Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Fantasy Job: Hollywood Casting Director

a guest post by Keith Raffel

Out of the blue, a pair of award-winning screenwriters optioned my second book, Smasher, back in 2010. Reading the actual script last fall, I could just imagine the characters up on the silver screen in the local multiplex. Alas, not going to happen--at least not anytime soon. The option expired a few weeks ago. The screenwriters told me they have picked up assignments from producers who liked their treatment, but Smasher: The Movie was not going to be “greenlighted.” My agent went on suicide watch, but I had expected nothing so wasn’t disappointed (much).

What about my next book? In her review of Drop By Drop, Lynn Farris wrote she “wouldn't be surprised to see this as an upcoming movie. Five stars out of five." So why not Drop By Drop as feature-length film even if not Smasher? Why not go along with the fantasy? After all, I live in the world of fiction. Let’s cast the film!
Here’s a prĂ©cis of Drop By Drop:
Stanford professor Sam Rockman suffers the crushing loss of his wife in a bombing at San Francisco Airport. Seeking meaning in the ruins of his life, he accepts an offer to work for the Senate Intelligence Committee. What Sam wants out of his stint in D.C. is revenge for the death of his wife. What he gets is danger and betrayal. Secret documents are showing up on his doorstep. Russians are trying to poison him. Sam finds allies among a savvy Kentucky senator, a billionaire investment banker, his wife's old rabbi, and the president's national security advisor. Too often, he finds himself thrown together with his counterpart on the other side of the aisle, the whip-smart, six-footer Cecilia Plant. Mourning still for his wife, Sam steels himself against Cecilia's appeal and remains suspicious of her motives.

So we have to cast Sam and Cecilia first. We know he’s six feet tall because he’s the same height as she is. Other than that we don’t know what he looks like. Kind of nerdy maybe. After all, he is a Stanford history professor in his mid-thirties. Lots of candidates then but I’m going to with Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s six feet tall and 32 years old. Earnest in Love and Other Drugs, driven in Source Code. He should be bankable, too.
Next is Cecilia. Getting this part right is the key to the movie. Readers love her. Joe Hartlaub wrote in his review in, “With regard to the characters, Plant almost steals the book from Rockman; if Raffel would see fit to bring her back in a future work, I certainly wouldn’t object.” Here she is in her first meeting with Sam: 
“We need to get the motherfuckers who did that.” She didn’t snarl as she cursed. She spoke in soft tones, as if to minimize the attention that would come unbidden to a foul-mouthed, red-headed woman with a seventy-five inch span between the tips of her heels and the crown of her head.
She’s six-feet tall (the extra three inches are from her heels) and an ex-athlete. Wait, I got it! Adrianne Palicki. She’s within an inch of six-feet. She can definitely handle the bad language--having played bad-girl Tyra Collette in Friday Night Lights. While in high school she played basketball and ran track. I’ve seen her on the screen as both a blonde and as a brunette; no reason to think she wouldn’t look just as great with auburn tresses. (Calling Clairol!) And even when she played a bad girl, she projected underlying intelligence.
Did I mention I myself worked for the Senate just as Sam Rockman did? One of my colleagues back in those days was Fred Thompson who (much later) showed his acting chops on TV’s Law and Order. And he actually served as a senator from Tennessee. Not too much of a stretch then to see him playing a member of the upper house representing the neighboring state of Kentucky. (Always glad to help out a former colleague.)
Billionaire investment banker George Fairchild has made the Forbes list of richest people under 40. Here’s where we first see him in the book:
George measured no taller than five-five, an inch shorter than Rachel and weighed in at about 130, only five pounds more than her. No banker’s suit for George. He wore khakis with a crease sharp enough to slice a loaf of bread and a blue-striped button-down crisp enough to crackle like cellophane.
Let’s go with Ryan Phillippe most recently seen on TV in Damages. A baby-faced 38 he makes the age cut.

My own rabbi says she likes the fact that rabbis in my novels are not figures of fun. Can comedic actor Paul Rudd play a serious clergyman? I say yes.

The president’s national security advisor is a tough, cigarette-smoking, New York dame. Let’s go with Dianne Wiest of In Treatment and Hannah and Her Sisters.

And finally, what about President Lucas? Here we see him on TV:
The guy looked so damned presidential. He reached the same six foot four Lincoln had. His hair was swept back in a Reaganesque pompadour. An aversion to ties part of his brand, he wore an open-neck French blue shirt and navy blazer. He conveyed to the voters that he was no empty suit, but the perfect fit of his clothing, the way his jacket hung from his shoulders, distinguished him from Joe Sixpack even more surely than gray pinstripes.
Here’s the casting coup of the 21st century. Mitt Romney was a neighbor of a friend of mine. I met him at her birthday party. Don’t know how good an actor he would be, but from the description of President Lucas above it wouldn’t be much of a stretch, would it? And it’s my hunch that he will be looking for work after the first Tuesday of November. 
 Thanks for humoring me in my reverie. (But if the agents of Mr. Gyllenhaal or Ms. Palicki see this post, please do not hesitate to get in touch.)


Keith’s Drop By Drop is available for a free download from through Saturday. (Click here.) Thanks to,, huffington post, Wikipedia,, and for the photos above.


Unknown said...

Fun post, Keith. It is hard sometimes not to think of our characters in terms of who might play them, isn't it? Even more interesting is to ask readers who they see as various characters - often a bit different from the author's ideas! I think Drop by Drop would be a terrific movie!

Robin Allen said...

Sounds like a great movie, Keith. I love Diane Wiest in anything.

In the movie based on my main character, Poppy Markham, I would cast Scarlet Johansson.

Alan Orloff said...

I was totally with you until we got to the Prez. I think Martin Sheen would be more believable than Mitt Romney, plus he has experience! (BTW, I'll need four tickets to the red carpet premiere.)

Shannon Baker said...

Like Alan, I was with you until the last. Somehow, I don't think he'd be much of a box office draw. Sorry about the option falling through for Smasher but Drop by Drop could be your ticket to retirement.

G.M. Malliet said...

You've tapped into one of my favorite daydreams, Keith - casting my books with tall, dark, handsome guys (I know that's a cliche, but lazy writing is still writing--I'm giving myself a break today).

Looking at these pix, I see there are a lot of new actors who fit the bill, but I have to tell you Hugh Grant still tops my list to play Max Tudor. A real actor can play against his usual typecasting, right?

While I'm here, let me say how nice it was to see so many MInkers at Malice Domestic. I look forward to seeing you again at LCC. Gin

Jeanine Cronin said...

Hi Keith ... so glad to see you back. Sorry about Smasher, but would love to see Drop By Drop on the Silver Screen. Please don't be a stranger ... we've missed you! Any word about a new book to look forward to?

Beth Groundwater said...

What a fun post, Keith! Maybe we should all cast an imaginary movie made from our books. I'd like to see what Hollywood stars everyone would pick to represent their characters. ;-)

Kathleen Ernst said...

Gotta have fun with these things! Fingers crossed that we'll see this on the big screen one day.

Deborah Sharp said...

yikes ... I like Jake Gyllenhal, but is John Cusak too old now? For the prez's national security advisor, how about cherry jones? she's good as the therapist on Awake, but I can also see her playing tough NY broad. Fun post!

Keith Raffel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keith Raffel said...

Sheila, you think it would be a terrific movie? Great -- I cast you as screenwriter. Robin, you're getting Scarlett? I am already queued up at the local Odeon. Alan, I will not forget you when I am rich and famous. After all, you did not forget me. Shannon and Kathleen, from your lips to God's ears. Gin, from what I saw at LCC, you seem to do okay at attracting those handsome guys in real life. Jeanine, soon I hope. Thanks for asking. Beth, feel free to cast away. Deb, John Cusack will be 46 next month. I think he misses the cut. But I think it's a great idea to have Cherry Jones and Dianne Wiest fight it out for the part. I really do like Awake and Ms. Jones in it.