Okay, let’s say hypothetically I get a chance to actually make an All About Marilyn movie tomorrow. Who would best fit what roles? Who would be the best director? Well this is who I’d like to see in the major roles along with runner-ups based on the performers available now.
NOTE: This is FANTASY CASTING. No parts are offered nor is this a REAL film in production!
Salli Richardson Whitfield as Marilyn Marie: Richardson is the most underrated black actress in the business today. Better in her craft than Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Queen Latifah, ANYONE. From what I’ve seen in her work on Gargoyles, Eureka, and films like Black Dynamite, I am Legend, Posse, Never 2 Big and How U Like Me Now, I know she has the skills to play Marilyn Marie. Richardson conveys a tremendous amount of emotion and humanity onscreen and would perfectly present Marilyn’s inner strength and emotional vulnerability onscreen. Richardson has a mesmerizing screen presence that keeps viewers eyes glued to the screen, this sista is so strong onscreen she can effortlessly carry a movie from beginning to end the same way Superman carries a battleship to port. In my eyes she’s only been one role away from being a superstar. Could Marilyn be it? I believe so. I think audiences would connect with her as an older, washed-up Marilyn, and she’d be incredibly effective in portraying Marilyn’s transformation from faded starlet to human being. Another plus is that Richardson has an active interest in fitness and nutrition, a strong body, something required for playing Marilyn.
Runner up #2 Regina King. Another former child star from 227, she’s evolved as an actress with amazing set of skills in films like How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Ray. I believe she’d play a strong Marilyn with a tremendous humanity and compassion. AAM would be a great role to add to her already impressive resume; Marilyn is a strong leading role and there’s a lot of room for her to show her solid acting range. I also feel Marilyn would be an impressive vehicle to show studio executives that she could carry a movie on her own. The only things keeping out of the lead is whether or not she’d do the required nudity for the role.
Runner up: #3 Tia Mowry. Tia has shown she’s grown as an actress since her “Sister Sister” days. Her work on The Game is some of her best work of her career. On that show’s fourth season she’s shown the start of an amazing range, and I believe the role of Marilyn Marie would allow her to take her skills to the next level. As a former child star grown up, I believe she has experiences to draw on that would allow her to give a powerful performance. The only thing keeping her out the lead role is whether or not she’d do the nudity required for the role. She’d be a sleeper in this role; I feel she’d surprise everyone and make them re-think who she is as an actress. I believe AAM could be her Big, the breakthrough role that shows she has what it takes for playing more dramatic parts.
Stockard Channing as Sabrina Lowenstein: As I was writing Marilyn, I used to hear Channing’s voice as Sabrina, so I’m kinda biased on this one. But I can tell you from watching her work on The West Wing and Six Degrees of Separation and The Stockard Channing Show on YouTube she has the elegance and grace to play Sabrina as tough and crusty but sensitive and soft at the same time. I feel she’d have amazing chemistry with King or Richardson onscreen; it’d be something incredible to watch either of these seasoned veterans onscreen with a master like Channing. I’d also pay money to see if Mowry had developed the skills to hold her own with one of the best actresses in the game.
Runner up: Meryl Streep. Okay I’m really REALLY dreaming here. But come on, Meryl Streep and Salli Richardson- Meryl Streep and Regina King working togehter? People would pay money and then some to see either of these two onscreen! (People would also pay money just to see if Tia Mowry could hold her own with this seasoned veteran!) Streep is incredible onscreen and she’d play Sabrina effortlessly. The only thing keeping her out of the role in my eyes is whether or not she’d be able to effectively have chemistry with Richardson or King.
Pauley Perette as Ava Gardner: Sure she’s 40-something but she doesn’t look a day past 27. Perette would be a blast as the glib, fast-talking administrative assistant “agent in training” who sells Marilyn into a tragic turn of life-changing events then weasels her way out of it with a smile.
Runner up: Sara Rue: Sara Rue would be a perfect Ava; she showed a lot of spark in Less Than Perfect and looks like she’d be a convincing administrative assistant. The only drawback: Would the audience accept sugary sweet Sara Rue as a manipulative conniving cutthroat businesswoman trying to steal her boss’ clients?
Salma Hayek as Lucia Baretto: Hayek’s work in Frieda speaks for itself. I feel she’d effectively play an intelligent compassionate woman with humanity and a sense of humor. Since Lucia is a dressed down church counselor for most of the film, it’d be a great role for her to show her acting range instead of her assets.
Runner up: America Fererra Fererra’s work on Ugly Betty and films like Real Women Have Curves and The Sisterhood of the Traveling pants shows she is a strong performer in lead and supporting roles. I believe she has what it takes to play Lucia as an intelligent compassionate Latina with humanity and a sense of humor. Nothing really holding Fererra back, she’s so great she’s in neck-and neck competition with Hayek (her former boss on Ugly Betty) for this supporting role.
Regina King as Shayla Sims: Another former child star from 227, She’s evolved as an actress with amazing set of skills with roles films like How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Ray. I see a great intelligence in her that fits a college professor like Dr. Sims. I also see a great sense of humor in her that would allow her to effectively play off any actress who played Marilyn and convey a sense of long-term friendship.
Runner up: Snaa Lathan I love Snaa’s work! Nuff said.
Amanda Bynes as the adult Tabatha Strong: It’d be a change of pace for Bynes who is used to playing sweet sugary roles. However I believe playing a crazed, meth addled insecure starlet would surprise everyone and show the long acting range I know she has. Like former child stars Mowry and Fererra, she has a lot of personal experience to draw on for the role. Comedy actors are often better in dramas and I feel Tabatha is the kind of role that would allow Bynes to breakthrough to more serious roles the same way Tom Hanks and Robin Williams did.
Gene Hackman as Hiram Silverstien: Sure he’s retired, but no one plays smarmy douche better than Gene Hackman; dude should have his face on a bottle of Massengil or Summer’s Eve. Watch Crimson Tide, The Sting Superman, anything he’s been in he’d be perfect as a racist, misogynistic fast talking slick Hollywood executive.
Jason Alexander as Martin Rosenthal: No smarmy Hollywood exec would be without his pet lawyer and no one would be a better one than Jason Alexander. He’d be great to watch as butt-kissing toadie!
Reggie Hayes as Dr. Ellis: He was great as a lawyer on Girlfriends, and I think he’d have a great bedside manner as the doctor who helps Marilyn during her stay in the hospital.
Keenan, Damon, Kim and Marlon Wayans as the G-town Productions crew: These guys would be awesome to watch as casting directors of the low budget prodco who roast Marilyn crispy. I definitely would love to see Marlon as Kwon; even more eager to see what they’d do with improv in this scene.
Heidi Lenhart and Kelly Packard as Natalie and Holly: These two former California Dreamers would be perfect to play a pair of rich California blondes who give Marilyn a hassle at the gym. I admit I’m biased in casting here: It was Heidi Lenhart’s performances in first season episodes of California Dreams I watched that inspired to create the Marilyn Marie character and the premise for this story.
Debra Jo Rupp as Lori. Many remember her as “Kitty Forman” on that 70’s show. I remember her as the evil office manager in Clockwatchers tearing Parker Posey a new one. I feel she’d be perfect as a snobby co-op board president who uses her position and power to crush a faded starlet. (SPOILER!)
Tahj Mowry as Adam the Clown: It’d be a nice change of pace to see the grown up smart guy playing a wide-eyed wisecracking, young ambitious Hollywood kid looking for his break. Mowry is a solid performer and I think he has the range to play this major supporting role as Marilyn’s last fan. (SPOILER!)
Wesley Jonathan as Garrett Williams: Wesley Jonathan is another teen/child star from back in the day. I feel he’d be solid in both the early sequences supporting role as a young black ambitious PA and later as a man who grows up into a director working on his dream project. Again I’m biased; I used to hear Jonathan’s voice when I was writing Garrett character.
Runner Up: Jaleel White Everyone knows Jaleel White was Urkel on Family Matters. But what many don’t know is that he has grown up to become a writer, producer and director. White would be perfect for Garrett and would have a boatload of experience to draw from. The only thing holding him back ironically: URKEL!
Robert Gillaume as Professor Chris Cherry: A seasoned veteran performer, Giaullme would play a professor Cherry with grace, intelligence and warmth. It’d be fun to see how any lead actress would hold their own with him.
Michael Ealy as Eric James: Ealy has a down to earth presence which would work great for Marilyn’s love interest. He’s a solid actor who’d be a great asset to any cast Doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes for the ladies. Besides, light skinned brothas haven’t gotten any love since 86’!
Runner Up: Anthony Anderson: Anderson also is incredibly versatile and very underrated, I’ve checked out his comedy and drama work and I think it’d be great to see him as a love interest; something we haven’t seen from him before.
Director: Debbie Allen Debbie Allen is one of the best black female directors in the business. Stage, Screen and Television she has the skills; to make a solid Marilyn production. With a track record of turned the struggling sitcom A Different World around 20 years ago and has directing The recent musical version of The Color Purple and A Rasin in the Sun, I know she’d effectively translate what I wrote into pictures onscreen. She’d be very sensitive to the issue of black women in Hollywood; I think she’d put a lot of passion and heart into an All About Marilyn production.
Runner up#1 : Denzel Washington. All About Marilyn is written with a very unique art style that utilizes contrasting visuals and symbolic imagery, and complex three-dimensional characters. After watching Washington’s Antwone Fisher and The Great Debaters, I’m very confident that Denzel Washington’s lens could effectively tell Marilyn’s story. Washington has shown a great sensitivity and humanity towards African-Americans in his films; this is a crucial component to Marilyn’s story. I also have great confidence that Washington would play up the Christian undertones without being too preachy.
Runner Up#2: Spike Lee. One of the best directors of the 20th Century, All About Marilyn is a script tailor made for Spike Lee’s camera. I know Spike Lee would make a beautiful Marilyn film that features contrasting visuals and symbolic imagery I designed. I also have faith that he’d develop the characters into complex three dimensional people full of humanity. Watching Lee’s work in Bamboozled I believe he’d brilliantly tell a story about Marilyn onscreen without compromising the integrity of the script. Another Plus is that Lee is a Native New Yorker like myself and he would shoot the New York in such a way that it’d come alive and build into the powerful climax.
The only thing keeping Lee out of the director’s chair in my eyes is his past misogyny towards black women. Girl 6 speaks volumes about his contempt for black women. Marilyn is a movie about the struggles of black actress behind the camera, and requires a filmmaker to have a sensitivity towards the sisters and their struggles.
Yeah, I’m choosing a lot of underrated performers, former child stars, and B and C and even D list actors. Would they work together well onscreen? I don’t know. However, I feel the best performers don’t come from the A-list. I feel that the B, C and D listers can show something once given the shot at a lead roles. Yesterday’s supporting role is today’s lead star.