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.
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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