Friday, September 30, 2016

The Silver Screen Comes Calling

Which of your protagonists would make good movie characters, and who would you choose to play them?

by Paul D. Marks


Ha! Who would I choose to play my protagonists on the silver screen: anybody who comes-a-callin’. It would just be great to see one of my prose stories up there. But since I’m an “old movie” guy I often tend to think of classic movie stars for parts, and since some of them are dead (H. Bogart) it’s not ideal casting, though it would be perfect to me and the question doesn’t specify dead or alive. So in an ideal world…

There was a time when I saw many of my male leads as either Humphrey Bogart or Jack Nicholson. Harrison Ford. And for at least some of the female leads, Michelle Pfeiffer. Hey, when you’re dreaming dream big! And on occasion I came close to having that dream fulfilled. For example, I was working with a producer who had optioned a script of mine and he asked me who my ideal leads would be. I said Harrison Ford or Jack Nicholson for the male and Michelle Pfeiffer for the female. Now you might think that these were out of reach but not so because this producer had worked with them, knew them and could actually get them. Unfortunately that project went south, but it was exciting while it lasted. Oh, and how close other times. But close is no cigar or even a cigarillo. So, maybe what I’ll have to do is turn that script into a novel. Sell that novel to Hollywood. And then see about the casting. Though were it made today it would be a whole new ballgame of actors.



So onto casting for my prose, let’s see:

White Heat (Shamus-winning novel): A noir-thriller set during the Rodney King riots in L.A. Duke Rogers is a private eye who inadvertently leads a stalker to his prey. Then he and his sidekick Jack have to set things right and try to find the killer. Jack is rough around the edges to say the least, very unPC. The kind of guy who always says the wrong thing but does the right thing. How about Nick Nolte in his prime? And for Duke, Keanu Reeves. And for Rita, Duke’s love interest, Lupita Nyong'o.



Vortex (Noir Novella): Zach Tanner is just back from the war in Afghanistan. Tough, but wanting to get back to the real world, he’s had a change of heart about a get rich quick scheme he entered into with some of his army buddies. Unfortunately for him his friends haven’t. How about Ryan Gosling for Zach? And Mila Kunis for Jesse, his girlfriend. Yeah, I could live with that, even though both are probably a little too old for the parts as written.

Dead Man’s Curve (short story published in the Last Exit to Murder anthology): Ray Hood is a guy whose rock ‘n’ roll dreams have evaporated. I’ve always seen this as a movie and always with Jeff Bridges as Ray, though if any bankable A-List actor wants the part, more power to him. Ray’s a frustrated musician who has lost his ability to play and is aimless and foundering without it. He once played with Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys on the road—his claim to fame—and is trying for a comeback. He gets a chance to do a favor for an old friend by driving his classic car up the coast, playing music on the iPod, but things go wrong. Very wrong.  —And I’m talking Bridges today, gruff and grizzled, not the smooth young actor of yesteryear.

Howling at the Moon (Anthony and Macavity nominated short story, published in the 11/14 Ellery Queen): Darrell is a Native American ex-Marine, who comes back to visit the sacred lands of his grandfather and meets a treasure hunter. Johnny Depp would be good for box office, but maybe Adam Beach or Rick Mora would be good for the part. There’s only four people in this story and one of them is hardly a character. And Bud, the “yuppie,” could be played by a young Brad Pitt doing a character role instead of the leading man.

Ghosts of Bunker Hill (short story, coming soon to an Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine near you in the December 2016 issue): Howard Hamm is a detective in a baffling case where his best friend is shot and killed on the doorstep of his lovingly-restored, former Bunker Hill Victorian house. As I was writing this story there was only person I thought of for the part: Jesse L. Martin of Law & Order fame. And on the good news front, I’ve sold a sequel to this one to Ellery Queen, but no publication date has been set yet.

So, there you have it. Of course, we don’t want people to only see these actors in a part. It’s up to your imagination too. So feel free to cast whoever you want in my stories, you’re the casting director. I’m just the lowly writer…and in Hollywood, believe me, there’s pretty much no one lower than the lowly writer. And like I said, if you’re going to dream, dream big!

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Check out Akashic's St. Louis Noir anthology with my short story Deserted Cities of the Heart.

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17 comments:

Art Taylor said...

An extensive and very precise list here! ....though I do like your opening line that you'd be interested in any one who came calling. Nice to see you drawing on your background in the industry here a little--and clearly your knowledge of the casting possibilities out there. Fun!

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Art! It's a fun exercise. Now if I can only have some magic dust to make it all happen.

GBPool said...

How fun to see your characters through your eyes. My only problem is that I don't know half the actors you mentioned. I stopped watching new movies and television shows mostly because the plots are nonexistent and the actors a tad lacking in personality. But I would let Hollywood turn my characters into reality on the screen. I would be screaming in the closet, but that's Hollywood.

Cathy Ace said...

Great choices all...this one's been fun :-)

RM Greenaway said...

You almost had coffee with Jack, Harrison, and Michelle, wow! You also have a lot of fun with actors/characters, and I have a question about that: Do you ever write fiction based on an actor to start with? ie who came first, Jeff Bridges or Ray Hood? Also congratulations on the Ellery Queen sequel!

Susan C Shea said...

You actually got within sniffing distance of the real thing! I'm impressed. And Jeff Bridges is the man. I'd cast him in anything even close to a decent fit because I love his acting and the way he sets ego aside to inhabit these characters. Not only do I love these choices but you've made it imperative that I seek out more of your stories right now.

Christopher J. Lynch said...

Hey Paul,
Great post, and one that I'm sure resonates with a lot of writers. After all, besides being on the NY Times Bestseller list, who doesn't dream of seeing their work up on the big screen.

As far as the movie option with my One Eyed Jack novel, the producer named four possible actors when we had our first meeting (John Travolta, Nick Cage, Kevin Bacon and John Cusack). I decided to have a little fun with it and had people vote for one of the four on my website as well as FB.

OMG! It was the most comments I had ever had on either platform and I know that my followers had a blast as well - even suggesting several actors of their own as well.

I had to keep reminding those who participated though that this was not a micro-democracy, and no matter who "won" our little ad hoc contest, it all comes down to the $$$ guys.

Great piece.
Chris

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Gayle. I feel a little out of it too with some of the younger actors. But like you say, we’d be happy to see them on the screen…while we’re screaming on the sidelines ;) .

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Cathy. It is fun. And I came late to yours, but enjoyed it too, though I don’t know all the actors you mentioned.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, RM. Well, coffee and more… It was an interesting and fun time, though frustrating in some ways as well. I don’t usually write fiction with an actor in mind, but when I was doing Hollywood stuff then I would often have someone in mind. As for Dead Man’s Curve, Ray Hood came first. But as I was working on it it just seemed perfect for Jeff Bridges…and still is. Jeff, you out there?

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Susan. I spent 25 years doing script doctoring...my day job, though not anymore. No credits-no glory, as I like to say, at least no on-screen credits and because of that my dad could never figure out what I did for a living. And I optioned a bunch of my own screenplays to various production entities but none ultimately made it to the screen. Still, it was a blast. And I think you hit it with Bridges about setting his ego aside. We can share him between our projects :) .

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Chris. Your comments numbers proves the power of star power. And nothing in Hollywood even approaches democracy… ;) . Who won your contest? It’s interesting to see who people suggest on their own, sometimes so out of left field you wonder about that. And I hope things are still on track with Jack.

Ellen Byron said...

Fun stuff! And thanks for reminding me how cute Jesse L. Martin is.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Ellen. That's exactly why I wanted him for the part ;)

M.M. Gornell said...

Often I can picture the actor/actress when I'm actually writing. Alas, usually I'm picturing the actor as I saw them in my past, and they wouldn't fit now. Guess I need to get up to date. (smile) Very enjoyable post.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Madeline. I know what you mean. We sort of see people/actors a certain way and it becomes how we see them even though they might age.

Dennis Palumbo said...

Great list, Paul. I love picturing certain actors when I'm writing my own Daniel Rinaldi series, especially the bad guys (and women). Good job!