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Scott Larson





Building façade in Cannes, France

Adaptation

It occurs to me that I haven’t been talking about my novel, Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead, nearly enough. So let’s talk about it.

The most important thing to know is that you can find links to preview, borrow or buy it on this page.

But this is a movie web site, so let’s ask the next logical question. Who should be cast in the movie version?

That’s actually a pretty complicated question. After all, two of the three main characters are 18 and the other one is 14. So there are a lot of factors to consider.

It is very common to cast juvenile roles with actors who are older than the characters they are playing. This frequently leads to sneering by who love to tear apart TV shows and movies because sometimes the actors are ridiculously older than the adolescents they are supposed to be portraying—especially on TV shows that go on for years and years. But there are professional actors who truly do look younger than their chronological age and who can pass for being younger. Also, a skilled actor can create the illusion of being younger via pure acting prowess. Personally, I prefer that actors do look the age they are supposed to be, but I am not a stickler that the actors should actually have to be the age they are playing.

And if the goal is to be age-accurate in the casting, then timing becomes everything. People in—or recently out of—their teens can go through some pretty dramatic physical changes in a relatively short amount of time. So the goal is to have the actors looking the right age at the time of filming. So, in a way, it is really a pointless exercise to cast the movie without having a fairly firm production schedule. And it’s hard to have a production schedule when there is no movie deal. But let’s blunder on away.

If we imagine our hypothetical film adaptation to begin production very soonish, then we want actors who look like teenagers right now. The best way to be familiar with teen talent is to be watching TV shows and movies aimed at tweens and pre-teens—an area in which I would normally be deficient. But as fate has it, I actually was required to watch quite a bit of tween/pre-teen fare in the past decade, by virtue of being a dad. And yet such is the ephemeral nature of time that many of the young actors I became familiar with via the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon would actually already be too old to play teens now.

The 18-year-old characters in my book are second-generation central Californians by way of Oklahoma and so would have a bit of a twang in their speech. Dallas Green, the narrator, is described as scrawny with brown hair, green eyes and “freckly skin.” But the physical attributes are less important than the attitude and personality. Dallas tries to mask his insecurities with bravado but he is perpetually taken aback by the situations he encounters. Strangely, one actor I have watched for years who might work for him is Cole Sprouse, half of the twins who starred in Disney’s Zack and Cody series. He and his brother just turned 22(!) but recent photos I have shown him to have stretched out lankily and exhibiting the long-haired outsider attitude of both Dallas and his best friend Lonnie.

If we imagine production slipping out a couple of years, then a good choice might be 15-year-old Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl Grimes on The Walking Dead. If we are going for dream casting, I would have to throw in the name of the extremely talented 17-year-old English actor Asa Butterfield, who starred in Hugo and Ender’s Game.

Lonnie is described as blond and more muscular than Dallas. Lonnie exudes confidence and is seen, by Dallas at least, as something of a babe magnet. Oddly, this is a harder one to find a match for. Male actors in that age group seem to all have the sensitive, introspective and, frankly, scrawny thing going on. An out-of-left-field choice might be 19-year-old Atlanta-born actor Devon Gearhart, who played Cliff Campbell in Neil LaBute’s 2013 TV series Full Circle.

Casting 14-year-old street kid Antonio is trickier still. He has to seem young and yet wise beyond his years. And he needs to be able to portray a pretty wide range of emotions throughout the story. And, even more than the other characters, he needs to be the right age at the right time. My choice for a very prompt production: 13-year-old Los Angeles-born actor Xolo Maridueña, who plays the foster kid Victor on the TV series Parenthood.

Unfortunately, this particular book does not have any what I would call great roles for women. I’m afraid it is pretty darned guy-centric. But the most significant female role would be the seductive Marisol, a girl from a well-to-do Monterrey family, whom Dallas meets on a beach in Guaymas. Even though Dallas thinks she is about 20, she turns out to be only 16. Unfortunately, Selena Gomez is already too old for the part, and she wouldn’t really have been right for it anyway. So, as much as I hated doing it, I forced myself to look through lots of photos of young women who could play a beautiful Mexican girl, and I came up with two finalists.

If shooting started right away, I think that 21-year-old Victoria Justice could get away with it. Born in Florida, she is a veteran of the Nickelodeon series Zoey 101 and the Disney series Victorious. If production moves out much farther, then I think we should give a shot to 16-year-old Bella Thorne, who is also from Florida. She has appeared in a number of TV series, most recently on Disney’s Shake It Up!. She also appeared in the Adam Sandler comedy Blended. She would have to dye her lovely auburn hair black to be true to the book’s description. But, hey, if she comes on board, everything is negotiable.

Now that we have all that sorted, we’re almost ready to proceed. All we need now is a director, a screenwriter (twist my arm), a studio deal and, oh yeah, financing.

-S.L., 7 August 2014


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