Chris Uggen's Blog: paranoid rantings or high-concept movie pitch?

Friday, September 02, 2005

paranoid rantings or high-concept movie pitch?

Ripped from a criminologist's self-absorbed nightmares... Comments on recent writing and sex offending posts brought to mind the plot of my yet-to-be-written novel and film. Here's my pitch:

A crusading public criminologist challenges the irrational crime policies of a ruthless (Bush-esque or Clinton-esque) presidential administration and gets close to discovering a Stalinesque gulag archipelago-like system of punishing political dissenters. A (Rove-like or Reno-like) cabinet member who knows how to play hardball thus masterminds a plot to plant DNA from said criminologist onto the personal belongings of children who had been sexually assaulted and murdered. The criminologist is cast out of the university, vilified by the masses, and subject to the hyper-stigma of the "sexually violent predator" label. He is assaulted by some inmates but befriended by others, challenging and complicating his ivory tower understanding of crime and punishment. He also fully uncovers the gulag system, meeting other political prisoners who have been set up in similar ways. Once dubbed "sexually violent predators" they are civilly committed and held permanently for treatment (see Kansas v. Hendricks). Our criminologist tries to send word to former friends and students, but his story seems self-serving and, after all, DNA evidence is virtually incontrovertible. His only hope is a second criminologist who interviews him in prison for a study on heinous criminals' vocabularies of motive. She distrusts him at first, but ultimately risks her life to expose the nefarious deeds and free the poor wretch. Together, they foil a frame job on her -- this one involving an inappropriate relationship with an undercover operative posing as an undergraduate student. Of course, our criminologists fall madly and passionately in love, but only after an epic courtroom battle and heaps of dramatic tension in which she's not completely certain that he's not a rapist-pedophile-murderer.

I'm thinking of a title that involves words like Incontrovertible Evidence, Gulag, and/or Criminologists in Love (I'm kidding!). Any preferences? Jeff thinks we can work up a screenplay and retire to LA. Can you get me a lunch with Paramount? What about casting ideas? Thus far, Ralph Fiennes and Jodie Foster (above) are my favorite nominations for the criminologists, but I can hear arguments for Paul Giammatti.

13 Comments:

At 12:19 PM, Anonymous valerio said...

you have it all: love (put a scene or two of wild sex), crime, lust, the righteous and the evil, the pure and polluted, sacred and profane. actually, it seems as if it all comes down to durkheimian binary coding. :-) chris, you write that down, and i'll definitely get you a lunch with paramount, but include a wild care race, and i'll hook you up with warners. ;-)

 
At 2:52 PM, Anonymous sarah said...

I'm gonna go with Incontrovertible Evidence from the title choices you have so far (I suck at coming up with good titles). After seeing The Constant Gardener last night, I'd have to nominate Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz for the leading roles, though Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman also produced some good chemistry in The Interpreter. Personally, I would steer clear of Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, etc., etc.

 
At 3:24 PM, Anonymous chris said...

Valerio, I think the wild card race is doable and the (tasteful) love scenes are a no-brainer. Perhaps it would start with longing looks and yearning that gradually build tension, so that even touching hands in the visiting area would become sexy.

Sarah, I love your steer clear list! Maybe I can write it up so i get paid double if Julia Roberts and/or Tom Cruise appears. I don't know, though, we may lose an element of realism if the actors are too physically attractive. They're supposed to be criminologists, after all, and criminologists tend to look like Harry Dean Stanton and Dr. Ruth Westheimer...

 
At 4:10 PM, Anonymous sarah said...

That's why I was also thinking of suggesting either Paul Giamatti or William H. Macy for the leading man! There were a few wince-inducing yet slightly intriguing love scenes by Macy in The Cooler. I could see Giamatti as potentially mistakable for a pedophile. I don't know about the female lead, though. I mean, are there any marginally attractive female actresses who could pull it off? I guess Jodie Foster isn't your typical Hollywood Babe and she obviously has a good background for the part with The Silence of the Lambs under her belt. As a former avid watcher of The X Files, I guess Gillian Anderson might be another choice for a slightly more off-beat female counterpart, though her lack of resemblence to Dr. Ruth Westheimer may still be problematic. Are you thinking of working in a cameo for yourself? Maybe as a prison guard? DNA lab technician? Bailiff?

 
At 4:54 PM, Anonymous chris said...

oh yeah, I definitely get a non-speaking cameo as "counselor #2" or "FBI agent with earpiece"

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger Brayden said...

Yes, this is definitely a role for Paul Giamatti. He has that creepy, misunderstood look to him that makes him a perfect criminologist. ;) Not sure I could see Jodie Foster falling for him though. Maybe Gillian is a better choice. She looks more social sciencey.

 
At 3:32 PM, Anonymous chris said...

Brayden, when you're right, you're right. Virginia Madsen quite convincingly fell for him in Sideways. Also, it needn't be a heterosexual love story -- what about taking Sarah's suggestions of William H. Macy and Paul Giamatti as a couple?

 
At 3:39 PM, Anonymous sarah said...

Ooooo, now that would be really edgy! I'm also assuming that you won't forget your bloggy friends when you make it big!!!

 
At 2:47 PM, Anonymous sarah said...

Ok, clearly, I am having far too much fun with this one as my posts outnumber everyone else's, BUT, I saw John C. Reilly in a flick the other night and he might make a good cast member as well. If you missed him in Criminal, I recommend.

 
At 3:05 PM, Anonymous chris said...

Nice call, Sarah. Why do you think it is easier to come up with male actors? I could see my favorite TV cop Vincent D'Onofrio doing this as well.

 
At 3:40 PM, Anonymous sarah said...

I've been in a similar quandry since your Daisy Rock post...however, in this case I think it has something to do with your suggestion that they need not be attractive. Due to the myraid of social issues surrounding the fact that male actors can get away with being ugly (or at least marginally attractive) and women cannot so easily, it is not as difficult to come up with such male actors. Women pose a greater challenge. My favorite actress is Cate Blanchett, but I fear she's too beautiful to be the leading lady if Dr. Ruth remains your benchmark. Kathy Bates, maybe? I mean, you've got to give her some SERIOUS props for that hottub scene in About Schmidt!!!

As far as TV cops go, I've got a sweet-spot for Anthony LaPaglia, myself. Ok, so technically, he's an FBI agent...

 
At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Erik said...

So I held off on posting this until I saw Chris reference the script again and I could no longer resist. My casting ideas are a bit abroad and I could go with any number of male leads, but the female lead must be Rani Mukherji. As the lawyer who saved the day in Veer-Zaara, as the Helen Keller-inspired Michelle McNally in Black, and as the initially reluctant but soon willing con artist in Bunty Aur Babli, Rani has proven that she can carry a role and she can do smart. And beautiful.

 
At 10:10 PM, Anonymous chris said...

hey erik, duly noted! i checked out her bio and think she'd be a fine choice.

 

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