My Book, The Movie
December 29, 2014 6:32 PM   Subscribe

They would ask me what actors I saw in the roles. I would tell them, and they’d say “Oh that’s interesting.” And that would be the end of it. --Elmore Leonard, in 2000, on the extent of his input for Hollywood's adaptation of his novels
For authorial input on film adaptation, try My Book The Movie, by Marshall Zeringue, also of The Campaign for the American Reader, the page 69 test (previously), and the page 99 test.

Tom Lewis's "Hitler's Judas"
I am certain that most fiction novelists write their books believing they would make good screenplays/movies. I know I do. In the case of my trilogy, Pea Island Gold, I definitely had in mind at least a successful mini-series for television. As well, I firmly believe that each stand-alone novel would be quite adaptable to dramatic film.
Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy
Now, directors are a different story. I've often thought about who I would like to make the Mistborn trilogy into a movie. The obvious choice would be Peter Jackson, but I shy away from this one. Perhaps because he's the aforementioned obvious choice. More, I've always kind of thought that I'd like to pick Robert Rodriguez. Why him? Well, because of his versatility. I've seen so many different types of movies from him, but I've liked every one. He's good with action sequences, can film a nice, dramatic scene, and has proven that he can do adaptations. Mostly, however, he's able to mix blockbuster storytelling with an artist's flair.
Peter Watts' Rifters trilogy
Let's talk about the Rifters trilogy (Starfish, Maelstrom, Behemoth). This is not a complete cast list-- it would take forever to come up with actors for every role in the trilogy, and I've already taken far too long to do this as it is-- but if someone were to cinematically adapt the Rifters books, I'd like to see these folks in the credits:

Ellen Page as Lenie Clarke: back in the day, it would have been Carrie-Anne Moss, but she has since aged out of the demographic. Katee Sackhoff certainly has the moves down-- she does abused, fragile, raging, and ass-kicking to a tee-- and she'd give a terrific performance. Still, physically, she's a bit too robust; Lenie Clarke is a waif, with attitude. And when I saw Ellen Page in Hard Candy, I could see why so many people said she'd be a perfect Lenie Clarke. Forget the precocious loveable smart-aleck from Juno: Ellen Page knows how to rage.

Callum Keith Rennie as Karl Acton: Twitchy, charming, idiosyncratic-- and liable to beat the shit out of you if you let your shadow fall on his boot.
Meredith Cole's Lydia McKenzie novels
Since I started my career as a filmmaker and screenwriter, people often ask me when my books will be made into films or a television show. It seems natural to other people that I would imagine my stories as both novels and films from the very beginning. But I don’t. When I set out to write something new, I choose at some point whether a story is destined for the screen or for the pages of a book. And then I write it (or direct it). And then I’m done.

I wouldn’t say “no” if someone bought up the film rights and gave Lydia a new life in a different medium. There are probably things I would find painful (they might exaggerate her vintage clothes or goofiness), and others I would find enlightening (I wrote that?). But it would be an interesting experience nonetheless.

When someone first asked me who I saw playing Lydia, one actress popped into my head: Maggie Gyllenhaal. I think she’s a great actress. The first film I saw her in, Secretary, I couldn’t stop watching her. She is a beautiful woman, but very distinctive. She wears every emotion on her face and in her eyes. She has the quirkiness to play Lydia. And, even better, she lives in Brooklyn these days.
Edie Meidav's "Lola, California"
Years ago I saw Robert Duvall in The Apostle and you could say that, if we were to freeze time, he would be the ideal lead for any movie based on any of my novels. For Lola, California, however, maybe Ed Harris would be a good latterday descendant of Duvall, capable of playing Vic Mahler as he awaits his end on Death Row. Could, however, Laura Linney be his daughter and play one of the Lolas? Ever since I saw her in You Can Count on Me, I've been smitten: her actor's modus operandi is to strip herself of all ego and plunge into a role, a feat to which we could all aspire. Could Sofia Coppola be the right director? Who knows? What a wonderful indulgence, all this imagining. When I lived in Los Angeles, every Jack and Jane at the Rose Cafe spoke, between long sips of their health elixirs, about who could play whom in their unsold screenplays, and I cannot help but feel their spirit shimmying within this paragraph.
Enid Shomer's "The Twelve Rooms of the Nile"
Since the protagonists of The Twelve Rooms of the Nile —Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert—are well-known historical figures, I’m sure every reader will have his or her own idea about which actors could ideally tackle these roles. But in my mind, Emily Blunt would make a perfect Nightingale. She has the right kind of face and coloring and, more importantly, a great gift for intensity as well as comedy. Nightingale had a killer wit, a mischievous streak that surfaced regularly as part of her rebelliousness. She was also incredibly passionate and probably the best-educated Englishwoman of her day. Blunt has the glamour and the grit for this role.

It is more difficult to imagine who might portray Gustave Flaubert.
Glenn Frankel’s "The Searchers"
My book has an unusual issue when it comes to casting: it’s a non-fiction book about a classic movie, so it’s been cast once already. Truth is, unlike True Grit or 3:10 to Yuma, no one’s ever had the nerve or foolhardiness to try to remake The Searchers. For many cinephiles, it’d be as sacrilegious as rewriting the Bible. The one time anyone tried to remake a John Ford Western, a woebegotten version of Stagecoach, the tragic results merely proved the point.
James Ryan Daley's "Jesus Jackson"
Well first of all, like a lot of authors, I’ve probably spent a thousand hours daydreaming about my work becoming a movie. Red carpet premieres, selfies with celebrities, the terrible, movie-based covers that sell millions of books: I’ve fantasized about it all. So obviously, I got quite excited by the idea of dreaming up a cast for Jesus Jackson.

The only problem, I realized, is that Jesus Jackson is almost entirely populated by teenagers… and all of the “teenaged” actors I thought of would now be better suited to play my characters’ parents (thus dashing my dreams of Molly Ringwald as the cute sophomore…). Luckily, I have a 14 year-old daughter, who (though she had never even heard of Judd Nelson) proved competent at assisting her teen-idol-ignorant father with the particulars of young Hollywood.
posted by the man of twists and turns (6 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
For my part, I definitely did not see Johnny Depp as Dr. Lawrence Caster.
posted by localroger at 7:22 PM on December 29, 2014

A recent article about John Milius, when he was setting up to direct "Conan the Barbarian" (produced by De Laurentiis):
Milius wanted bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger to star. De Laurentiis said absolutely not.

So, De Laurentiis said in his Italian accent, who’s it going to be?

Milius paused and said: “Dustin Hoffman.”

De Laurentiis exploded in curses. But Milius got Schwarzenegger.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:08 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

They would ask me what actors I saw in the roles. I would tell them, and they’d say “Oh that’s interesting.” And that would be the end of it.

I think that's about the right approach. Who wants J.K. Rowling dictating anything to Alfonso Cuaron, or Stieg Larsson (were he alive) to David Fincher, or etc.? Books aren't movies.
posted by eugenen at 1:06 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Except JK Rowling put her foot down and made sure the studio stuck to "Brit actors only".
posted by kariebookish at 2:05 AM on December 30, 2014

I think that's about the right approach. Who wants J.K. Rowling dictating anything...

We were talking about Elmore Leonard. If you had asked, "Who wants Elmore Leonard dictating anything," I think you'd get a lot of "I do"s. See: Justified.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:05 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

For my part, I definitely did not see Johnny Depp as Dr. Lawrence Caster.

I don't see him as Mordecai, either. (Great books, by the way.) And what is Ms Paltrow doing in Mordecai?

Which reminds me of Tom Stoppard's comments about how getting the right cast, particularly in the UK where actors still hit the boards, can be like herding cats, which is one reason (along with commercially minded producers and nepotistically minded others) why compromise is the order of the day.

Which is a nice way of indirectly indicating why the American financed Shakespeare in Love had la Paltrow and her then-boyfriend Affleck degrading what should have been a magnificent movie.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:01 AM on December 30, 2014

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