But before the movie... the tour! It starts in just under three weeks in Denver. I'm not getting paid for this but I'm going to shill because live theater needs to be promoted. It's so much cooler than TV ... even if Corporate America can't profit off of it as much (finite audience = number of seats in house) and thus makes it seem uncool by ignoring it or dismissing it as irrelevant.
Oscar winner Estelle Parsons, 81, headlines the August tour
And given that THE MOVIE -- all caps because if it's any good it'll be BIG -- is going to be the subject of much discussion whenever it begins to film and especially once it's in theaters, you'll want to be in the know early on. Even if you're not normally a theater person. If you haven't been following theatrical buzz and awardage these past couple of years, it's the latest from Tracy Letts who also wrote the incredible Bug which was made into a movie that a lot of people misunderstood or outright hated but I assure you that the play itself was phenomenal. They're much different beasts anyhow: Bug was taut, claustrophobic and tiny where August is messy (in the good sense), sprawling and very populated. It's a darkly funny drama about a family in crisis in Oklahoma. The father has disappeared and the daughters rush back home to deal with their abandoned and impossibly difficult pill popping mother. At three hours or so in length it's far more complicated than that but it's a great night out at the theater: funny, involving, memorable, dramatic. In short: if you're near it, get tickets. They're on sale now.
July: Denver August: San Francisco September: LA October: Portland and Seattle November: Toronto and Hartford December: DC January: Tempe, Dallas, Tulsa Feb: Chicago, Michigan, Iowa. It's also in Melbourne and then Sydney, Australia
<-- Parsons on the set of Rachel, Rachel with director Paul Newman
This will also give you the rare chance to see an Oscar winner live on stage. I stupidly missed Estelle Parsons here in NYC when she was playing Violet (one of the two lead roles, a combative mother and daughter) so I'm considering catching the show again in DC or Michigan if I can figures out the $. I always enjoyed Parsons as a comic foil on Roseanne and I love her work as the lesbian friend of Joanne Woodard in Rachel, Rachel (they were both nominated). That's such a fine underseen film so, rent it. Parsons won the Oscar as "Blanche" in Bonnie & Clyde (1967).
But back to August: Osage County
If you're game now, let's think up a dream cast.
Here are the main roles, in descending order of their "screen time" and the age according to the text (though obviously Hollywood will practice some creative license there)
Violet -Pill popping drug-addled matriarch, fond of devouring her young and filled with rage about her miserable childhood. She's also funny (65). Deanna Dunagan, left, originated the role on stage.
Barbara - Violet's eldest daughter, a college professor. Exhausted but controlling. Her marriage is failing (46)
Major Supporting Roles
Ivy -Violet's middle daughter who has never left home. A secretive plain jane type (44)
Karen -Violet's youngest. Flighty, willfully naive and eager to be loved. Newly engaged (40)
Bill -Barbara's husband, also a professor. He's left her for a student but comes back to Oklahoma with her to deal with the family crisis (49)
Jean -Barbara's daughter. A sexually precocious pot smoking vegetarian (14)
Mattie Fae -Violet's sister. Loud, flamboyant, nervous. Also fond of devouring her young (57)
Minor supporting characters
Charles -Mattie's husband. Calm, good natured (60)
Little Charles -Mattie's son, largely regarded as a shy loser (37)
Beverly -Violet's husband, a pontificating poetry-loving alcoholic. He disappears in the first act, setting the plot in motion (69)
Steve - Karen's insensitive businessman fiancé (50)
Johnna -empathetic Native American housekeeper and cook (26)
Sheriff Deon -Barbara's ex-boyfriend, on the search for Beverly (47)
The two lead roles and at least one of the supporting parts (Mattie Fae) are complete Oscar Bait roles: high drama, sneaky comedy, southern accents, total theatrical fireworks. The nearest film equivalent I can think of is Terms of Endearment but this is darker and more vicious, though also quite funny. And Violet is closer to Annette Bening's character in Running With Scissors in terms of how nightmarish she is as a druggy mother than to Shirley Maclaine's Aurora.
Working actresses in the right age range for the three daughters are too numerous to mention here but every actress in her late 30s to early young-looking 50s would be wise to already be prepping and campaigning for either Barbara, Ivy or Karen (or even Mattie Fae). Acclaimed juicy prestige material like this with so many roles for smart talented women doesn't come along regularly.
Though it's been assumed that Mike Nichols will direct and that Meryl Streep's talent and box office pull will win her the "Violet" role nothing is yet set in stone. The road from announcement to contract signing to pre-production can be quite volatile and with the Weinstein Co involved who the hell knows...
Other actresses in vaguely the right age range for the Violet or Mattie Fae parts (i.e. mid50s to mid70s) include: Judy Davis, Glenn Close, Kathleen Turner, Kathy Bates, Anjelica Huston, Dianne Wiest, Susan Sarandon, Sissy Spacek, Melinda Dillon, Diane Ladd, Jane Fonda among many others. It's an ideal movie for getting underused actresses back in play.
Is this all overwhelming to read? It was to type.
Some people have gone either further than me, like Walter Hollman (who you'll know from frequent comments right here) who has casting suggestions for every role.
I hope the lucky casting director takes this as seriously as one might take brain surgery. It's important! There are so many options. You could go real life mother/daughter (Diane Ladd & Laura Dern) you could experiment with co-stars with proven chemistry reuniting (Thelma & Louise as Violet & Mattie Fae?). You could use math multiplied by Oscar fever to try and create the single most nominated cast in the history of motion pictures. Whether or not you've seen the play, cast away in the comments. Would you cast by pure talent, family resemblance or gut instinct?
I can't remember who suggested it to me but the idea of Kathleen Turner in the Mattie Fae role fills me with utter delight. So let's start there. Comment away!