Arts/Literature

Samuel L. Jackson as Minty Fresh in A Dirty Job? Make this movie happen NOW

I’m currently reading Christopher Moore’s 2006 novel, A Dirty Job, and am nearing what I expect to be a slam-bang, fun-filled, rollicking climax. I picked it up because I thought Lamb, the story of Jesus Christ’s life as told by his best friend Levi, who is called Biff, was one of the funniest things I’d ever read. If you haven’t run across these books yet, consider them recommended.

Anyway, last night, as we got deeper into protagonist Charlie Asher’s investigation of the doings at the mysterious Buddhist center in San Francisco’s Mission district, my pique finally got the better of me. To wit, why the hell is this not yet a movie?! Seriously, A Dirty Job is box office magic waiting to happen. So I hit the Internets and discovered that the rights were indeed picked up, in 2006, by Chris Columbus and 1492 Productions. CC is the guy who brought us the first two films in the Harry Potter series and Home Alone, as well as RecklessGremlinsThe GooniesMrs. Doubtfire and Night at the Museum. While he’s had some missteps along the way – who in Hollywood hasn’t? – he’s clearly a man who knows a thing or two about the aforementioned box office magic, right?

Chris, if you aren’t already putting this project together, drop whatever you’re doing (especially if it’s a sequel to Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief) and get the hell on it right now. But – and it’s time for some unsolicited advice – you’re not the guy who needs to direct. No, you just raise cash and stay out of the way. Here’s how the flick needs to happen.

First, your director absolutely, positively must be Quentin Tarantino. This is not optional. If you don’t understand why, then go  back and reread the passage where the Morrigan meet the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. If you still don’t understand, after reading that, why QT must be the director, then it means one of two things. Either a) you never saw Pulp Fiction, or b) you need to get out of the movie business. Today. It’s hard to imagine that Moore didn’t have Pulp Fiction firmly in mind when he wrote that scene, and if you bring that sort of ethos to A Dirty Job, you’re going to have the coolest, hippest blockbuster of the year on your hands.

Now, some casting notes. The Asher role is obviously critical, and I’m a little stumped on who to hire. Were he 15-20 years younger, Kevin Spacey would be a lock, but at this point he’s simply too old to portray a young, widowed Beta Male father. So the question is fairly simple: who in Hollywood is a 30 year-old Kevin Spacey? Whoever he is, cast him.

Next comes the easiest part of staging this whole multi-billion dollar bonanza. Castro district record store owner/Death Merchant Minty Fresh is the role that Samuel L. Jackson was freakin’ Born. To. Play. There is no casting process involved here. Simply get with SLJ’s agent and find out how much money he wants, sign the contract and get to shooting. Done. The only issue potential is a technical one. Minty is described as being seven feet tall, and while Jackson looms above the Hollywood landscape like Goliath with an iPhone, he’s only 6’2″ in real life. But hey, Peter Jackson managed to make fairly regular sized actors look like dwarves and hobbits, and you yourself made Robbie Coltrane look eight feet tall in the Harry Potter movies, so how hard can this be?

The role of Lily isn’t a huge one, but it’s an important one, as she’s the locus of so much of the book’s intellectual verve. In this story, the weird hasn’t just turned pro, to borrow Hunter Thompson’s famous phrase, it has gone native. Even by San Fran standards, the bizarre has become routine, and Lily embodies the yeah, so-what? ethos moreso than anyone else in the narrative. There are probably a number of fine choices for this role, but you must at least give serious consideration to Chloë Grace Moretz. If you don’t understand why, go back and watch Kick-Ass.

Now to the characters of Asher’s tenants, Mrs. Korjev and Mrs. Ling. Hollywood is full of talented character actresses who could nail these parts cold, but part of me is thinking how much fun it would be to cast male actors in the part. Mrs. Korjev is a full-featured Kossack who plays like she’s a 6’8″, 300 lb. Russian wrestler. So I’m thinking your old friend Robbie Coltrane. And maybe Jackie Chan as Mrs. Ling, just to provide some symmetry for the gag? I don’t know – this I can be talked out of. Just brainstorming here.

I have no strong feelings about the other characters, although Detective Rivera is one you’re going to want to make sure you get right. And if you even think about putting Keanu Reaves in this movie I’m coming out there with a stick.

Finally, there are ample opportunities for special effects wizardry and attendant hilarity in the form of the two hellhounds. Finding well-trained animal actors is easy. Finding 400-lb. animal actors is a bit tougher. Unless you think you can cast a couple of black bears and then do some things in make-up. Again, not my area of expertise. Just thinking out loud here.

In the end, though, what we’re looking at is a license to print money. If people plopped down $10 to hear Samuel L. Jackson say “I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!” there is no telling what they’ll pay to hear a seven foot tall Samuel L. Jackson say “Goddamn, my hood and grille are all fucked up. Goddamn. I will tolerate the rising of darkness to cover the world, but you do not fuck with my ride” while going all Death Race 2000 on a pack of sewer harpies in a mint 1958 Caddy land yacht.

Chris, whatever you’re working on right now, it isn’t this good. America wants to see this movie and we’re willing to pay. So let’s get on it, shall we?

33 replies »

  1. “Goddamn, my hood and grille are all fucked up. Goddamn. I will tolerate the rising of darkness to cover the world, but you do not fuck with my ride”
    is my new motto.

  2. A million times, yes. A Dirty Job is one of my favorite Moore books.

    When I first encountered Minty Fresh, I pictured Michael Clarke Duncan, but now that you say SLJ, I can get behind that. I first encountered Minty Fresh in Coyote Blue, which is a decidedly different vibe, so that might be part of it.

    Detective Rivera plays a decent role in Bloodsucking Fiends, You Suck and Bite Me, too. One of those books also shares a scene with A Dirty Job (I can’t recall which), so it’s pretty clear that these stories are happening in the same place at the same time. (Franchise!)

  3. I have to disagree with your Minty Fresh choice. I think that I could see that suit and that car wrapped around Michael Clarke Duncan. He is definitely big enough.

    • While I still think SLJ is the ideal Minty Fresh, I certainly appreciate those of you who’d prefer Duncan. I don’t think you could go wrong either way.

  4. A Dirty Job movie would be awesome…Especially with Samuel L. Jackson as Minty Fresh.

    It also looks like there’s a “Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror” movie in the works, which should be pretty great too.

  5. Thanks for recommending A Dirty Job. I got it out of the town library and read it. I love it. There are some moments of real comic genius in it. The scene where Minty and Charlie are tied up and Audrey talks to them is a classic.
    And yes yes yes to SLJ!!!
    Thanks again for alerting me to this author

  6. Casting Notes: From the beginning I saw Mark Derwin (hapless dad George Juergens, The Secret Life of the American Teenager) as Charlie Asher with Elizabeth Reaser (Twilight’s Esme) as Audrey. To go really big budget wacko Jim Carrey would make a great Charlie with a brunette Jenny McCarthy as Audrey (if they’re still speaking). I’ve also considered Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory) for Charlie with Zooey Deschanel as Audrey but I don’t know how convincing he would be saying the word fuck.

    Michael Clarke Duncan could play a beefy version of Minty Fresh.

    Woody Harrelson would be a good Ray Macy to Jim Carrey’s Charlie.

    I’ve always seen a teenage Kelly Osbourne-type as Lily (minus Brit accent). There is a goth girl on youtube that my daughter showed me that might be a good Lily. I believe her name is Sebastian Columbine (did I spell that right Sweetie? Call me;)

    Conchata Ferrell as the Nurse, a tiny part but I can’t see anyone else.

    The Emperor is played by Fred Presley, who has agreed to do it – Thanks Fred;)

    For Inspector Rivera either George Lopez or Lorne Cardinal from Corner Gas.

    Lisa Thrash (Mrs. Eastwood & Company) would be a perfect Mrs. Ling…

    Alvin and Mohammed should be The Biggest Blackest Newfoundlands we can find… Make sure they’re long-haired…

    Haven’t cast Jane yet.

    And what will I do with Sophie?

    .

    • I’m not sure how I feel about some of the big budget casting ideas. But damn, you have put some thought into this. Call me if I can help you bring this one to fruition. I’m an especially good script doctor. And I’d love to meet Zooey Deschanel… 🙂

    • Well, having not seen the script and knowing precisely no important Hollywood insiders, I am zero help at all. But I can’t help thinking that there’s an appetite for this – it’s a license to print money.

  7. I think Zooey Deschanel would be perfect as Audrey. Now, hear me out on this one – how about Jesse Eisenberg as Charlie? He’s a little young for the part now, but in a few years, I really think he could do it.

  8. Isn’t SLJ too old to be Minty Fresh? Especially considering that he hooks up with Lily who’s still in her teens. I’m certain on one thing though and that’s Morgan Freeman = The Emperor

    • I think SLJ’s age is ambiguous enough not to gross too many people out. Plus, since “A Dirty Job” takes place over several years, Lily’s actually in her early twenties by the time she meets Minty. Morgan Freeman’s an interesting idea – though I always imagined the Emperor looking a bit like The Dude in a heavy coat.

  9. For whatever it’s worth, my current dream cast:
    Charlie – Joseph Gordon-Levitt
    Audrey/Rachel – Zooey Deschanel
    Minty Fresh – Samuel L. Jackson (natch)
    Jane – Amy Adams (she does like to play against type…)
    Lily – Chloe Grace Moretz
    Ray – Ray Liotta
    Rivera – Andy Garcia or Antonio Banderas
    The Emperor – Jeff Bridges (see above post)
    Mrs. Korjev – Robbie Coltrane or Harvey Fierstein
    Voice of Orcus – Tim Curry
    Voice of Alvin and Mohammed – Frank Welker

    Not sure on the Morrigan or Mrs. Ling. Or Sophie, for that matter…

    Also (most importantly) I have word from Christopher Moore himself (via Facebook) that “A Dirty Job” has been picked up by a studio (not Chris Columbus’s). Unfortunately, the name of the studio is escaping me – but I’m hoping for the best…

  10. Who can not see Tim Burton and Johnny Depp making this movie? Ever since I first read this book YEARS ago, I dreamed of Johnny Depp playing Charles Asher, I mean come on, it fits like a glove. And Mos Def would be great as Minty Fresh. Now that Amber Breslin has grown up, I think she would be perfect as Lily. Cobie Smulders, who played Robin in How I Met Your Mother would be a good fit for Jane. A scruffy Anthony Hopkins as The Emperor, he does dry comedy very well. I can see Andy Garcia as Detective Rivera (as stated above) Melissa McCarthy as Mrs. Korjev and Margaret Cho as Mrs. Ling (both aged with makeup.)
    I can picture Zooey Deschanel but also a dark haired Jennifer Lawrence as Audrey/Rachel, or even Rachel Weisz. Charlize Theron has to play Babd, the one of the Morrigan trio who seduces and almost kills Asher in the alley. Not sure about the other two, but yes Tim Curry would be perfect as the voice of Orcus (as stated above.) And I always pictured Ray as a Michael Chiklis type.

    • I’m not budging on Samuel L. Jackson.

      Sir Anthony Hopkins would be a great Emperor. I never thought of Cobie Smulders as Jane, but now I can’t picture anybody else. Charlize Theron would be a good Babd, but I can also picture/hear Scarlett Johansson.

      As for Tim Burton/Johnny Depp – I think it’d be a good fit for Maestro Burton. Johnny Depp, I’m not as sold on. He can definitely play a Beta male, but he’s also super recognizable and about 15-20 years older than Charlie’s supposed to be. I personally would like to see either Tom Hiddleston or Andrew Garfield in the role.

  11. SLJ would be a HORRIBLE Minty Fresh. Better choices: Will Smith, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Tequan Richmond, Dave Chappelle, Kofi Siriboe, Justin MArtin, Micah Williams, Corbin Blue…all better choices than SLJ.

    But Greg is dead on with Joseph Gordon-Levitt being Charlie. Perfect!

  12. I was thinking Tyrese Gibson as minty fresh, Bob Odenkirk as charlie, Kat Dennings as lily, Lauren Graham as Charlies sister (forgot name, too lazy to check), T.J.Miller as Ray, and idk who should play rachel

  13. Really enjoyed the book and while reading it I always thought Josh Radnor could play a really good Charlie. Kat Dennings would be great for the sister part. And for the part of Minty Fresh the name Lance Reddick pops up.
    Saw some good other suggestions but I must agree no SLJ in this movie and keep the humor sharp and dark so no Jackie Chan.
    In the meantime have fun reading the sequel “Secondhand souls”.