty and sarcastic on the outside, heart of gold on the inside, afflicted with blindness and old age, a profound artist yet coarse and neglectful in his worldly tastes. Think of Arkin's portrayal of a deaf mute in The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, one of the most poignant roles ever in cinema, and then in Little Miss Sunshine, and Wait Until Dark, and The Russians Are Coming, and Catch 22. Without a doubt, he's the man!
Learn more about the book and author at Gerald Elias' website.

The Page 69 Test: Devil's Trill.

The Page 69 Test: Danse Macabre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Matt Hilton's "Judgment and Wrath"

Matt Hilton is the Cumbrian author of the Joe Hunter thriller series, including Dead Men’s Dust, Judgement and Wrath, Slash and Burn, and Cut and Run, with further books in the series coming soon. He is a high ranking martial artist and has been a police officer and private security specialist, all of which lend an authenticity to the action scenes in his books.

Here he shares some ideas for casting a big screen adaptation of Judgment and Wrath:
OK, I admit to playing the ‘what if they made my book into a movie’ game and have mulled this over with some of my readers on occasion. It’s surprising who comes to mind, and there seems to be a mix of opinions.

Judgment and Wrath is an action thriller, with Joe Hunter protecting a young couple after they are targeted by a demented contract killer who believes himself to be the fallen angel ‘Dantalion’. Here are my choices for casting Judgment and Wrath, the second in the Joe Hunter thriller series, as well as some others I’ve had suggested to me by my readers.

Joe Hunter: Max Martini (The Unit) has the looks and physical prowess, as well as the moody depths to play Hunter. Sean Bean (The Hitcher), Dominic West (The Wire), Gerard Butler (Law Abiding Citizen), Clive Owen (King Arthur), Daniel Craig (James Bond).

Dantalion: Jake Busey (Identity) or Luke Goss (Blade 2/ Hellboy 2: The Golden Army)

Jared ‘Rink’ Rington: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (Walking Tall/ WWE wrestler)

Harvey Lucas: Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond)

Marianne Dean: Anna Paquin (True Blood)

Bradley Jorgenson: Ryan Reynolds (The Amityville Horror)

Walter Hayes Conrad: Alec Baldwin (Mercury Rising) or Val Kilmer (Batman Forever/XIII)
Read more about Judgment and Wrath, and visit Matt Hilton's website and blog.

Writers Read: Matt Hilton.

The Page 69 Test: Judgment and Wrath.

--Marshal Zeringue