Monday, October 23, 2017

S. Shankar's "Ghost in the Tamarind"

S. Shankar is a novelist, cultural critic and translator. Most recently, he was honored by a Fulbright-Nehru Award (2017-2018) and was appointed the 2016 Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown. Among other honors, he is the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i, where he is Professor of English.

Here Shankar dreamcasts an adaptation of his newest novel, Ghost in the Tamarind:
Ghost in the Tamarind is a novel about India—its world is Indian and so are (mostly) the characters, including the two main ones, Ramu and Ponni.

Might, then, a Bombay actor with an international reputation be best as Ramu? The young Amitabh Bachchan (how far the great have fallen) is one of my all time favorites. He was a stupendous actor, with tremendous screen presence, and though in his younger days was known mostly for dark and brooding roles, he was capable of great nuance. Surely, he would have been able to express that combination of anger, guilt and naivety (or is it innocence?) that is Ramu. However, I digress—that Amitabh Bachchan is thirty years in the past.

How about a contemporary American actor of Indian descent? Perhaps Aziz Ansari, who coincidentally is Tamil and even has parents from that part of India (Thirunelveli) that Ramu is from and in which so much of the novel is set! Ansari has perfected a fidgety and annoying comic public persona very different from Ramu; but Ramu’s earnestness might be an opportunity for him to stretch himself in new directions. A more obvious choice is British actor Dev Patel, who has taken on roles like Ramu. He would be very fine in that role.

For Ponni, an even more intense—more conflicted, more angry, more restless—character than Ramu, British-Indian actor Ayesha Dharker would be perfect. She played a similar role to great effect in Santosh Sivan’s little gem of a movie Terrorist (I highly recommend it). Another actor who could do Ponni to great effect: Seema Biswas, amazing in Shekar Kapur’s Bandit Queen as well as Deepa Mehta’s Water. Dharker and Biswas both are capable of a brooding and uncommon beauty that would work well in giving Ponni flesh on the screen.

Of course, the recommendations above for Ramu and Ponni would be best for when they are older. Ghost in the Tamarind takes its main characters from childhood to when they are around forty years of age. Different actors might be needed for the different parts of the story.

Director? Someone with an Indie spirit might work best. There’s (to my mind at least) a contrariness to Ghost in the Tamarind that any film version would have to preserve in casting as well as directorial vision. Santosh Sivan, who has deep experience in the Tamil film industry, would know how to plumb the Indian, and more specifically Tamil, world of the novel. Indo-Canadian Deepa Mehta too would be great, because of her novelistic imagination. And then there are a few others I can think of, including a couple not well known yet.
Visit S. Shankar's website.

The Page 69 Test: Ghost in the Tamarind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 20, 2017

S.F. Henson's "Devils Within"

S.F. Henson was born and raised in the deep south. She graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Animal Science, which she put to great use by attending law school. Her law degree has gotten some mileage, though, giving her the experience to write about criminals and other dark, nefarious subjects. She lives beside a missile test range in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband, dog, two oddly named cats, and, of course, the missiles that frequently shake her house.

Her Henson dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Devils Within:
My writing brain works in a strange way. Sometimes the characters appear fully formed. I can see their faces and hear their voices and know exactly who would play them in a move version of the book. And sometimes it takes a little work for me to learn the characters and figure out who they are. The writing process for Devils Within ended up being a mix of these two methods. It took a while to see some of the characters while others popped into my head complete.

The main character, Nate Fuller, is one I had to work to uncover, which pretty much sums him up as a character. Throughout the book, he's figuring out who he is and learning things about himself. If I were able to cast someone to play movie Nate, I would be pretty open to finding the right actor for the role, but I do think that Tyler Young would be a good Nate.

Then there's Nate's friend, Brandon Kingsley. He pushes Nate, but he has his own problems too. I've always pictured Michael B. Jordan as Brandon. In reality, he's a little too old to play sixteen-year-old Brandon, but this is my dream cast so I'm keeping him! (Although, I could also see him as Brandon's older brother, Henry).

Brandon's mother, Iria Kingsley, has been Debbie Allen from day one. From the moment the character popped in my head, it was Debbie Allen's voice, movements, and facial expressions. She's also older than Brandon's mother would actually be, but again, my dream cast!

Nate's uncle and guardian, Dell Clemons, was also fully formed upon creation. He has always been Norman Reedus. Norman has the ability to pull off the balance of withdrawn but resentfully caring that sums up Dell.

For Brandon's father, Dr. James Kingsley, I would cast Taye Diggs. I've always heard Dr. Kingsley's voice very clearly. He's firm but patient, quiet but commanding. Like Nate, I could see a number of actors playing Dr. Kingsley, but I would love to see Taye in the role.

Dell's girlfriend, Bev Liu, was always clear as to her mannerisms, but I couldn't picture her face. Not until I saw a Vogue cover with Liu Wen on it. I knew the instant I saw her that she was Bev. Liu Wen is a model, not an actress, but maybe she could be convinced to cross over.

Finally, there's Kelsey Sawyer, Nate's best friend growing up. His "what if?" girl. I would cast Katherine Langford play her. Kelsey is tough and determined. Like Nate, she's had a hard life and has had to do things that haunt her. I think Katherine could show those layers really well.

For director, absolutely David Fincher, His aesthetic would be perfect for the dark feel of the book. Add in Trent Reznor for the score and I would be over the moon!
Visit S.F. Henson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 19, 2017

David Biespiel's "The Education of a Young Poet"

David Biespiel was born in 1964 and grew up in Houston, Texas.  He is a poet, literary critic, columnist, and contributing writer at The Rumpus, American Poetry ReviewPolitico, New RepublicPartisan, Slate, Poetry, and The New York Times, among other publications.

He is the author of ten books, most recently The Education of a Young PoetA Long High Whistle, which received the 2016 Oregon Book Award for General Nonfiction, and The Book of Men and Women, which was chosen one of the Best Books of the Year by the Poetry Foundation and received the 2011 Oregon Book Award for Poetry.

Here Biespiel shares his idea for casting an adaptation of The Education of a Young Poet:
The cast is going to have to be an ensemble of unknowns. Something like the cast of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused  meets the cast of John Sayles’ Return of the Seacaucus 7.
Visit David Biespiel's website.

Writers Read: David Biespiel.

The Page 99 Test: The Education of A Young Poet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Meryl Gordon's "Bunny Mellon"

Meryl Gordon is the author of the New York Times bestselling Mrs. Astor Regrets and Phantom of Fifth Avenue, a Wall Street Journal bestseller. She is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor to Vanity Fair. She is on the graduate journalism faculty at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She is considered an expert on “elder abuse” and has appeared on NPR, CNN and other outlets whenever there is a high-profile case.

Gordon's new book is Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of the biography:
Years ago I profiled Nicole Kidman, who was delightful in person, and while she is too pretty to play Bunny, she would be perfect to show the regal and vulnerable range of the character.
Visit Meryl Gordon's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Phantom of Fifth Avenue.

Writers Read: Meryl Gordon.

The Page 99 Test: Bunny Mellon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 16, 2017

Paul Halpern's "The Quantum Labyrinth"

Paul Halpern is a professor of physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and the author of fifteen popular science books, including Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Literary Award. Halpern has appeared on numerous radio and television shows including Future Quest, Radio Times, several shows on the History Channel, and The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special. He has contributed opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer, blogs frequently on Medium, and was a regular contributor to NOVA’s “The Nature of Reality” physics blog.

Here Halpern dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality:
I can envision a 1950s film of Richard Feynman and John Wheeler, with Jack Lemmon playing Feynman and Jimmy Stewart in the role of Wheeler.  I think Lemmon’s experience with the jazzy scenes, music, humor, flirtatiousness, and silly antics in Some Like It Hot would have made him perfect for the role.  Wheeler was very quiet, but had a great dry sense of humor, which is why Jimmy Stewart comes to mind.

That said, there is an actual film Infinity with Matthew Broderick as Feynman and James LeGros as Wheeler (which I haven’t yet seen), but there is only minimal overlap with what I wrote in my book.
Visit The Quantum Labyrinth website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 13, 2017

Matthew Kraig Kelly's "The Crime of Nationalism"

Matthew Kraig Kelly is a historian of the modern Middle East. He has served as a visiting professor at Occidental College and the University of California, Los Angeles, and his work has been published in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Middle East Critique, and other academic journals.

Here Kelly dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Crime of Nationalism: Britain, Palestine, and Nation-Building on the Fringe of Empire:
My book concerns the Palestinian Great Revolt of 1936-39, which was an Arab uprising against British policy in Palestine. By 1936, the British had been facilitating open ended Jewish immigration into Palestine for about two decades, with the stated intent of establishing a “Jewish National Home.” The Arabs had resisted this plan to no avail. This led to frustration, and finally to rebellion.

My telling of this story does not feature a protagonist or "lead" per se. For the film, we might therefore toggle between three different perspectives -- British, Palestinian, and Zionist -- attempting to render each as sympathetically as possible. And we might select three personalities as the anchors for each of these perspectives.

For the British, a good character would be Arthur Wauchope, the high commissioner for Palestine in 1936. Wauchope had been appointed high commissioner in 1931, at the age of 57. An enthusiastic civilian administrator, he had spent most of his adult life in the military, where he had proven himself a physically courageous man. His experience in the Middle East dated back to the First World War, when he commanded a British brigade in Iraq and was wounded in battle. There is little doubt that he regarded the British presence and mission in Palestine as appropriate, and yet he struggled to find the appropriate strategy for dealing with the Arab rebellion. He resorted to violent repression, but did so ambivalently, aware that doing so risked alienating Palestine's Arabs and thus exacerbating the rebellion. I believe that Ewan McGregor would do an excellent job of bringing Wauchope's inner struggle to the screen.

For the Palestinians, a good character would be `Abd al-Rahim al-Hajj Muhammad, who would become the most respected rebel commander in the course of the revolt. Abu Kamal, as he was also known, was a grain merchant from Tulkarm. He fought in the Turkish army in the First World War, and took up arms against the British in 1936. As my book demonstrates, the British authorities tended to regard the rebels as mere thugs, but they made an exception for Abu Kamal, whom they knew to be a man of unimpeachable character. Abu Kamal was a compelling figure: fearless, intelligent, and morally scrupulous. In this sense, he was an exemplar of the national quality of the Arab rebellion, which both the British and the Zionists were determined to deny. When the British tracked him down and killed him in March 1939, at Sanur (in Samaria), it dealt a mortal blow to the rebellion. Adding to the drama of this event, Abu Kamal had just received formal recognition as leader of the rebellion from the Central War Committee in Damascus, which had previously withheld such recognition on account of his unwillingness to follow instructions he regarded as foolish or immoral. I believe Saleh Bakri would be an excellent choice for this role.

For the Zionists, a good – and perhaps obvious -- character would be David Ben Gurion. Ben Gurion was the chair of the executives of both the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, and a towering figure in the Zionist milieu. He would eventually become the first prime minister of Israel. As a character, he would be a good choice because of his sophistication. Ben Gurion was politically shrewd and an excellent strategist. He also had a good deal of sympathy for his Palestinian opponents, including many of the rebels. By the time this movie is actually made, Joaquin Phoenix won’t be that far from the age Ben Gurion was in 1936 (50), so I’d like to cast him in the role.
Learn more about The Crime of Nationalism at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tracey Neithercott's "Gray Wolf Island"

Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now she spends her days as a magazine editor and her nights writing stories about friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates—you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding lightsabers.

Here Neithercott dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Gray Wolf Island:
Whenever I begin a new book, I go in search of character inspiration. But I usually end up pulling photos of models who fit the images in my mind. Casting with actual actors is a bit harder—especially when trying to find people who could pull off a convincing 17 years old and still have the acting chops to make for an enjoyable film.

Here’s who I’m fake casting for Gray Wolf Island:

RUBY: I think Elle Fanning would do a great job portraying main character Ruby. She has the talent to show Ruby’s guilt, grief, and antisocial nature subtly on screen. Admittedly, she looks nothing like Ruby, but if my book were made into a movie, that would be less important to me than her acting ability. I mean, hair dye exists.

ANNE: This is a tough one. Anne is Native American, and there’s a serious lack of Native American teen actors in Hollywood. I’m going to go with Devery Jacobs—but about five years ago so she wouldn’t look quite so adult.

Elliot: I’ve always pictured Elliot as model Ash Stymest. But I think both Cole Sprouse and Matthew Daddario could pull off his mix of wannabe bad boy and total nerd. Bonus: Each is really great at small facial expressions that show their annoyance, and that’s all I could want for in an Elliot actor.

Gabe: The trick with Gabe is that for most of the book he’s a lie. I think Miles Heizer would do a great job portraying a character who’s portraying a character, in a way. He was amazing in 13 Reasons Why, so I know he has the skills as an actor.

Charlie: I’ve only ever imagined Charlie as Ki Hong Lee. I’ve seen him tackle serious roles, so he’d be able to slowly reveal a Charlie grappling with the fact that he’s seen his own death. But at the same time, Ki Hong Lee seems really spirited and fun, and that’s exactly Charlie’s personality.
Visit Tracey Neithercott's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sarah Bailey's "The Dark Lake"

Sarah Bailey lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Here Bailey dreamcasts an adaptation of The Dark Lake, her first novel:
When I was writing The Dark Lake, I found it really helpful to develop a fantasy cast to ensure I had consistent descriptions of each character. I created a little mood board on my bedroom wall by cutting out pictures of actors that I felt would be able to bring each of my characters to life. Of course, I never imagined that it might one day be turned into a TV series or film, and the fact that this is now a possibility is truly mind-blowing!

As I embarked on my private casting adventure, finding an actor that could step into the role of DS Gemma Woodstock was critical. She is such a layered person, with a lot of light and shade. In my head Gemma is quite a slight person physically but very strong emotionally with the potential of being quite fierce and frustrating at times. Ellen Page was my top pick to play Gemma. I love her petite but tough vibe.

Felix is another important character as he needs to be charming but aloof and slightly mysterious. I had either a Christian Bale or Ben Affleck type in mind for him. In contrast the character of Scott Harper, Gemma’s partner is very trustworthy, stable and solid and for that reason, I thought Joshua Jackson would work well in this role.

Several of the other characters I based on Australian actors. The murdered woman, Rosalind Ryan would be perfect for Isabel Lucas. Beautiful and mysterious, she has a distinctive other-wordly vibe. Miranda Tapsell would make a great Candy Fyfe, being so fun and feisty.

Jonsey, Gemma’s much-loved boss needs to be a gruff character with a heart of gold. J.K.Simmons would definitely be able to pull this off and the fact that he played Juno’s dad alongside Ellen Page in that iconic movie would be a cute build on their past onscreen relationship.

For the two younger Ryan brothers, I needed to find actors that were attractive but again somewhat distant. I thought that Zac Efron and James Marsden would provide the right look and tone for Timothy and Bryce. Their older brother Marcus is more passive and needs a bit more softness to him. Someone like Josh Brolin would work well. In terms of their father, the wealthy patriarch George Ryan, either James Brolin or Richard Gere would be perfect.

For the naïve but kind-hearted Rodney Mason, Freddie Highmore sprung to mind as did the lead actor from 13 Reasons Why, Dylan Minnette.

I’m not sure whether it a normal practice to develop a cast list when you write a book but it is certainly something that I found really helpful. I’m already doing it again for the sequel!
Visit Sarah Bailey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Dark Lake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sarah Shoemaker's "Mr. Rochester"

Sarah Shoemaker is a former university librarian and currently lives in northern Michigan.

Her new novel Mr. Rochester recounts the story of Jane Eyre from Rochester's point of view.

Here Shoemaker dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
As I was writing Mr. Rochester, although I tended to see it visually, I did not actually think much about it being made into a movie. But as people started reading it, they quite often asked me who I would like to see play the main parts (Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre). After some thought, I’ve settled on Aidan Turner, best known to me as Ross Poldark in the TV series Poldark, to play Edward Rochester because, just as Rochester does, he has black hair that seems to fall over his forehead all the time and dark eyes, and even somewhat dark skin; and he is not overly handsome, nor is he overly tall. So, physically, he is a good match. And he exudes a kind of dynamic force that I see Rochester as having.

As for Jane, I have not yet thought of someone who would fit that part well—maybe an actress who is not yet well-known.
Visit Sarah Shoemaker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Jonathan Eig's "Ali: A Life"

Ken Burns calls Jonathan Eig a "master storyteller." Eig is the author of five books, two of them New York Times best sellers.

Here the author shares some thoughts about a movie adapted from his new biography, Ali: A Life:
I never pictured anyone but Muhammad Ali as Muhammad Ali. He was bigger than any Hollywood actor…and he told us so. In fact, he portrayed himself in the first movie based on his life.

“Movie star!” he screamed on the set one day. “I’m a mooooooo-veeeeeee starrrr!”

Ali had big plans for his career in film.

“This face is worth billions,” he said. “My roles have always got to be Number One. I can’t be the boy in the kitchen. Some big football star plays the waiter in the movie while some homosexual gets the lead role. I got to be the hero. Like Charlton Heston, he’s got a serious image. Moses. In ‘Airport’ he was the captain, a real man. Always distinguished, always high class.” And there would be no sex scenes. “Kissinger wouldn’t do that,” he said, referring to the secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, “and I’m bigger than Kissinger.”

Little known fact: Warner Brothers offered Ali $250,000 plus a percentage of revenues to star in Heaven Can Wait, the remake of a 1941 film called Here Comes Mr. Jordan, about a boxer who is removed from his body prematurely by an overanxious angel and who returns to life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire. When Ali turned down the part, director Warren Beatty cast himself in the lead role and changed the character from a boxer to a football player.

Well, since Ali can no longer play himself, and since Will Smith already had his turn, I think it’s time for a younger, less famous actor to take a shot at it. But it’s got to be someone as gorgeous and magnetic as Ali. Can anyone contend?
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Eig's website.

--Marshal Zeringue