[Ed. - I suppose there might be spoilers in here for the novel American Tabloid by James Ellroy. If you haven't read it, you might want to turn off your computer and punch yourself in the face.]
American Tabloid is about the bad men who write history. Its supporting cast? JFK, Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover and Jimmy Hoffa. Its stars? Three shady characters who think they can use violence, coercion and lies to manipulate the mafia, the CIA, the President, Cuba and the media itself. But at the end, Pete Bondurant, Ward Littell, and Kemper Boyd find they aren't nearly as powerful or as clever as they'd believed.
It's a book that begs for a movie or a miniseries. But like Blood Meridian and Winter's Tale, it may be unfilmable. (Yeah, I know they made Winter's Tale into a movie. Did you f'ing see it?) Partially, that's because of its sprawling plot. And partially it's because if you mess up the casting, even a bit, the whole thing would be doomed.
Boyd's the easiest. Smooth, cool and charismatic, he's also capable of extreme violence. He's narcissistic. He has an unhealthy obsession with JFK. Oh, and he's handsome enough to make women weep. Sounds like a lot of Hollywood. But Christian Bale showed he can do shallow in American Psycho, violence in The Dark Knight, and sleaze in American Hustle. Matthew McConaughey is an equally brilliant and obvious pick, with the added bonus of having Boyd's Southern accent.
Too easy. Let's move on.
Littell is trickier. At the beginning of the book, he's idealistic and intelligent. But by the end, the world has dragged him into its gutters. And while he's a runt compared to the other two guys, he's no wallflower. He's bold enough to burgle a crime boss's home and cold enough to commit murder. Dream pick? Edward Norton. Runner up? Aidan Gillen. (No one who's seen The Wire is going to disagree with me.)
Finding a Pete Bondurant is just a nightmare. The man's a wrecking ball, a shakedown artist, a brutal killer whose sheer size terrifies everyone around him. There just aren't a lot of huge actors in Hollywood who can, you know, act. Vince Vaughn is an intriguing choice; we'll know soon enough if he has enough darkness inside him to pull it off. Alexander Skarsgard is big and scary, but he's too pretty to be Bondurant. I know this'll be controversial, but I think Vin Diesel might be able to do it.
The wildcard? Timothy Olyphant could play any of the roles. The guy makes everything he's in better.
But the best choice is to be patient and let a couple younger actors age up into the roles. How about Ryan Gosling as Boyd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Littell, and Tom Hardy as Bondurant? Yes, we'd have to wait until they all get into their 40s, but that cast would be worth it.
So there it is. Anybody got any other ideas?