Over a year ago -- waaaaaay back in the day -- I asked that people send in requests for books or plays they could recommend, and then I would cast them. Now, I'm sure some of you think by this point that I was just whistling Dixie. "Why Walter," you declare, "WHEN THE FUCK IS MY BOOK GETTING CAST?!?" Well, Gemma and Lea and Becca are satisfied, at least, with Slaughterhouse-Five, Pippi Longstocking, and Beauty and the Beast all done.
Today is another day in which Gemma will nod and go, "Good. Goooood...." For today, we have another book highly recommended by her. Written by her future husband, it's the story of an ex-convict who gets out earlier than expected...due to the death of his wife. In search of a job, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who seems to already know a great deal about him. Shadow soon becomes Mr. Wednesday's bodyguard/escort (but not like that), but comes to realize that this is no ordinary conman he's helping. Instead, Shadow finds himself in the center of an epic battle between the Gods of Old -- Norse, Egyptian, Indian, etc. -- and the American Gods of New -- Media, Technology, the Internet, etc.
The novel ranks among one of the most imaginative enterprises ever embarked upon. Most of the characters are Gods or mythological characters, but given human form. None are inventions of the author meaning that if one does their research, they can find much to read about Czernobog, Anansi, and Loki. Others are given different names, but are identified through context clues. It is, by far, the most interesting book I have ever read. Indeed, I kind of feel bad for casting it. Not only would much have to be cut out (and who would want that, given the full feel of the novel?), but it seems kind of pointless. If your main antagonists are the Gods of Television and Media and all that, wouldn't making a movie seem...disrespectful?
Ah, but that's the beauty of American Gods. You never really know who the heroes are, where the villains hide, what is going on, until the very end. And even then, can we judge? Who are we to place our code of ethics onto the immortals of old? The book's a thinker, one that would be a page-turner if I didn't enjoy prolonging my time with it. I highly recommend it to anyone who has yet to read it. And when you do, why not have these faces in mind?
Who is She: Supposedly another prostitute, she is actually an incarnation of the Queen of Sheba. Seen as a kind of succubus, she swallows her customers through her vagina during intercourse. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is something you have to read to believe.
Josette Simon (Cry Freedom, Poirot: The Mystery of the Blue Train)
There is something regal and goddess-like about Simon. She's like the less terrifying Grace Jones. She is remarkably beautiful, of course, and that would only help her image as the Queen of Sheba. Good actress, too, probably the best part of the Poirot episode she was in.
Who is He: A Slavic god, traditionally known as one of the dark, evil gods. In the novel, he is a temperamental man, old but strong, who uses his sledgehammer in battle. And in bets. Plays chess against Shadow.
Boris Leskin (Everything is Illuminated, Cadillac Man)
The Russian actor is pushing ninety, but he still looks like he could kick my ass. No great feat, true, but I like to think with a man his age, it would be about even. It helps that he is from the right area, too. I've seen him in Everything is Illuminated, where he demonstrated both the temper and the tender. It should be fine.
Who is She: A pagan goddess for whom feasts were served in the month of April. Camped out on the lawn in California now (right? Gemma, did I remember that correctly?), Easter is approached by Wednesday to join the Resistance, as it were. She is of great importance when the Gods of Old and New are preparing for battle: it is she who must get Shadow before first blood is shed.
My Choice: BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Newcomer (E.T. The Extraterrestrial), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Irreconcilable Differences), Razzie Award Nominee for Worst Actress (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle & Duplex) and Worst Supporting Actress (Freddy Got Fingered)
Drew Barrymore (He's Just Not That Into You, the upcoming Whip It!)
Drew can be sexy and mysterious and friendly. There is a great maturity to her work, just not in her more famous movies. I imagine her Easter would be like Sugar's looks with Lindsey's attitude. Yeah, look 'em up, they're both great Drew performances.
Who is He: Writing a history of mythology, he also runs a funeral parlor. But mostly, he is an incarnation of the Egyptian God Thoth: arbiter, writer, magician, and Judge of the Dead.
Shaun Toub (Crash, The Kite Runner)
Of Middle Eastern descent, Toub is another one of those great character actors that is every casting director's dream. He looks the part, he is becoming more bankable, and Lord is he talented.
Who is He: Mr. Jacquel works alongside Mr. Ibis in the funeral parlor. Shadow meets up with both them again much later on. Of course, he is an incarnation of Anubis, the Egyptian God who oversaw mummification of the dead and the afterlife in the Old Kingdom.
Homayoun Ershadi (The Kite Runner, the upcoming Agora)
He looks kind of like a dog, I think. I do. I don't mean that offensively, just some people look like ibises, and others like dogs. He and Toub have worked together before, so the comfort level would already be there. It's a nice choice, I think.
Who is He: A leprechaun, but rather larger than what you might think. Mad Sweeney drinks, fights, does coin tricks, the whole nine yards. The first thing he does is fight Shadow, but he is in a worse state when he sees Shadow again. It is he who gives our hero the Coin. A Coin, mind you, of great importance.
Zach Galifianakis (Out Cold, Into the Wild)
If ever there was a man who looked a part.... Galifianakis is mainly known for comedy (what with him being a comedian), but he has done some low-key, dramatic work as well, and has been well-received for such roles. His turn as Mad Sweeney could be both humorous and tragic. There's always a hint of sadness to Zach's schtick, and it would serve him well here.
Who is She: A form of Kali, Hindu goddess of death and destruction. She is, surprisingly, reluctant to take part in Wednesday's plan. When the American Gods spring an ambush, however, she is more willing to listen.
My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (House of Sand and Fog)
Shohreh Aghdashloo (American Dreamz, X-Men III: The Last Stand)
Aghdashloo could put on that fierce face and just own it. She is very pretty. I like to think she smells like cinnamon, because she reminds me of a woman I once went ot church with who smelled like cinnamon.
Who is He: A yellow-gloved storyteller, Mr Nancy is often upbeat and helpful. He is also a form of the West African and Caribbean culture hero Anansi, the trickster and storyteller, the bringer of rain, the son of the sky god Nyame. Mr. Nancy is one of the more charming characters in the novel.
Sy Richardson (Men at Work, TV's Pushing Daisies)
Richardson has a delightful smile, and truth be told, I thought that was important to the role. He is well-known as a great teacher and orator, so he could convincingly sell the storyteller aspect of Mr. Nancy. And I've always loved his line delivery in Pushing Daisies, in which he plays the grumpy coroner. A higher-profile role would suit him.
Who is He: The confidence trickster who ropes Shadow into this whole rigmarole. He spends much of his time hiding Shadow and recruiting the ancients into his campaign. Mr. Wednesday's name comes from Woden's Day, Woden being a Germanic form of Odin. That is, Wednesday is Odin, the chief of the Norse gods. He is a conman, one of trickery and war and cunning and victory.
My Choice: Academy Award Winner for Best Actor (Kiss of the Spider Woman), BAFTA Award Winner for Best Actor (Kiss of the Spider Woman), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actor in a Drama (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Children of a Lesser God), Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy (Broadcast News) and Best Newcomer (Altered States), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Into the Wild)
William Hurt (A History of Violence, The Incredible Hulk)
Hurt is still sexy, as you can see. He gets that scruffiness just right, doesn't he? The man has a regalness about him, a sort of royal charm. He's one of the greatest actors living, utterly convining as both heels and heroes. The Wednesday role covers all grounds.
Who is He: Not so much a God as he is a figure of mythology. Shadow meets him in Whiskey Jack's trailer, which is, you know, here, there, and everywhere. Chapman is the true name of Johnny Appleseed, and though the man really lived and died, his spirit remains as long as people believe.
Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Slither)
Rooker has the gravelly voice that I would like for this role. It's a spin on the Good Old Boy, the old man drinking and shooting the shit. Neat little cameo by an accomplished character actor.
THE FAT KID
Who is He: An incarnation of technology, I believe the Web in particular. He has no blood or bones, just parts and sparks. The Fat Kid is the youngest of the New Gods. He has a chip on his shoulder, but when those same chips are down, he realizes just how much shit he's in. He is young an unprepared, and when he starts to break down, the New Gods begin to worry....
Jonah Hill (Accepted, The 40 Year Old Virgin)
He's not skinny, okay? And this guy is clearly one of the New School. It's a good idea, I think, to have those most associated with current trends and popular culture to play the New Gods.
Who is She: An incarnation of Media, she is well-coiffed and well-spoken. But not trustworthy. Not by a long shot.
Melora Hardin (The Hot Chick, 27 Dresses)
Yes, that is Jan Levinson-Gould, from The Office. Again, a face we immediately associate with popular culture. Media is described as looking like a television anchor. Melora Hardin has always reminded me of a Fox News reporter. Consider this A-plus.
Who is He: Not a God, a mere mortal, but one who works closely with the New Gods. He carries out Mr. World's orders, is pushing fifty, and has no idea what's going on. Nevertheless, he's doing a job, and the only thing that can get in the way of that is the touch of a woman.
Patrick Warburton (Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, Get Smart)
If you're hiring a bodyguard, you're going to get someone imposing and wall-like. And that is Patrick Warburton. His voice is quite famous, of course, enabling him to emphasize the Big Dumb Brute, and that eye-fuck he always gives is an asset to the role. Warburton is also just old enough to play the part.
Who is He: Whiskey Jack keeps a trailer here, there, and everywhere. A figure in Algonquian mythology, Whiskey Jack is similar to the trickster gods of Ojibwan and Assiniboinian mythologies. He never seems to be ruffled, and helps out Shadow more than once, though he regards the Old and New Gods with bemusement. An American God, but he does not choose sides, really.
My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Dances with Wolves), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (The Green Mile)
Graham Greene (The Education of Little Tree, Snow Dogs)
Greene is one of the only Native American actors I know, it's true. But he's also really great at what he does, so it would be remiss of me not to give him this role.
Who is He: The mysterious figure pulling the strings of the New Gods. No one knows who he is, they just follow his orders.
My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Jason Flemyng (From Hell, Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage)
Well, he looks the part. Exactly like the part. Like, the book is clearly describing Jason Flemyng. Great actor, too. He's appeared in a number of Casting Coups, and I do hope Benjamin Button brings him more recognition in America.
Who is He: The town's oldest resident. Hinzelmann organizes little contests and maintains town traditions. He picks up Shadow when first he enters Lakeside, the small town where he is to hide out. Hinzelmann is a kindly, helpful old man, and comes to Shadow's aid when he is needed.
My Choice: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Nashville)
Henry Gibson (TV's Boston Legal, TV's Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In)
As those who've seen The Luck of Irish know, Gibson has that elfin appearance. He's old and kindly, but he's also a little mischievous. Look at that grin! Or don't, because it's not pictured. Anyway, we all know he's one of my favorite all-time actors, so he gets in.
Who is He: Sheriff of the county. Nice guy, even befriends Shadow. Has a "kissin' cousin" with a bizarre link to events Shadow's involved in, but he appears to be in love with someone else in town...
Gary Cole (Office Space, Breach)
Sometimes, a face just pops up. This was one of those times. But Cole has played nice guys before. He's more or less typecast as the Man in Charge, whether he be in charge of drug operations (Pineapple Express) or a rugby team (Forever Strong). Sheriffs? He's played a few. Chad Mulligan is right in Gary Cole's element.
Who is She: Shadow's neighbor in Lakeside. A divorcee, Marguerite has two kids, but only one of them is at home. The other has disappeared, one of many youngsters who disappear from the town every year. Mayhaps there are tender feelings between her and Mulligan? She does invite Shadow to dinner, though...
My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Being John Malkovich, Capote), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Capote), Golden Glob Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Being John Malkovich), SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Being John Malkovich, Capote, Into the Wild) and Best Ensemble (Being John Malkovich, Capote, Into the Wild)
Catherine Keener (S1m0ne, Synecdoche, New York)
Ah, the delicate sadness of a mother. The loneliness of the divorcee next door to a sexy, mysterious man. The familiarity of living in a small town. Has she not demonstrated her abilities to play all three? The combination gives me chills, the kind only Catherine can give.
Who is She: A girl Shadow meets during his travels. The college student is getting over a bad breakup, but she doesn't like Shadow that way. Happens to be related to Marguerite.
Margo Harshman (TV's Even Stevens, Fired Up!)
Harshman has features that could easily pass for half-white, half-Native American, I think. I mean, it's not a completely ridiculous portrayal. And she looks enough like Catherine Keener so that you could believe their relationship. She's a good actress who should be doing better work than she's been giving. Perhaps this year's Sorority Row?
Who is She: Shadow's late wife, who unexpectedly comes back from the dead. Because of this state, she is a little...ethereal, I guess? Detached?
Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous, (500) Days of Summer)
I've always felt Deschanel had this "other" quality. It's her features, her voice, her acting style -- it all suggests something not quite real. And she's incredibly beautiful. For me, she would be the actress we could most believe as Laura.
Who is He: The protagonist, an ex-convict who gets involved with the Gods after his wife dies. In the meantime, he discovers a little about himself, his country, his wife, his parents, and so on. Shadow may be of Native American descent. He is also tall, muscular, wide of frame, and in his thirties. Practices coin tricks.
My Choice: Razzie Award Nominee for Worst Actor (The Chronicles of Riddick), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Saving Private Ryan)
Vin Diesel (The Iron Giant, The Fast and the Furious)
So he's about seven years too old for the part. So what? Did you know Vin Diesel was 42? I didn't think so. He's a great actor (he is) with some great acting chops. He can bring the "don't fuck with me" look, but also the sensitivity for the Laura scenes. Out of everyone in Hollywood, in Diesel is the only one who can both look and act this part.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Best Actor: Vin Diesel
Best Supporting Actor: Gary Cole, Jason Flemyng, Henry Gibson, William Hurt, Boris Leskin, Sy Richardson
Best Supporting Actress: Drew Barrymore, Zooey Deschanel, Margo Harshman, Catherine Keener