Friday, February 14, 2014

Casting the Movie Compare and Contrast: The Devil and Preston Black and Hellbender

After I casted the movie Hellbender, Jason Jack Miller showed me a blog post where he had done the exact same thing for Hellbender, and then digging around on the exact same site, I found he'd also cast The Devil and Preston Black. So I've decided to do a little compare and contrast.

First up Hellbender:

Henry  Collins
Who Jason chose: Jake Gyllenhaal
Who I chose: Garrett Hedlund

Jason, I'm sorry, but I just don't see it. I love Jake, but he's too much of a puppy dog to fill the part. Garrett has the ruggedness, and the earthiness that I read into the role. I think Garrett can fill the well worn flannels and the trucker caps better than Jake.

Alex Ramsey
Who Jason chose: Miley Cyrus (pre-twerk)
Who I chose: AnnaSophia Robb or Katie Cassidy

You know I have to say I get Jason's choice. She has that softness and the touch of country the part of Alex needs. She'd look great in a pair of cowboy boots, I have to say, but I'm still not completely sold. She's better than my two choices, but she's still not the one. I feel like if Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood could still portray college aged girls, they might be better fits, but the right Alex is still out there, waiting to be found.

Ben Collins
Who Jason chose: Paul Walker (Sniff!)
Who I chose: Ben Foster

Paul would've been great in the role, thinking on it, but even if he was still around, I still would've chosen Ben Foster. Let's be honest, Who is just as much of a loose cannon as Ben Collins? Ben Foster is who. Who can show you all the layers that lie just beneath the surface and tell the immensity of the character's story without hardly uttering a word? Ben Foster is who.

Jamie Collins
Who Jason chose: David Straithern
Who I chose: NA
Who i would choose: David Straithern

I hadn't actually cast Jamie when I read Hellbender partly because I didn't have a feel for him and partly because he was just background big chunks of the time. While reading The Devil and Preston Black, I tried figure out an actor that was just the right amount of down home intelligence and fatherly instincts. Nothing came to mind, then I saw Jason's pick and knew it was the right one. Perfect!

Katy Stefanic
Who Jason chose: Katie Holmes
Who I chose: A half-hearted vote for Lucy Hale

I get Jason's logic on this one. Katie Holmes has a lot of soft edges the way Katie does. She embues a certain down-home vibe that Katie Stefanic has in spades. My only concern is that the ages are off. I wanted somebody younger and fresh-faced to fit the bill and Lucy Hale was the only one that came to mind. She has a lot of sharp edges on Pretty Little liars, which is why I didn't love her as Katie, but she just released a country album, so maybe she knows how to get a little backwoodsy. Plus the music correlation makes a lot of sense because Katie's pretty versed with a fiddle. Is she the type of girl that "When she's on, she can make you cry?" Don't know. Could work.

Billy Lewis
Who Jason chose: Patrick Fugit
Who I chose: --
Who I would choose: Patrick Fugit

Patrick needs to be in all the things. I love him and have loved him ever since Almost Famous. He's got the same live-wire, can show you multitudes in just a look presence that Ben Foster does and I think Billy Lewis needs that. He doesn't get much time in the book, but he's really interesting.

Darren Lewis
Who Jason chose: Jeremy Davies
Who I chose: --
Who I would choose: Jeremy Davies

No, I'm not intentionally piggy-backing on the choices Jason made. But he made such great, shrewd choices that I have to bow down to the master and give credit where credit is due. Jeremy Davies is yet another awesome live-wire who needs to be in all the things and even though Darren doesn't have a big part, Jeremy Davies could sell the crazy better than anyone. Co-signed.

Charlie Lewis:
Who Jason Chose: Charles Durning
Who I chose: Clancy Brown

I'd say who you choose depends on how you read the part of Charlie Lewis; Craggy old grandpa with a hint of menace, or pants-shittingly scary with a hint of ferocity with regards to protecting his family. If it's the former, Charles, and if it's latter, Clancy. Charlie Lewis put the fear of God into me, so I'm going with Clancy.

Now, onto The Devil and Preston Black:

Preston Black
Who Jason Chose: Joseph Gordon Levitt
Who I Chose: Ethan Peck

Why am I always casting Joseph Gordon Levitt out of stuff for these imaginary movies? I did the same with him when I cast Joe Vampire. Authors keep seeing him as their every man and I keep seeing him as anything but. I mean, you know I love me some Joseph Gordon Levitt, but he's not who I'd envisioned for this part at all. When I'd originally casted Ethan Peck in Hellbender as Preston, it's because the character read as tall, dark and haunted and I've been dying to see Ethan Peck get something like that. When I read The Devil and Preston Black, he's all I could see. His deep voice and physical presence seem to be exactly what Preston needs. And, okay, this might be an overshare, when the sex scenes start happening, he'd have my full attention.

Danicka Prochazka
Who Jason Chose: Mila Kunis
Who I Chose: Ivana Melicevic

Don't ask me to explain my choice because Jason's is clearly better, but either would work i think.

Pauly Pallini
Who Jason Chose: James Franco
Who I chose: I got nothin'

I could never get a read on Pauly, there wasn't much of a physical description. The only thing I knew about him was the he was a recovering alcoholic and he was taking whatever work he but I think Franco would work.  

Dino 'Mick' Micheleno 
Who Jason Chose: Robert Forester
Who I Chose: Iggy Pop

 The part read less wisened father figure and more aging rockstar holding onto the glory days to me. I love me some Robert Forester but no.

Stu Croe
Who Jason Chose: Channing Tatum
Who I Chose: I got nothin'

This character was another blank slate for me. I couldn't quite see who could play him. And I look forward to seeing Channing in anything and everything. This would work. Cut print send. 


Jason Jack Miller said...

One of the best parts of this whole experience is letting the reader take control of the book once you've released. And casting the roles epitomizes that more than anything else, because the reader brings an entirely different set of schema to the process. And I love it. Seriously. This is one of my favorite parts.

Some of the characters never really had faces to me. Others never materialized UNTIL I put a face to the name. So I'll go through and give my reasons and thoughts for each one. (Have to blow some dust out of the memory banks for some of these.)

Henry Collins is one of the characters I never really had a face for. Probably because I'd written him a bit too autobiographically. But Jake's portrayal of Homer Hickam in OCTOBER SKY showed he had the WV/Appalachia thing down. It's a tough dialogue to nail, in my opinion, because it's NOT Southern. Not at all. (In an earlier draft of HELLBENDER, Jane was alive. And of course I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal as his sister.) Agree that he's a bit puppy dog-ish though.

Alex was another tough one. For a while I thought of Amber Heard in that role, but then Miley grew up and kind of fit into it neatly, as though it had been written for her.

Ben was originally a character I 'stole' from a book Heidi was working on. Due to some cosmic overlap we both had Collins in our novels. (For me, it had a lot to do with finding and using a somewhat common name.) But because I had few preconceived ideas of who he was and THAT'S why I think he became such a larger-than-life character. Because he'd come to me as a blank slate.

Ben’s old man, Jamie, is based on a real guy. So casting that role was about picking an actor who filled that professorial/mentor thing the best.

The Katy/Katie Holmes thing was another tough one. As I said elsewhere, HELLBENDER was ‘written’ before I wrote THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK. At some point I realized I wanted to make the novels part of the same series, which is why a reader could come into the series via either of them first. Totally serendipitous. Katy was a very minor character in the original HELLBENDER. Not even C-list. That’s who she ended up being the perfect counter to Preston. (She was another blank slate.) I thought ‘smart brunette’ as a counter to Alex’s character, and Katy Holmes’ role as Hannah Green in the 2000 film WONDER BOYS became the spark that I built Katy around.

That they share a name is another coincidence. For a brief moment I thought Katy should have a little more in common with Preston and thought that she should’ve been named after a song too. Johnny Cash’s “Katy Too” came to mind first.

Jason Jack Miller said...

Billy Lewis was a tough one. Really backed myself into a corner with that ‘red hair’ thing. But Darren was somebody I’d had cast since I’d seen Jeremy Davies on LOST. When the folks at JUSTIFIED cast him as Dickie Bennett it felt a little like art imitating life. Or art, for that matter.

Charlie Lewis is also based on a real person. A distant relative who terrified me when I was a kid. Just an all-around mean guy. Would like to say more, but family—you know? Durning is a caricature/amalgamation of that great-uncle relative and a few others. Looking back, he probably wasn’t a bad guy. Just mean.

Poor Preston. I’m always going to think of him as Heath Ledger. Which is how I ended up with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. They look a bit alike. JGL would play Heath in the biopic, I think. Plus JGL can sing.

One of my favorite stories to relate to my writing students is how the Danicka character didn’t even exist until I’d written 75% of my very first draft of the book. And Mila was just in something—BLACK SWAN, maybe—and I wrote the character as if Mila were already playing the role. Maybe a little stereotypically Eastern European/mysterious.

Pauly and Stu were tough for me as well. James Franco isn’t the right choice for Pauly, I’m sure. Maybe FREAKS AND GEEKS-era Franco. But until somebody better comes along…

And lastly, but certainly not leastly, is Dino Michelino. Also based on a real person. Carl Micarelli sold me my first guitar, amp, second guitar, first acoustic… He was a really ball-buster too. Regarding me taking too long to pay off a layaway, he said, “Stop it with this nickel-and-dime shit and get this damned guitar out of here.” Classic. He passed away a few years ago, but the guitar shop in town still bears his name.

To the best of my memory, there they all are. I'm curious to see if anybody else chimes in. (One time on Twitter I had a girl adamantly tell me that Jennifer Lawrence was the only person who could ever play Katy in a movie. I knew better than to disagree.)

The Bloody Munchkin said...

Jennifer Lawrence as Katy? I could see it and also not see it. Bu if she's firing squad certain, who am I to disagree... Actually, no thinking on it, she would make a good Alex. Maybe she's too strong or fiery for the role, but it could work.

When the name Pauly came up, my brain went to Pauly Shore (thanks brain, jerk) and because that connection was there, I couldn't think of anybody else and it screwed with me the entire time. So there's that.