LEE MARVIN BIOPIC CAST PART II: BIOPIC FAMILY

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

 

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FINDING THE RIGHT AUTHOR PHOTO FOR DWAYNE EPSTEIN

You would think using a photo of myself, Dwayne Epstein, for the cover of Lee Marvin Point Blank would be a rather simple matter. Not so when the situation was complicated by several factors. Topping the list was not liking how I look in photographs. In fact, there are damn few photos of myself that I like. There are a handful of exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between. One exception was a photo of me taken in New Jersey back in the late 80s.

Author Dwayne Epstein in New Jersey, circa 1989.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to use that photo but publisher Tim Schaffner balked at the idea, stating that it was too old and I no longer looked like that. He was right of course. So, I thought about this possibility, taken a few a years later when I moved back to California. Problem was that I no longer had the beard and…I no longer looked liked. Cool posters, though, huh? Unlike the beard, I still have them.

 

 

 

Long Beach, Calif, circa 1991

 

 

 

 
Then there was the idea of this photo, in which I posed with Robert Marvin in front of the Marvin family home in 1994. Problem was….that’s right, you guessed it. I no longer looked like that. Sensing a trend, here?

 

 

Robert Marvin and author Dwayne Epstein in front of the Marvin home in Woodstock, NY, in the mid-90s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personally, I didn’t understand why this was becoming so difficult. It had not dawned on me at the time that my publisher was trying to politely spare my feelings. It reminded me a lot of that scene in The Professionals with Ralph Bellamy and Lee Marvin. You know the one. Early in the film, Bellamy’s character of J.W. Grant points to a newspaper clipping on the wall that includes an image of Marvin during the Mexican Revolution. He tells Marvin’s character, Henry ‘Rico’ Fardan, “Your hair was darker, then.” Silver-haired Marvin responds, “My heart was lighter, then.”

 

 

 

Ralph Bellamy and Lee Marvin in ‘that’ scene from THE PROFESSIONALS.

It had gotten so bad between the publisher and myself that he hired a professional photographer to take a more recent picture. The ones the publisher liked I detested and vice versa. I suggested that my girlfriend Barbara take the shot. End result? His choice was used for the hardcover and my choice, by Barbara, was used for the paperback. Want to know what they look like? Ha! Buy the book(s).

 

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VETERANS DAY: LEE MARVIN’S POSTWAR YEARS

With Veterans Day upon us, it’s a perfect time to write about Lee Marvin’s understandably complex emotions regarding his time in the service after his harrowing time in the war. That harrowing experience is detailed in his own words in Lee Marvin Point Blank as never before, but what of his thoughts after the war?
Well, for starters, as the war was winding down in the summer of 1945, there’s this copy of a letter Lee’s father Monte Marvin typed to Robert Marvin, Lee’s brother, who was still overseas…..

Monte Marvin's letter to son Robert on how Lee Marvin is surviving civilian life.

Monte Marvin’s letter to son Robert on how Lee Marvin is surviving civilian life.

Reading Monte’s letter to Robert, it doesn’t take much see how bitter Lee Marvin really was after the war. He grappled with those feelings the rest of his life and channeled much of what he was feeling into his acting. Fortunately for him, he was not alone as the postwar years meant many projects and people dealing with the same feelings…..

A purposely double-xposed photo of Lee Marvin and another actor onstage at the Maverick Theater in the play HOME OF THE BRAVE.

A purposely double-exposed photo of Lee Marvin and another actor onstage at the Maverick Theater in the play HOME OF THE BRAVE.

Once he decided to become an actor, Lee Marvin spent more time in uniform in theatrical productions on stage and on film than probably any other actor and clearly, that was no accident. He felt an obvious obligation to honestly portray what he went through despite the toll it had taken on him both physically and psychologically. His undiagnosed PTSD (also explored at length in the book) raged on through years of Veterans Days, Memorial Days, and more.
When Johnny Carson once asked him if he went to any USMC reunions, Marvin joked that he only went to a few and stopped after hearing the same boring lies and war stories.  The truth is he stayed in contact with other soldiers from his outfit and when the opportunity presented itself, he did whatever he could to help the cause of his fellow Marines. Besides donations to appropriate charities, one example combined both charity and heightened awareness. At the height of his cinema popularity, he took time to host and narrate a TV special entitled “Our Time in Hell”…..

The Hollywood Reporter (left) and the L.A. Times (right) both did write-ups on Lee Marvin's appearance and donation for a TV documentary of rare WWII footage of the USMC in action.

The Hollywood Reporter (left) and the L.A. Times (right) both did write-ups on Lee Marvin’s appearance and donation for a TV documentary of rare WWII footage of the USMC in action.

The title of the show may seem obvious but it also came from an often stated short poem whose author is unknown but who’s sentiment is not:
“And when he gets to heaven,
to Saint Peter he will tell:
‘Another Marine reporting, sir,
I’ve served my time in hell.’ ”

Publicity photo for OUR TIME IN HELL.

Publicity photo for OUR TIME IN HELL.

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say Lee Mavin did much to help us understand what veterans have done for us and what they went through at a very high cost both during and after their service. So, in honor of that tremendous sacrifice, thank you veterans and may you always be treated with the dignity and respect you deserve. Happy Veterans Day!

 

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