Three Films From The Wish List

I love films. I feel protective of every project I read about. As soon as it's greenlit, my mind goes to screenwriter, director, actor, the whole make-up of the project. Did the producers get the right gang together? Will the set design be complimented by the DP's camera work? What, if anything, would have been done differently if they had only invited me to the pre-production meetings?

Below are films I'd kill to see in their perfect state. If they are ever made, this is a small wish list of actors or directors that I feel would give the films the best chance of reflecting their original material.

Calvin and Hobbes

Director: Brad Bird

If not done properly this film could cause riots in the streets and destabilize small countries. This is why Pixar needs to contact creator Bill Watterson to gain the rights to this series about a daydreaming kid and his stuffed tiger, so that Brad Bird can translate it to the big screen. The comic strip is as perfect as one of his movies and should not be trusted to anyone below Bird's caliber. Brad Bird is the only writer/director with the chops to tackle this delicate, heart-warming and hilarious strip.

One of the more difficult elements will be to create the long feature-length story arc that the series never had; if there is anyone that's up to that challenge it would be Bird. This would give Pixar a chance to bring 2-D animation back to Disney. After all, the characters of Calvin and Hobbes should be hand-drawn. The world around them could have elements of 3-D, if necessary; but keep the characters in the brilliant line art form the series was so famous for. For Bird, this would be the spotlight feature that has eluded him and will make him a household name. After this one a Brad Bird film would be as much a gold stamp as a Walt Disney film. This partnership would be a win-win for everyone involved.

The Catcher in the Rye

Director: Terrence Malick

The story of Holden Caulfield roaming the streets of New York after his expulsion from the latest prep school is one of the great literary tales of the 20th century. This is one of the holy grail book-to-film translations rumored and wished for since its initial publication. So long as Salinger is alive, I doubt it'll ever get off the ground. The rumor of Malick being attached floated around the Net a few years ago, but turned out to be wishful thinking.

Malick's films are driven by interior dialogue, an approach that separates him from almost every other filmmaker, past and present. His characters are generally unreliable storytellers. His films are meditations on the big, weighty questions most so-called "adults" find pretentious. In other words, he's perfect. The only real question is budget. This would need to be a tent-pole, period piece film with an art-house heart. There's some serious risk in how much it would return when all is said and done.

Blood Meridian

Starring Russell Crowe as Glanton, Daniel Day-Lewis as Judge Holden, and Emile Hirsch as The Kid

After a long, drunken rant about the brilliance of Apocalypse Now, a friend of mine asked one question, have I read Blood Meridian? Now I'm not a big fan of the Western, as long as it's done well I've got no complaints. But it's not a genre that I watch or read compulsively. The novel covers the expansion of civilization into the American North West via a band of scalp-hunters; it includes some of the darkest material put to page in both style and substance. The main characters are Glanton as the leader of the gang, Judge Holden as the mythic second-in-command (the devil on Glanton's shoulder), and The Kid who runs with the gang and is the eyes through which the story is told.

This movie will take big actors to fill these characters. Glanton's character is built of a mixture of fire and rage that knows no bounds. Not since Romper Stomper would Crowe have the chance at such bug-eyed craziness. The Judge is a brilliant bald albino giant and is the MacGuffin of the book. He's kind of like Rooster Cogburn and Hannibal Lecter rolled into one - and, honestly, that doesn't come close to touching The Judge as a character. There are very few mythic actors out there with the stature and strength of screen presence and intelligence that could pull off The Judge. The only other might be Russell Crowe, but he'll be busy, and for my money, Daniel Day-Lewis has the height and build that I relate more closely to The Judge. The Kid is the young, road-hard gunslinger that has the unfortunate luck of carrying a small bit of humanity with him. In the face of the actors working around him, it will take someone like Hirsch, who proved with his performance in Into the Wild that he is a young actor who can carry a film effortlessly.

I have more of them. We all have our wish list of projects that we'd love to see on screen. With luck, they will all eventually make it to screen and turn out to be world-altering works of art that will be discussed for ages to come. I know if the powers that be were to listen to me, the three films above would fit in that category. At least to me they would.