I wrote JOE VAMPIRE with a projector playing in my head while I transcribed the scenes and eavesdropped on the dialogue, no different from anything else I write. That’s just how it rolls for me. And it makes for a sweet second pass when I dream about what an actual JOE film would look like. I'm dreaming in full-color and big-budget, for sure...and yet, I've only seen mostly non-actors playing all the major parts, which makes casting a cinematic production a little iffy. Not that every character needs to be played by a big Hollywood name…but wouldn’t it be fun if that were to happen? So I’ve done something thinking (and yeah, I probably hurt something in the process), and I’ve solicited some opinions, and I think I’ve come up with a groovy little list of names and faces to put with each character. It's like my own personal Pinterest that you don't need a password to get into.
Actually, it’s nothing like Pinterest.
That was my attempt at drawing a comparison to something hip, but now that it’s on paper I realize how tragically flawed the idea is.
I know a lot of authors hesitate assigning a face to a name in their books, believing that somehow it taints the imagination required for immersing the reader in the story. I’m going for it anyway. Feel free to disagree…in fact, if you DO disagree, feel free to comment with your own suggestions.
Paramount Pictures: take note. This will make the casting director’s job much easier.
JOE VAMPIRE – Joseph Gordon-Levitt
I really had no image of Joe in my head when I wrote him, possibly because he’s a first-person narrator, so everything is written from his vantage. A friend read the post entitled An Intervention of One and thought Edward Norton would be a great Joe. I couldn’t disagree, and from that point forward Edward was it. Other names were suggested by other friends – Robert Downey, Jr., Ryan Reynolds, Milo Ventimiglia, Jake Gyllenhaal. All great actors; all cool possibilities. Then I watched 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young dude dealing with a cancer diagnosis, and I was blown away by the way he captured the essence of a work-a-day guy facing seemingly insurmountable circumstances. He was funny and angry and sympathetic, sometimes all in the same moment. That’s a perfect combination of emotional elementals to make Joe as real as he’s supposed to be in the book. And now, he’s who I picture when I think “Joe Vampire”. He’s my pick. If I had a second choice, it would be Adam Scott, suggested by film casting visionary and my brother in mayhem Jesse James Freeman. Adam could totally sell the sarcasm and remain likable, as he does on PARTY DOWN and PARKS AND RECREATION. Good call, dude!
CHLOE – Natalie Portman
In stark contrast to Joe, I saw nearly every young actress on the market today playing Chloe. Emily Blunt, Keira Knightley, Megan Fox, Mila Kunis, Emma Stone. They all work in one way or another, and as loosely defined as Chloe actually is, any one of them would bring great qualities to the role. But the one who I think can portray Chloe’s strength and intelligence and elegant beauty without having to say a word is Natalie Portman. Think her performance in BROTHERS more than BLACK SWAN, though; we’ll be using up the colored contact lens budget on Joe's vampire eyes, and we really don’t need anyone sprouting wings while tooling around their shared office. In my experience, that just makes things awkward and unmanageable for everyone. Anyway...it’s Natalie for Chloe.
Understandable, maybe, that I couldn’t see Joe while I wrote him because I was standing in his skin. But crazy that I also couldn’t see Hube, and he’s Joe’s best friend and go-to guy, and the one he interacts with the most in the book. You would think someone would come to mind, someone familiar in roles like that. But no. I went through Charlie Day, Tyler Labine (suggested by my bro-in-law – thanks, Vince!), and…nobody else, really. So I Internetted until I came up with Seth Green, and I thought I had a good choice there. But that was yesterday. Today I read an interview with Andrew Garfield, gearing up for the release of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and I've changed my mind. He'd make a great Hube. His performance as Eduardo Severin in SOCIAL NETWORK put his likable yet complex sensitivity on full display. It's just that sort of intricacy that Joe's wing man needs. So, now Hube is Andrew. I'm so glad they let you edit these blog-things.
LAZER – James McAvoy
He’s another character I’ve had difficulty picturing, probably because he has to be someone with no redeeming social value whatsoever. There aren’t many actors who monkey-bar on that playground exclusively, so I just kind of grilled Google until it gave up an answer. Twenty years ago it would have been Nicholas Cage without question, but this guy is supposed to be thirty or so, and Nicholas? Well…he isn’t, no matter what he’s trying to fool everyone into believing with that creepy hair thing he does. So my choice for this one would be James McAvoy. He’s not known for playing bad guys, but there’s an underlying darkness in his expression that tells me he could probably chew the scenery if given the opportunity. (Just to clarify: Lazer’s name has been changed from Razor in the original self-pubbed version of the book. As far as self-chosen musician names, it fit the techno-sleaze concept of Vomiting Nonsense better than Razor did. He’s still a prick, though. That didn’t change.)
LOUISE – Dianne Wiest
Louise was originally a goth chick who rivaled Chloe for Joe’s romantic attention. When they met in the book, though, suddenly she became maternal, a nurturer and a confidante for Joe more than anything. He needed a guide, and she was it. And when that happened, she appeared as Dianne Wiest in my head, and I loved it. She has the sweet sharpness to carry it through. Then I wondered about a possible second choice, and Lily Tomlin came to mind…with her razor wit and spot-on delivery, she’d crush it, too. Then a friend suggested Emma Thompson, who happens to be a favorite of mine, and now I can’t decide. I’m still partial to Diane. Something about her just says, “Louise”. Maybe it’s her kind eyes, or the way she rocks a cardigan. Whatever it is, I’m rolling with it.
NURSE PONYPANTS – Melissa McCarthy
The living LOL nurse with the hots for Joe Vampire would be played by Melissa McCarthy, and Melissa only. I wrote it with her in mind, actually, after seeing BRIDESMAIDS and watching her guest-host on Saturday Night Live. She’s a comedic genius, and even though it’s a one-scene role, she’s the only one for it.
MEGAN – Keira Knightley
Since Keira Knightley didn’t make the cut for Chloe, I think she’d be a great fit as Megan…smart and lovely, and able to give a performance that’s just off-kilter enough to capture Megan’s…um…unique predilections, let’s say. If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about here. If not, then no spoilers for you. You’ll just have to grab a copy and see for yourself. Plus: the resemblance between her and Natalie Portman would be a fun tie-in, a nod to Joe's inability to see himself with anyone but Chloe. And also: she's hot. So, her.
BO – John C. Reilly
This character came to me in a full visual manner as well…as Larry the Cable Guy. But as Joe’s unexpected friend, Bo needs a little more emotional complexity and subtlety of delivery - not much, but some. I just kept writing, and when I hit the line, “Holy Momma, that hurts!”, I saw John C. Reilly filling out the role perfectly. He can nail the southern accent and imbue Bo with the kind-yet-stupid charm needed. Cracks me up every time I picture him with a John Deere cap and a Bubba keg in his hand. That’s a good sign.
LUCAS - Ryan Gosling
Not gonna spoil anything here by giving away plot points to those who haven’t read, but Lucas is a significant presence in the book and is essentially a late-act lead role, which would probably be increased in the film. Whoever covers this role would need the ability to both project likability and inspire contempt, a sort of friendly menace that keeps you guessing when he’s onscreen. The only actor I see as having the necessary dual personality capabilities to pull it off is Ryan Gosling. When his face goes blank in a scene, it’s tough to tell if he’s falling into melancholy or readying to explode. He tends to carry that into his body language, which totally ratchets up the tension. So, yeah…he’s Lucas.
Wow. That was a lot of fun. And I didn't even have to take a Greyhound to L.A. I can see why people clamor to Hollywood to make movies. Maybe someday, they'll be clamoring there to make JOE VAMPIRE into one.
Anything is possible, right?
Hit me back with your suggestions and ideas. If I get enough comments, I'll work out a follow-up post with an alternate cast. That way, Paramount will have a few to choose from.
When it comes to making motion pictures, baby, you can never be too prepared.