Because Lee Marvin Point Blank proved to be as successful as I hoped it would be, a film adaptation seems plausible, so, to continue that line of thinking from the previous blog entry, how about considering the biopic family casting? Lee Marvin’s parents, brother, costars and friends were an integral part of his life story and casting them would round out the biopic family nicely.

(L-R) Lee’s father Monte, mother Courtenay and Lee shortly after he finished USMC basic trying.


First up, his father Monte. Described in letters and first-hand accounts as being physically imposing (Lincoln-esque by one account), one friend of Lee’s who knew him said, “If someone went in a bar to give everyone shit, they’d walk a wide circle around Monte. Monte was pretty tough”

Actor J.K. Simmons

Several actors come to mind for the role, such as Tommy Lee Jones, this year’s Oscar winner Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, even Bruce Willis. The two most impressive to my mind would be either Oscar winner J.K. Simmons, or Lee’s Emperor of the North costar, Keith Carradine.

For the role of Lee’s mother, Courtenay Washington Davidge, certain specific characteristics are also most prominent. According to Lee’s first wife, Betty, Lee’s mother had a soft little voice with a Virginia accent that she used to subtley manipulate her husband and two sons. A veritable steel magnolia by way of Tennessee Williams, by some accounts. Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet and even Meryl Streep come to mind. Then again, Meryl Streep comes to mind for every role. Based on what I’ve heard and read about Mr.s Marvin, my personal choice would be Renee Zellweger.

Actress Renee Zellweger.

Rounding out the Marvin family cast is Lee’s older brother, Robert. I had the good fortune to get to know Robert towards the end this life and at that point in his life, I would describe  him as rather curmudgeonly, irascible and eventually, quite affable. What I learned about him was that as a younger man he was understandably quite jealous of his brother’s success. Only 18 months apart in age, the Marvin brothers were both close and distant with each other throughout their life times.

Robert visiting his brother in Tucson in the early 70s.

For that reason, I see the character of Robert Marvin as being portrayed by an actor who can elicit both laughs and sympathy, such as Will Ferrell, Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), John C. Reilly and the like. My own personal choice would by Bill Hader, the SNL alumni who was a gifted mimic on the show, but more importantly the possessor of both funny bones and an as yet untapped dramatic talent.

SNL alumni and underrated actor, Bill Hader.


Another major supporting role might be several real-life individuals rolled into one. The reason has to do with an aspect of Lee Marvin’s persona I discovered in my research. Early on, Marvin learned that if he’s going to get in trouble for some of his nefarious escapades, it’s always better to do it with a partner to take part of the heat for whatever transpires. Whether riding his motorcycle through the Beverly Hills BMW showroom with Keenan Wynn, wreaking havoc upon the ‘Vegas Vic’ sign while filming The Professionals with Woody Strode, causing a barroom brawl over a game of darts in London with Bob Phillips while filming The Dirty Dozen, or creating the bizarre prank of ‘the vibrator salute’ with Tony Epper while filming Paint Your Wagon, the legendary exploits he indulged in always required a partner.

Woody Strode and Lee on the set of THE PROFESSIONALS.


Any number of contemporary actors could do it but if it were up to me, I’d like to see it be along the lines of someone more like Woody Strode. As he told me himself, “We were like brothers.” So, with than in mind, Dwayne Johnson would be a nice choice or, barring the monetary chances of that, some well-built, talented young up-and-coming actor would do nicely.

A Woody Strode Google search resulted in this young actor, France’s Eebra Toore popping up. Anybody know if he speaks English…without an accent?

And so, with lead role possibilities considered, possible directors in mind, and now supporting cast members short-listed, all that’s left is a wise producer willing to take a chance on a story that resonates like a cross between Mad Men and The Hurt Locker. Hey, just because Lee Marvin was famous doesn’t make a movie. A fascinating story is mandatory no matter who it’s about and Lee’s life, work, and influence more than covers all those bases. After all, what Hollywood faked, he did for real.  Any takers?
-Dwayne Epstein




When I first began working on Lee Marvin Point Blank, the idea of a biopic never occurred to me, but since it made the NY Times Bestseller List, a biopic now seems like a natural follow-up. So, with that in mind, why not consider the possibilities of a biopic cast?
Who could play the lead is a great topic of conversation already explored in two previous blog entries. However, it might be interesting to consider the important supporting characters in Lee Marvin’s life and work for a biopic cast. Granted, readers of the book never knew the individuals personally that I wrote about, but through various photos and anecdotes, I think it’s possible to get a handle on some of these folks.

First up, there’s Lee’s career-long agent, Meyer Mishkin.

Lee Marvin & career long agent Meyer Mishkin.

“Little Mish,” as he was called in the business, was dwarfed by the six foot-three Marvin but as the actor’s friend, mentor, advisor and father figure, the wise little fella was the only one capable of keeping Marvin in line. So, with that in mind, there are several choices to consider. The most obvious to my mind, are the likes of Seth Rogan or Jonah Hill. Heck, if he were not so Italian looking, Joe Pesci would be worthy.

Actor Paul Giamatti

However, Paul Giamatti (who despite his name looks much less Italian), comes on as a strong candidate having played similar parts in the past (Cinderella Man, Love & Mercy, Straight Outta Compton, etc).








An even stronger candidate is an actor who was actually once a client of Meyer Mishkin’s back in the 1970s, around the time he won the Oscar for Best Actor.  I spent the day with Mishkin interviewing him about his time with Lee Marvin. At one point, I asked him if having this actor as a client, with all his well-known scandalous behavior at the time of drug abuse and DUI arrests was worst or better than Lee Marvin was as a client. The bemused Mishkin just rolled his eyes. The actor?

Meyer Mishkin’s former client, Richard Dreyfuss.


Richard Dreyfuss hasn’t done much acting over the last few years and at 70, he’s quite a few years older than Giamatti, but personally, I think he would jump at the chance at playing his former agent and career builder.

Next up for consideration, based on what I wrote about in my book, would be Lee’s first wife, Betty Marvin. I got to know her as well and could humbly add that we got to be friends. The best words to describe her would be funny, understanding, independent, wise and self-sacrificing, at least in terms of her husband and children. Many actresses today could fill the role expertly.

Betty and Lee Marvin early in their marriage.

Several come to mind, of course, such as Laura Dern, Julianne Moore, Jessica Chastain, Kristin Wiig, Laura Prepon, Vera Farmiga, Gwyenth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, and the like.

However, once again there are two stand-out possibilities. First, Joan Allen, an actress of whom the very first time I remember seeing her in a film, reminded me of Betty Marvin in so many ways.

Multi-Oscar nominated actress, Joan Allen.

She’s taller than average like Betty, bears a resemblance and conveys similar personality traits.







The other possibility is probably and even stronger candidate than Joan Allen based on the same attributes. Remember the late 1990s ABC sitcom Dharma & Greg? Well, the break out star of that show, Jenna Elfman, is my pick.

Dharma & Greg’s Jenna Elfman.

She’s built very much like Betty was in those days and has the quirky sense of humor, as well.

As to the other woman in Lee’s life around that period of time, there’s the juicy role of one Michele Triola.

Marvin and his ‘last minute date’ Michele Triola at the Oscars after he won Best Actor for Cat Ballou.

By all accounts from my research she was fun to be around in a bawdy kind of way, at least when it came to her relationship with Lee. Apparently, she was also cunning, vindictive and fame-hungry at any cost. To be blunt, the kind of character any actress would love to portray. The likes of Carla Gugino, Rachel Weisz, Marisa Tomei or Helena Bonhma Carter come to mind.

From my research, and having seen her play a similar role in American Hustle, I’d add Amy Adams in the mix as a strong candidate.

Hotter than hot actress, Amy Adams as Michele Triola?

To my mind, there is another strong possible candidate as far as this generation of actors are concerned. I don’t know if she has the acting chops to pull it off but she has also played someone similar on the sitcom That 70s Show, and that’s Mila Kunis.

Current headline maker, actress Mila Kunis.

There are other important roles to fill, such as Lee Marvin’s family, his co-workers/friends, etc., but I’ll have to leave that for Part II. As Johnny Carson used to say, more to come. But until then, feel free to add your own thoughts in the comment section below.
– Dwayne Epstein




So, last December, I get this private message request concerning my Lee Marvin research, specifically, what I may have on the making of Ship of Fools.The conversation went,
“Hi, Dwayne Epstein: A colleague of mine is looking for material for the booklet for the upcoming Blu-ray of Ship of Fools, and he wondered if you’d turned up anything during your research into Lee Marvin’s career?”  Having interviewed the likes of Producer/Director Stanley Kramer and co-stars Barbara Luna and Christiana Schmidtmer for that section of Lee Marvin Point Blank, the answer of course was a resounding YES! The company and people involved were in the UK which, if this was proposed years ago, would have taken a lot longer to accomplish.
Anyway, contact was made, my files were rifled through, and the fruits of my unseen research will be available starting February 26th, both here and across the pond.

Cover of the new Blu-ray release of Stanley Kramer’s, SHIP OF FOOLS.

I went through my research archives, found the gems I mentioned above, and then tweaked it for publication. I turned everything over via e-mail and left it for the good folks working on the project to decide what to use. The result is seen below….

My credit seen in the booklet accompanying the Blu-ray release of SHIP OF FOOLS.

A sample of what my research unearthed for the Blu-ray special edition.

…and in closing. If you want more, you’ll have to get the DVD.

I have to add, one of the things that doesn’t get mentioned enough about this film has to do with where it fits in the canon of Marvin’s career. To put it another way, his legacy is one of being American cinema’s premier badass, who’s contemporaries include the likes of Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, the older John Wayne and the like. Could it be imagined that any of them would have co-starred in a film like this and play such a character as the washed-up, bigoted, anti-intellectual ballplayer, Bill Tenney? Personally, I don’t think so. To put it plain, Lee Marvin was one of cinema’s great action stars but he was also an actor’s actor: professionally trained at the American Theater Wing and a veteran of many a stage play and countless live performances during TV’s golden age. He put his time in, that’s for sure. Pretty sure those who followed in his wake (Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Statham come to mine) couldn’t make the same claim. In the mean time, anybody have a Blu-ray player I can borrow?
-Dwayne Epstein

Lee Marvin, as washed-up ballplayer Bill Tenney, struggles to absorb the advice being given to hm by Michael Dunn.