We all have fave books that we’d love to see on the big (or little) screen, so I asked this week’s panelists this question:
Here’s what they had to say…
This question couldn’t have come at a better time. I just finished Swan Song by Robert McCammon, one of the bleakest, scariest, holy-shit-did-that-really-happen? horror novels I’ve read in a long time. It was an 850-page gut punch. I love those.
What really makes the book stand out are the descriptions. McCammon beautifully (and by beautifully, I mean horrifically) describes the visual aftermath of a post-World War III America, from the barren landscape to the mutated animals to the awful deformities of the survivors. It was powerful enough seeing the images in my head. Seeing them on the big screen would be devastating, and I mean pants-shittingly, wrist-slittingly devastating. But in a good way.
I wouldn’t trust the Hollywood of today to get it right. If I could truly screw with a time (a personal hobby of mine), I’d love to see Swan Song done as a 1960 Sidney Lumet film. Shoot the whole damn thing in black-and-white, make it four hours long, and save the musical score for the end credits, if even that. I don’t care who plays who as long as Henry Fonda is the President.
I figure the movie as I envision it would make roughly $35 at the box office, most of it from my wallet. But damn, it would be good.
Meanwhile, I’d love to see a movie version of Watchmen. Don’t try to tell me there is one. My therapists all assure me you’re lying. In any case, I’m talking about Watchmen like it was meant to be done: fully animated in Dave Gibbons’ art style, with Kiefer Sutherland voicing Rorscharch and Russell Crowe voicing the Comedian. Also: it would have to be a page-by-page adaptation, which would make it roughly six hours long.
This is why no one in Hollywood will hire me.
Patrick Rothfuss’s The Slow Regard of Silent Things hits bookstore shelves next week. Before you do the freak-out dance, this is *not* the final book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. This is a story from Auri’s point of view. Remember her? No longer welcome to study within the walls of the University, she studies without and within it’s walls. A broken girl, living in the Underthing, learning the under things. She has secrets, and maybe she’ll tell you. . .
Which makes me wonder why The Name of the Wind hasn’t been made into a movie yet. What an awesome movie it would make! Especially with this dream cast:
- Kvothe – Eddie Redmayne. He’s got a voice like a waterfall crashing against quartz, and a lopsided smile that hides a thousand secrets. ‘nuff said.
- Abenthy – Idris Elba. or Luke Evans. or Gary Oldman. or Clancy Brown. Because damn that’s a hard choice of who to cast in that role. They’d all do it completely differently, and they’d all freakin’ rock it.
- Bast – Kit Harrington. He’s a little too broody for me, but that impish smile of his melts even my cold dead heart.
- Master Elodin – Bill Nighy. because um, hello!
- Denna – Eva Green. Because I have a huge girl-crush on her.
- Ambrose – Jack Gleeson when he’s a little older. He does such a great job playing that little shit Joffrey. Alas, casting him as Ambrose might typecast the poor guy for the rest of his life.
I know Auri isn’t in the first book (or if she is, I don’t remember meeting her), but like Peter Jackson putting characters in movies who don’t know up until later novels, I’d cast Evanna Lynch, who you might know as Luna Lovegood.
And while it’s true that there are novels that read like movie treatments, and would be better off skipping right to the screen, those are hardly anyone’s favorite books. For the books we love, the charm is found in the words, the exact words the author set down on that day, and not just in the Raw Plot.
This is especially true of John Crowley’s Little, Big. The prose is gorgeous, and the novel doesn’t depend on suspense or plot twists to keep you reading. Reading it is not like going on a roller coaster ride. It’s like falling in love.
Yet. Even though I know that a film might be an ugly cousin indeed, I’m willing to fall in love again. I am, after all, a fan, and so eternally hopeful.
A standard movie, however, wouldn’t be long enough. We’re going to need a mini-series, or perhaps a couple seasons on HBO. Little, Big is a sprawling story that spans generations and includes a cast of if not thousands, at least dozens and dozens. Appropriately, I’ll have to cast actors from various decades, sometimes plucking the same actor from different years of their own lives.
In case you haven’t read this masterpiece (and please don’t tell me that you haven’t), Little, Big is the story of the Drinkwater family, who live in a country house called Edgewood. The family has had ties with Fairy going back a hundred years. The novel begins, however, with the marriage of plainspoken Smoky Barnable, played in my series by Martin Freeman, to the long-limbed Drinkwater girl Daily Alice–played by Allison Janney.
But there are so many ripe roles! Smoky’s friend George Mouse, Smoky’s son Auberon, the Tarot-reading Violet… But a key casting decision would be for the role Ariel Hawksquill, the sage/magician who is the nearest thing to an antagonist in this atmospheric novel. Lately Tilda Swinton has had a lock on these roles, but I’d go with 1980’s Angelica Houston: Imperial, fiercely intelligent, and a little scary.
Directing this show would require a director with a delicate touch, and intuitive feel for families, and a gift for atmosphere. I’m not sure if he or she exists. The closest I can think of is Ang Lee. Overlook The Hulk for a moment, and look at what he did in Eat Drink Man Woman, or The Ice Storm. He’s also shown that he can adapt to the genre or literary work he’s adapting. Life of Pi is very different from Sense and Sensibility, but both capture the source work’s tone.
When I first picked up Little, Big, I couldn’t stop reading it, and inhaled the novel over the course of many hours. Finishing the book was like waking up back in Kansas, in disappointing black and white. I’d happily settle in to binge-watch a dozen or so hours of Little, Big, and hope for something as wonderful — if distantly related — as the MGM version of Wizard of Oz was to the Baum books.
I’d love to see Rachel Bach’s (Aaron’s) trilogy starting with Fortune’s Pawn make it to the big screen. I love that trilogy! I’d love to see it with either Erica Cerra or Katee Sackhoff as Devi and Jim Caviezel as Rupert. That would be amazing.
I have long wanted to see a film adaptation of The Silver Crown by Robert C. O’Brien, which isn’t as well-known as his book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. It would make a wonderful film for children, as it is about a girl who finds a silver crown on her tenth birthday then thinks she has lost her family to a fire. She decides to look for her aunt Sarah, but on her cross-country journey she is pursued by creepy guys who are after the crown. The whole thing ends up being an incredible, mind-blowing science fiction story that explores questions of good and evil. My choices for stars are a ten-year-old Dakota Fanning as Ellen and a young Logan Lerman as Otto. But actually, I think it would be a really marvelous anime film rather than live action, so if we could get Hayao Miyazaki or Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) to make that, we could still have Fanning and Lerman provide the voice work. Yes, let’s do that. (Can I please write the script?)
I’m a huge fan of Martha Well’s “Fall of Ile-Rien” trilogy (The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods). It’s an amazing, complex story set in three different worlds tied together by….well, if I told you that, I’d be giving it away. I could see someone managing to make a great trilogy of movies out of this (yes, I realize I’m cheating), perhaps Peter Jackson. If we’re dream-casting, we can pick the director, right?
But beyond that, I’m pretty helpless. It turns out that I don’t know many actors, past or present.
The main character is Tremaine Valiarde, a Rienish playwright whose parents raised her in a life of, well, crime. The best I could do for her is Anna Kendrick, who might be a bit small for the role, but has the dry wit and abiity to carry off Tremaine’s often sarcastic demeanor.
The next role proved even more of a challenge, as I was looking for an actor who’s short…and there just aren’t too many of those out there. So I sat down and started re-reading the first book, wondering who could possibly play the part of Ilias, a wizard hunter from the Syrnai, a world less technologically advanced than Tremaine’s home. After spending far too much time surfing IMDB–and then actually considering pro football players (I almost went with Clay Matthews)–I decided to settle on Charlie Hunnam. He’s too tall for the role, but if they can cast Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (and James Marsden as Scott Summers), then I figured I can get away with a few extra inches.
Well, now that I’ve totally blown the height requirements, I feel free to put in Estee Chandler as Florian, a young wizard in training who’s at Tremaine’s elbow through much of the series. Chandler doesn’t match the description of Florian in the books, but she nailed the studious ingenue years and years ago in Teen Wolf Too (and that just revealed my age.) I still struggled with Giliead, though. He’s the foster brother of Ilias and also a wizard-hunter, but he’s supposed to be of a darker complexion with chestnut hair. And a hand taller than Ilias. That set off another long internet search that almost turned me back to considering football players again, and then surfing Pinterest….does the internet even understand what the search term ‘chestnut hair’ means? OK, I’m just going to go with Tahmoh Penikett, because you really just can’t go wrong with him.
Sadly, I rather suspect just about any fan of the series could have picked four better matches than I did. Feel free to do so in comments!
I recently read a book that was written more than 70 years ago and really never made a splash. But it should have – it’s a damn good book — anything that holds up after that long tends to be — and it would make a fine film if cast properly, too. In order to capture the “country noir” essence of James Ross’ novel THEY DON’T DANCE MUCH, I’d stick Humphrey Bogart in the role of the antihero, Smutt Milligan, and cast Jeremy Renner as his rather reluctant associate/accomplice, the novel’s narrator and equally unheroic protagonist Jack McDonald.
You could argue that not a whole lot happens in this book, plot-wise (save for one or two pretty big happenings) – it comes down to environment and dialogue. With great actors, though, this would be a great film: there’s plenty of booze, a fistfight or two, and enough gunplay to keep things interesting. Yeah, we’re gonna need Mr. Bogart on this one, no two ways about it.
It’s easier for me to cast my own books than it is assign real life faces to the characters in another writer’s books. Gabe Ryan has always been actor Trevor St. John in my head, and Delia will always be Edwardian actress Lily Elise.
Once I started thinking about this question, it wasn’t as difficult to cast the books as I’d thought. Characters that come alive for me and characters I admire, all of whom have strong personalities, do allow me to paint pictures of what I think they look like. The more vivid the character, the easier it is for me to see them as I read.
This is a very subjective, personal vision. I’m sure these characters don’t look the same to other readers, or for that matter, to the author. Here are a few favorite books and how I see the characters.
Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky series (Range Of Ghosts, Shattered Pillars, Steles Of The Sky) is full of vivid, memorable characters.
I can see actress Arden Cho as Edene, strong, capable, brave. Once-Princess Samarkar is Lucy Liu for me, smart, intelligent, willing to do what needs doing and not flinch. Temur wears the face of actor John Cho, a warrior who has known nothing but war in his young life, and must now learn how to unite and rule his people. And an older Jackie Chan is Brother Hsiung, or at least that’s who I see when I think of him.
Another set of character’s from Bear’s stories and books that I dearly love are from what I call the Abby Irene stories, collected in New Amsterdam and a series of related books.
Actor Michael T. Weiss is Sebastien for me, dark, brooding, dangerous. Katherine Hepburn is always and forever Inspector Abigail Irene Garret, meeting life on her own terms, making her own choices and losing nothing as she ages. A young Sean Patrick Flanery is Jack.
A silent film era Loretta Young is Isabella—another strong woman—from Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons. Jacob, who loved her and understood her need to know, is Hugh Laurie.
And a younger Robert Downey Jr. is Scott Lynch’s Locke Lamora. It’s the glee in his eyes and that trickster smile.
I don’t have a face to tack on Jean yet, but I’m sure that will change.
You know what would make for *awesome* movies? The Pliocene Saga from Julian May. Holy cowbells, that is one beast of a story, spanning millions of years, hundreds of characters, and some truly awesome concepts. I read this as a kid and I still love it – it’s got just about everything.
Including an absolutely huge cast of characters. I cannot possibly suggest actors for each one, or remember them all without a quick re-read and annotation, which I am far too lazy and disorganized to do. I mean, I didn’t read and annotate when I was in school, I’m not starting now. I’ll get by on charm and a freak ability to appear knowledgeable about subjects I’ve never heard of, just like I do in my real life. I assume I am not allowed to cast myself in this film despite a complete lack of acting ability or physical beauty? I see. That’s quite hurtful.
Anyways: The Pliocene Saga (The Many Colored Land, The Golden Torc, The Nonborn King and The Adversary plus related works) would make an awesome series in the mold of “Game of Thrones” although it might be a bit more mind blowing for your average viewer. The only character I can reliably offer casting advice on is the best character in the whole series: Aiken Drum. That guy is so cool a standalone film could just be made about him. He’s unpredictable and funny and tortured and if I were dream casting I’d nominate Benedict Cumberbatch. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Cumberbatch cut loose in a way that the character might need, but I see him in the role, and I think it would be fascinating to see what he could do.
The book that I would love, beyond all others, to see on the big screen is The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist. Firstly, it’s an absolutely gut-wrenching dystopian novel that emotionally wrecks me every time I read it – and since I have included it in my college syllabi over a dozen times, believe me, I’ve read this thing a lot. I’ve even read horrible student analytical papers about it, yet still love it. Believe me, that’s a rare feat. (I’m sorry, Slaughterhouse-Five. So very, very sorry)
Here’s the thing about it as a dystopia – the society it is set in is a democracy. A real one, too. So the majority of the population voted in a law to encourage people to be good, contributing members of society, and to take those who were about to be a burden on the social support systems of that society and put them to better use. Here’s that law:
Women who are 50, and men who are 60, who have no children, no spouse, no dependent parent, and have a low or irregular income are deemed to be dispensable. These dispensable people are to be taken to a facility called the reserve bank unit, and there they will undergo humane experimentation and organ donation on behalf of the needed members of society until their deaths.
The book begins on the day that Dorrit, a single, childless woman, aged 50, who made her living as a writer, is taken to the unit.
And it’s brilliant. Because the unit is a beautiful place, designed to keep everyone comfortable and happy. All the staff members believe in the importance of their work, and in making the members of the dispensable as comfortable as possible – healthy in body and mind. There is a theater, an indoor park, a huge recreation center, fine dining, and everyone gets their own snug little apartment. They can pursue any hobby they want, they can continue to practice artistic skills, they can borrow books from the unit’s beautifully stocked library.
But they don’t have control over their own lives anymore. They participate in the humane research studies, and donate a kidney here, a cornea there. As they form friendships and relationships with the dispensable around them, they are all aware that the day will come when someone in the community needs a pancreas, or a heart, or a lung, and then one of them will be told that it’s time to be made useful, and they will disappear.
It’s a book that isn’t about teenagers fighting to the death – instead it’s about grown adults who chose how they were going to live, and what would make them happy – and are now told that these are the consequences of those choices. It’s a book that asks the reader to examine how we value people – do I value a single, childless woman in her 50s, or do I value a nurse who is the mother of four children who needs a pancreas? How do we assign value, and what does it mean? It’s a quiet, thoughtful, utterly moving book.
And I’d like to see a movie about it. Just as it is, without an addition of killer robots or gun fights. Primarily because I think it would be fabulous, but also because of a second thing – this is a story that takes place in a setting where all the residents of the unit are women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 60.
Frankly, I’d kind of like to see that happen. I think that would make some Hollywood executives’ brains explode. No sexy young ingénues, no Hollywood stud with ripped abs. The only people who would be under 50 would be the staff members of the unit, and most of them are absolutely in the background. I think that would be pretty cool. Also, there are some flat-out amazing actors and actresses who would get a great opportunity to shine in a movie like this.
Okay, first of all, researching this drove me insane, since I kept thinking of all sorts of actresses who were a few years shy of the cut-off (Catherine Tate and Gillian Anderson! Too young!). I cheated a little with two actresses who are currently 49, reasoning that by the time something like this got to production, they would’ve crossed that magic line to 50. Also, it’s a novel that’s set in Sweden, so that kind of kept things… fairly white. Though for the record, I would be in favor of a real movie just chucking that part out the window and adding color and diversity. Ming-Na Wen for Elsa (she’s the badass awesome best friend)!
For the staff members, I kept the ages down. I also picked actors who I thought could really straddle that line between coming off as absolutely thoughtful and lovely people, yet make chilling administrative decisions for the sake of a belief about who had lost the right to be considered part of society. The best part of this book is that there is no mustache-twirling villain – there are average, normal, thoughtful people who have rationalized their actions and who have the full backing of the majority of the voting population in justifying their beliefs.
Seriously, will someone please make this movie? Just look how amazing this short-list of cast members would be!
- Dorrit Weger: Laura Linney (everything amazing, who is now 50)
- Elsa: Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG-1’s Sam Carter, who is now 49)
- Majken: Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactia’s President Laura Roslin, who is now 62)
- Alice: Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order SVU, who is now 50)
- Vivi: Claudia Christian (Babylon 5’s Ivanova, who is now 49)
- Johannes: Scott Bakula (from Quantum Leap and Enterprise, now 60)
- Erik: Richard Dean Anderson (Stargate SG-1 & MacGyver, who is now 64)
- Petra, Director of the unit: Morena Baccarin (Firefly, 35)
- Amanda, head doctor: Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, 40)
- Potter, staff member: Zachary Levi (Chuck, 34)
- Dr. Birthmark, staff member: Nathan Fillion (Firefly & Castle, 43)
“I turned the Chrysler onto the Florida Turnpike with Rollo Kramer’s headless body in the trunk, and all the time I’m thinking I should’ve put some plastic down.”
I love that opening line. I love the whole fucking book.
Anyway, GUN MONKEYS is a noir novel about a guy named Charlie “The Hook” Swift, who got the name by killing somebody with a boat hook once. Loves his family, hates smoking, loyal to a fault. A man with principles. Also he kills people for an old mob boss in Orlando who’s getting shut out of the business by a guy from down south named Beggar Johnson. His crew gets hit and he’s the only survivor and remaining loose end. Now he’s trying to protect his family, get back at the people who killed his crew and not die in the process. It’s dark and funny and for all its violence and gore is surprisingly light in tone.
It’s packed with action, witty dialog, and a nicely twisty plot that would make a great movie.
Charlie is a big guy with some miles on him. Rough around the edges. I can see Thomas Jane, or maybe Ray Stevenson.
Then there’s Marcie. I see somebody like Amy Acker. Somebody who does charmingly unhinged well. Marcie is Charlie’s girlfriend who he meets when he needs her to identify the aforementioned Rollo Kramer’s headless body because she was the guy’s ex-wife. Seems he has a tattoo on his ass that she knows better than she’d like. She’s a taxidermist and keeps a stuffed bear in her house that ends up taking a few too many bullets. She takes to Charlie’s profession like a fish to water and helps him with a body or two.
Beggar Johnson is the guy putting the squeeze on Charlie’s boss. Tall, slick, looks like he owns the place. I see a 1990’s George Clooney in the role.
And finally Stan, Charlie’s boss, who’s an old, crotchety psychopath who may or may not be in the throes of dementia. Guys like this I always see Wilford Brimley. I don’t think he’s a Wilford Brimley sort, but I just like saying Wilford Brimley.
So, yeah, GUN MONKEYS by Victor Gischler. You should read it.