One-He wants ALL the film merch of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure that they only released in Japan and Burma and include characters that weren’t in the movie like ‘Mecha-Francis’;,
Two-He wants the power to mix and match the lesser-known, overlooked film actors he feels haven’t been bathed in divine glory as he believes, in his astute cinematic judgment, they should have been, you know, if the Mephistophelean constraints of time and budget and, you know, death weren’t tossed in his righteous way.
A cinephile asked me, almost in exasperation, “Fine, give me an original movie then cast it with the character actors you looooove so much [wet, kissie sounds]. ” I said “Will do” then tearfully shot back “your kissie sounds just lost you a chance to hold my one-of-kind Samurai Pee-wee with severed Mr. Buxton head, origato! JERK!” We haven’t spoken since.
I just so happen to have an original film that couldn’t be made, but one I wouldn’t want made without MY cast.. For you knowledgeable folk, the film is an obstacle course to determine your worthiness of the title “Movie geek”, your selections must fit the story, I believe my cast is perfect, but I also allow–in this wild, chaotic world–for you to select whom you think would be better and when I reveal the correct answers for you then to sit in a warm, creamy pile of your own wrongness, ashamed and scorned forever…it’s a free country!
I’ll pitch the movie first then cast it with my list of the greatest, but also the perfect, man for the role:
A heist thriller. Four men wait in New Orleans for a Hurricane to touch land, a CAT 5 whopper that will shut down the city for weeks and cut off any route to drier climes. A majority of the population has already abandoned the Crescent City, those who remain are the stubborn, the foolishly optimistic, a skeleton police force and our four friends.
They wait, as they’ve waited for years for just the right moment, to bust through the rear wall of the French Quarter branch of the Commodity and Mineral Reserve, cut and blast through the back plate of the vault and relieve it of tens of millions of dollars of gold and platinum dust waiting to be minted. Under the cover of the storm the heavy drills and explosives necessary to breach the vault will not be noticed, and the inland wind, though fierce, will cover their escape into the bayou and then north to Baton Rouge where gangsters wait patiently to shell out 90 cents on the dollar. But a seasoned cop has been suspicious for years, he runs across strange purchases and odd behavior from these men…every year, without explanation, for the last seven hurricane seasons. He pieces together their plan and for his last hurrah before he retires, he’s determined to stay and stop them, he’ll have no back-up, at a time and in a town where there is no law.
Working title: Mock All Gods, Fear No Fire
Harvey runs a small and unprofitable construction company. For thirty years he’s worked and though he’s always found something to do, a sickness in the family and five boys in college, have left his savings flat-lined and his IRA picked-over like roadkill. He’s getting old and desperately needs cash to retire. His industrial expertise brings method and machinery to the project.
Gordo is a fisherman whose catch is constantly depleted by the poison in the Gulf, he needs a better boat so he can go further out to cleaner water, not the junker his dad left him.He knows the inland waters and can navigate locks and bayous, even in severe weather, his encyclopedic knowledge of South Louisiana charted a near impossible thing, a completely water-borne route north, deep in the unseen
Trev is a PTSD case from early Afghanistan, crazy brave but despondently violent, he is looked after by his older brother. Trev’s demolition experience and backdoor network will supply the ‘how’ and ‘with what’, to enter the vault. He’s also the criminal bridge to the underworld, where many of his friends found employment in rough trade upon returning home.
Conner, Trev’s brother, never married and never made a splash in his life, he desperately wants to look back on something, even a criminal something, that says he was here, other than some AA coins and an expired electrician’s license. Having worked in a cherry-picker for several hurricanes, he knows the response times, the alert codes and the assorted minutiae that can make or break this caper.
Sgt. Fouchet expected to retire with a whimper, enemies made and politics not heeded, has ground his lifelong hopes of being the ‘hero cop’ with a book deal and a profitable speaking-career into a keno-spin of improbability, early fame melted into later obsolescence, but he still has his wits, his balls, and barely a thing left to lose.
Now, let’s cast this sucker!
You said ‘past or present’ right, so I can cast the perfect guy even though he’s passed on? I’m going with that, fuck it.
Harvey…I want someone who evokes blue-collar knowledge but also the older family-man dissatisfaction with how things turned out. I imagine a kind of complainey, flannel-shirt father figure, but he needs to be sympathetic and with a great delivery because this is the kind of life-weary bar-uncle that will get in some good one liners.
Dick Miller. One of the gods of character actors, you’ve seen his face but now you have a responsibility not to forget his name. This is him from Gremlins (he was also the guy who sold Arnold the guns in The Terminator (“Phase plasma rifle in 40-watt range.” “Hey, just what you see, pal.”) He’s been in 138 movies. Insultingly, he’s only won two awards, both from Sci-fi and horror fan magazines (I wonder what was in his goodie bag?…a can of sardines and a bobble-head of Roger Corman). He was a writer early on, directed some TV, but that face and that delivery transformed shapeless words into a person we all know, the cranky neighbor who could talk eeeendlessly about lawn care and the Korean War. He’s my Harvey and I cast him at about this age (pictured).
Gordo… is slightly younger but has to look like he’s been on the aft deck of a beat-up shrimp trawler his whole life. I want him to evoke that ‘invisible man’ aura, the kind that doesn’t look very swashbuckling until he surprises you with how truly useful he is…he can’t be put together and if he looks like he should be constantly reaching for the same soft-pack of Pall Malls in his shirt pocket…you know, the one that’s miraculously three sticks from empty, forever, because you’ve never seen him with a fresh pack, that one…so much the better.
Harry Dean Stanton. 205 credits to his gaunt, just-got-off-work-at-the-oil-well visage, he looks like a kid who grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness (for some reason) only to get drafted and watch his dog get run over by a log truck the very same day. There’s no meanness in Harry, but there’s a spiked surrender to the cruelty of life in him, unimpressed by tragedy, a passive observer of the carnival of pain that whirls like an optigram before his eyes. He has thoughts, but those thoughts, like all invisible men who work and have few interests outside it, are never uttered, you feel them, though…that’s a man who can haul three buddies and a shit-ton of gold dust through the unmapped, secret pathways of the bayou. An impressive feat. But he’s not impressed with himself and finds it a little weird that you are.
Trev must evoke torment, both mentally and physically. He is not evil, his fight or flight impulse is just hopelessly broken, I need an actor who looks disturbed, and disturbing, but can still pull off moments of gentleness that remind us he’s a human being who has crossed the gates of hell and returned only to find the world different, not him. I want the audience to feel for him, to cringe at the cosmic injustice of this gentle man whose mind was flayed, as well as his body, for the sake of us all, but I need him to be terrifying, he must look as I want his fractured mind to look if exposed, these contrasts enrich the character and therefore the story, because, after all, he is worth something to the job, maybe the most to the job, he finds the buyers, he rigs the plastique, it’s he who fights Sgt. Fouchet and it’s him who takes Fouchet’s bullet, making good the escape of his brother, and it’s him who dies in his brother’s arms on a fishing boat in the bayou. We must fear Trev and weep for Trev and love Trev all while keeping one eye on Trev, just in case.
Michael Berryman. A childhood disease denied him eyebrows, facial hair and a svelte profile, but it gave him a sweet and gentle personality, but not always, as a kid he would fly into rages when teased, this, he says, is how he able to project both insane rage and turn on a dime to deliver an eye-moistening monologue. He has over a hundred movies under his belt and in Europe is often called upon to host those ‘list shows’: the 100 most scary this or the 50 most terrifying that. Fact is, he’s just a Presbyterian, like Mr. Rogers, who once considered the ministry. But the 6′2″ tower of trouble he can reveal will serve the story perfectly when Fouchet closes in.
Connor has tried and failed, and he doesn’t know why, he’s terrified of leaving this Earth a forgotten nothing. I need an actor that makes you believe several things at once 1)he’s the kind of guy who would rob a mineral reserve as proof of his worthiness…to himself 2)a guy who seems like a company-man with a library of boutique and useless knowledge…useless except when you want to steal forty million in platinum during a hurricane 3) he evokes the short-tempered older brother who is at once impatient and protective of his younger sibling 4) he is filled with ‘family burden’, a longing need to make everything alright, to see everyone, finally, happy at last. I think I know just the guy:
Jonathan Banks. Yes, the Breaking Bad actor, he’s almost always the bad guy but so are most older brothers because, like in Connor’s case, he has to be…unless he’s a bastard, everyone will stay poor, broken and miserable. He looks like a man who tried to do right once, who believed the protestant mantra that if you do right you do well, but is now realizing that ‘doing right’ and ‘doing well’ aren’t synonymous. Jonathan banks has a just-realized-my-wife-is-a-former-prostitute viscera about him, it’s in that he doesn’t know how to feel that we feel his motivation, his delivery is balls-out-blue collar and he can turn on the expeditionary intrigue like nobody’s business. If you were the other three guys and he came to you with this plan, he’d make you so confident it could happen you’d curse the weather for not hurling a five-hundred mile ball of wet death on your hometown. He’s the glue, the motivator and the reliable explainer, and he can evoke the pain of loving his fractured brother to a degree that any older brother, myself included, would turn his head to keep from watching. Like this:
Sgt. Fouchet was once a hot dog, I need an older man who still moves like he believes he’s the bee’s knees but in close-up we can see he has invented a fiction of himself that he doesn’t quite believe, a delusion to stop him from dropping a toaster in his bathwater. I need a guy you can see could have been a dandy smile-for-the-camera cop but who can project, at this phase of the characters life, a desperate do-anything-before-the-curtain-drops anxiety (recall this is the same inner struggle as Connor, thematically I would try and equate the two as the same man, their confrontation being the climax, so the trick is getting someone for Connor who looks, vaguely, like he could be Trev’s older brother but also, again vaguely, swings a similar jib to Sgt. Fouchet…it’s holistic but I think the right man is:)
Robert Davi. Eighty movies and sixty TV episodes featured that characterful, pock-marked face…other than living immortally in my imagination as the non-Joey-Pants half of the Fratelli brothers from Goonies, he’s a guaranteed point-scorer whether he wears the black hat or the white. He can project a self-interested simmer at the same time he’s projecting a careerist’s professional polish. That’s Fouchet! But that ain’t the floor on this opera singer, turned actor, turned Vegas crooner, turned policy wonk in Washington (He helped craft Civilian Patrol 93 with a panel of former heads of the CIA and FBI…it’s a guidance, training and public information program designed to fight Islamic terrorism, a subject he’s supremely familiar with as in his research, having played three Islamic terrorists, and having interviewed dozens to get inside their head, he collected a knowledge base that impressed even his cohorts on the council…though as a well-read and well-rounded civil-libertarian he was mostly there to hold back any authoritarian impulse on behalf of the project)
NO! he can toggle from an Only-The-Mission-Matters hard-ass to a Maybe-There’s-Times-You-Shouldn’t-Shoot-a-Toddler-With-a-Puppy-on-School-Grounds philosophical softy. That should pay off big when Fouchet meets a now-brotherless Conner under a cinematic cypress on a hurricane-swept island in the brown, God-forgotten bayou (burying your brother at sea brings some closure but burying your brother in the bayou brings greater grief, because where the deep blue is an abyss that itself echoes the afterlife, the bayou is full of snapping jaws and rolling reptiles clamoring to rent your beloved to bits. When they say ‘decent burial’ what they really mean is ‘don’t put me in the bayou’. I see Connor MADDENED…CRAZED!… by this last failure to protect his brother’s dignity).
This was a hard one because the only stipulation was ‘character actor’, the nameless, but not faceless, reservoir of genius that makes American cinema watchable. That meant I had to disqualify actors because most people knew their name, like Wilford Brimley and Charles Durning, my copy-and-paste finger hovered over a young(er) Walter Brennan for Harvey, but felt that since his later cowboy roles made him an icon and punchline (“That’s gold, Pilgrim! Gold!” proceeds to shuffle an excited hambone jig) he lept from character actor to marquee second-banana and therefore was ineligible.
And for those of you who will suggest men like Steve Buscemi…listen to me very carefully, Steve Buscemi is not a character actor, Steve Buscemi is a movie star who just so happens TO LOOK like a character actor…that said, can’t get a bigger Steve Buscemi fan than me, guy’s a frickin’ tyrant, a force multiplier, but that was not the challenge. Rules is rules.
And for those who (cringe) complain about the cast being all-white (not you passive, do-gooders who think diversity is, somehow, an asset,…you get a wedgie after homeroom)…No, I mean those of you who’ve convinced yourself it’s somehow blasphemous that Caucasians have lives outside of non-Caucasians, then it’s a further blasphemy that those lives can be dramatized, and then it amounts to Merovingian heresy that those stories be put on celluloid,…then I have good news.
No. The cast is still all white… but dammit! if I don’t wish I could shoehorn in Roscoe Lee Browne or maybe Bill Duke, because I legitimately love those guys. Even if including them ends up…in your groundless, glue-sniffing false righteousness… making you think you ‘pressured’ me into it, I’d still do it because Roscoe Lee Brown was wasted on the stage. There. I said it. HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN A HOUSEHOLD NAME! That voice alone is worth half-a-billion…ever heard his voice-over to the trailer of Being John Malkovich! Youtube-it! That’s the work he was taking at the end! it doesn’t matter, it was still perfect, perfect! Listen to it! It’s perfect!
I hope Bill Duke saved his money from Predator, all I’m saying.