Thursday, August 21, 2008

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The T is for Thursday

We finally got Internet today, which means I can finally bring you the CCT you all so richly deserve!

Today's installment, a make-up from Tuesday, focuses on a highly-praised Pulitzer Prize-winning novel published in 2000. Numerous attempts have been made to get the work to the screen, but to no avail. Scott Rudin, Academy Award-winning producer of No Country for Old Men and The Hours, currently has the rights, and the original novelist worked on all the drafts. And yet - nothing.

For good reason, though. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay spans about fourteen years and 636 pages. Michael Chabon's opus centers on the rise, fame, and fall of two comic book artists finding life and love in the Golden Age of Everything - Comics, Radio, etc. Joseph Kavalier is a Czech artist, a refugee from the Nazis, hoping to earn enough money to get the rest of his family to America. Samuel Klayman - who eventually becomes the Sammy Clay of the title - is his Brooklyn cousin, an imaginative writer seeking his own escape. Together, they create popular characters like the Escapist, who gets his own radio series, and Luna Moth, inspired by Rosa Saks, the beauty of the avant-garde society.

Kavalier and Clay is a super book, absolutely exhilarating. Chabon is a masterful writer, conveying familiar emotions brimming with passion in just a few short sentences. And true, the ending is a little anticlimactic, but the pros definitely have it over the cons. You really get to know all about Kavalier and Clay, so that they become more friends than characters in a book. The supporting characters are colorful and unforgettable, and I've tried to capture that spirit in my casting coup. Which we may get to without further ado.

Passages marked in quotes are from

Who is He: "...An owner of Empire Comics and Joe and Sam's boss for several years, is a businessman first and foremost and plays his historic role in cheating two naïve young men out of their multi-million dollar idea. But he is not without a conscience, having worked hard more than a decade at his own, less-successful novelty business."

My Choice: The book describes Anapol as a hefty man with sad eyes. I chose someone that both matches this description and is a phenomenal character actor.

Ken Davitian (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Get Smart)

Who is He: Anapol's brother-in-law and business partner, his "success results from the intelligence and talent of the people around him."

My Choice: I wanted to go for someone who was bulky, but younger and smoother-looking than Anapol. He may be a worse businessman, but Ashkenazy has an opinion of himself that is disproportionate to his abilities.

Mark Addy (A Knight's Tale, TV's Still Standing)

Who is He: The voice of the Escapist on the radio, and the face of him in the movies. Bacon is handsome, charming, and full of life. He strikes up a friendship with Sammy that concerns many.

My Choice: Tracy is supposed to be the very image of the handsome American male, of football and hot dogs. And he is also supposed to be beautiful and blond. So...yeah.

Chace Crawford (The Covenant, TV's Gossip Girl)

Who is He: "The editor of Empire Comics and a mentor to Sammy, [Deasey] is harsh but sincere...[giving] Joe and Sammy hints on how to effectively negotiate their contracts so they will not get short-changed."

My Choice: Ginger-haired and mustachioed, Deasey needed someone who could convey the cynicism, sophistication, and disenchantment that Deasey possesses. I went with one of my favorite actors of all time. He's an Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Fargo).

William H. Macy (Seabiscuit, Wild Hogs)

Who is He: "A mentally unstable Nazi-sympathizer whom Joe runs afoul of." Having read every issue of the Escapist, he imagines that Joe is the hero in living color, while Ebling himself is the villainous Saboteur.

My Choice: Someone young, I felt, would be suitable. A little older than Kavalier and Clay, but young enough so that we may shake our heads at his naivete and insanity. The actor I chose is versatile and amazing.

Hugh Dancy (The Jane Austen Book Club, Savage Grace)

Who is She: "Carl's older sister...a housekeeper at James Love's beach house estate in Pawtaw, New Jersey. ...She calls the police to raid Love's house after she finds a copy of the Escapist in Sammy's room."

My Choice: Another Brit, another character actor. Her work is impeccable, and to be quite honest, it would be more or less something she's done before.

Catherine Tate (Marple: A Murder is Announced, TV's Doctor Who)

Who is He: "A childhood friend of Sammy's and also a comic book illustrator. Julie is the first artist Joe and Sammy hire to help them create the inaugural issue of the Escapist."

My Choice: It's a small role, but an important role nevertheless, I feel. A best friend type was needed, one who could take on the awkward paunch of Julie Glovsky.

Jonah Hill (Accepted, Forgetting Sarah Marshall)

Who is He: His real name is Siegfrid Saks, but whatever. Harkoo is "a wealthy surrealist art dealer...cheerful, quirky, and supportive." He becomes a bizarre sort of father figure to Kavalier, I guess. Anyway, he's pretty awesome.

My Choice: Harkoo is a pretty bizarre guy, but you need someone who can ground that into some sort of reality. I chose an Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Iris).

Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge!, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Who is She: Sammy's mother, "a very practical, no-nonsense woman." She may seem tough, but she's got a heart of gold, and a lot of love in it.

My Choice: She has played the quintessential housewife/mother on television for twenty years. She is a marvelous actress that has long been under-appreciated in live action films. Only Woody Allen really knew how to utilize her properly, especially as the quintessential Jewish mother in Radio Days.

Julie Kavner (The Simpsons Movie, Awakenings)

Who is He: "A retired performing illusionist who mentors the teenage Joe in escape tricks, [he] helps smuggle Joe out of Prague when Nazi restrictions threaten to trap the boy."

My Choice: An actor who can convey wisdom. An actor who can convey weariness and tragedy. Kornblum is a man of many secrets, only a few of which are divulged. This Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Ed Wood) could nail it.

Martin Landau (Sleepy Hollow, Crimes and Misdemeanors)

Who is He: A businessman who brings the Escapist to the radio and young men to his house in Pawtaw.

My Choice:

Toby Jones (Ever After, the upcoming W.)

Who is He: "The adjutant at the German consulate in New York City. Joe visits him weekly, trying to find a way to get his family out of Prague. Milde is polite but unhelpful."

My Choice: The man's German, so I chose a German. Chabon describes him as a good-looking, decent enough kind of guy, so I chose someone who was a good-looking, decent enough kind of guy.

Sebastian Koch (Black Book, The Lives of Others)

Who is She: "Rosa Saks is salvation and muse. She and Joe fall madly in love in the way young people do. Rosa becomes indispensable to the cousins as she helps them with domestic affairs and with rescuing Thomas Kavalier from Prague. Rosa also inspires Joe to create the sexy superhero, Luna Moth."

My Choice: From the very first, there was no other person that could play this role. I've always pictured Rosa as attractive, but not obviously so. She's not quite the pixie, but there is something mysterious and magical about her. A relative unknown was necessary, I feel, someone who has yet to be utilized as a true female lead.

Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield, Mean Girls)

Who is He: "Sammy Clay, the everyday hero of Chabon's novel, is a quiet Jewish boy from Brooklyn who chases his dreams — to publish comic books — and catches them. Sammy's bravery and pluck are seen in his initial pitch to Anapol and later in how he stands up to Anapol, Ashkenazy, and Deasey to get what he feels he and Joe deserve for their talent." Despite that strength, Clay has some secrets that he is afraid to get out, urges that he denies despite others' own recognition of them.

My Choice: A star, yes, but someone who is (a) Jewish, (b) scrappy enough to play plucky Broolynite, and (c) a phenomenal actor. I think he would even do well as a man approaching middle age. He has the kind of face, I feel, that could be changed accordingly.

Shia LaBeouf (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the upcoming Eagle Eye)

Who is He: "Trained as an escape artist by one of the profession's unsung masters, Joe is incredibly adept at any task he takes on, making him somewhat larger than life. He is also a gifted artist and half of the genius behind the book's popular comic book superhero, the Escapist. Joe works closely with his cousin Sammy to create this superhero, which is inspired in equal parts by the unique backgrounds of these cousins. Despite Joe's repeated ability to escape and survive, he is incapable of saving even one of his family members from the war in Europe...Joe's great love is Rosa Saks, and their affection for each other is not diminished though time, guilt, shame, and anger must separate them for twelve years."

My Choice: Another young actor, a virtual unknown here in the States. In a few films, though, he has shown himself to be remarkably versatile, a superb actor, with the most intense eyes I've seen. That fish-out-of-water intensity that is vital to playing Kavalier - he's got it. In spades.

Ben Whishaw (I'm Not There, Brideshead Revisited)

To those who have yet to read the book, do it. It is a modern American classic. To those who have: who do you have in mind for Kavalier and Clay?


Anonymous said...

Pretty excellent job. Great book.

Anonymous said...

Rosa Saks: Natalie Portman.