Casting The Pudd’nhead Wilson Movie

If you’ve ever faced a lengthy reading assignment for a class and opted to watch the movie version instead, or waited for the movie of the latest popfiction craze, you might want to change your tactics for Pudd’nhead.  So far, there have only been two iterations of PHdubz in the film industry: a movie in 1916 and a made-for-tv movie in 1984.  I can’t lie, I was shocked that this tale hadn’t been recreated over and over, but sadly I’ll just have to play out the movie in my imagination, with my own cast.  Here’s what I came up with.

Pudd’nhead:  Who else but Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr.?  I can’t think of anyone who could pull off bookkeeper/lawyer/mayoral candidate by day and eccentric fingerprint collector by night better than RDJ.  Plus, he knows all about being an insider turned outsider turned insider.

Roxy: This one’s tricky, Angelina Jolie’s manipulative edge would be great, but every character she plays just turns out to be Angelina by a different name.  Halle Berry’s a great actress (most of the time), but it’s too obvious, anytime there’s a black chick to be played Hollywood knocks on Halle’s door.  “Oh, we need Storm for X-men, how about Halle?  Oh, let’s make a Catwoman movie but make her black.  Is Halle free?”  Plus Halle doesn’t exactly read “1/16” so I landed on Edie Falco.  Have you seen “Nurse Jackie”?  “The Sopranos”?  Girl’s got killer acting chops, she’s manipulative, she’s a bitch, she’s Roxy.

Chambers and Tom: The Olsen twins.  Let’s be honest, Mary-Kate and Ashley aren’t really doing anything with their careers, and they love to dress up in whacky, unflattering outfits, so why not cut their hair short and make them earn those millions of dollars still flowing in from their diaper day.

The Twins: Daniel Radcliffe and Tom Felton.  They’ve proven in the Harry Potter films that they have chemistry, and they could totally play weird looking blonde/brunette, European brothers with differing viewpoints.

Alternate for Roxy: Lindsay Lohan.  She’s a serious actress guys.

7 Responses to “Casting The Pudd’nhead Wilson Movie”

  1. meganne says:

    I was actually going to do a post similar to yours, however I was going to cast Lindsay Lohan as “Tom.”

  2. jfaraci says:

    I think it’s interesting to point out that all of the characters you’ve casted are primarily white. So I think this can connect to what we ended our class discussion with today. How are we perceiving Tom, Chambers, and Roxy? Do we go by the “one drop rule” and consider those who are raised as slaves to be slaves (free or otherwise) or should we look at things like their dialect and phsyical features to determine this? I think throughout the novel I found myself picturing Roxy as a black women, not someone who was 1/16th black and could pass for white. I think this is mainly because of the horrible dialect I struggled to read through. As for Tom and Chambers, I’m not sure how I visualized them because their, especially Tom’s, characterization was changing so much throughout the novel.

    Anyway, those are just my thoughts. But I agree that it would definitely be interesting to see this text with a modern spin put on it…

    • Richards says:

      As I think may have been touched on in class as well, Jacklyn raises the interesting point that, no matter how she is described, many readers picture for themselves Roxy as black. Why, in addition to the dialect, might this be the case?

      • kfabie says:

        We talked in class about the influence of dress, though this can be an economic indicator as much as a signal of race. But that head scarf/turban is a strong symbol of the slave woman and a cue even today. (None of us will ever look at the Aunt Jemima syrup on the breakfast table without reflecting (fondly, of course) on Professor Richards’ unit on slavery in literature.) But clothing aside, there is something more that acts as a marker in Twain’s book and I think it is that mental image for us of Roxy as black, just as much as the dialogue does: her behavior. It is through behavior that Roxy and new Tom are both perceived as black, they ‘act’ black, as readers believe blacks to have behaved at that time. As I spoke of in an earlier post, Twain seems to suggest that race has an aspect that is a construct. Roxy could presumably walk away from Dawson’s Landing and have no problem passing for a white woman. She could lose the head scarf. She might have to hire a dialogue coach, but even if she never said a word her behavior gives her away. Even though she takes charge of her own life in many ways and is a powerful character when dealing with the Tom formerly known as Chambers, Roxy is submissive and outwardly respectful towards whites. She has bought into her role in these households and this town: she is a slave, then a domestic, then a woman who has to hide to conceal her presence. She ‘knows her place,’ which is an insidious aspect of slavery/racism. In the final scene at the courthouse, Roxy sits “in the n***** corner” with “her bill of sale in her pocket” (Ch. 20). Just as much as knowing where her seat is in the courtroom, her entire behavior is deferential to whites, and that gives her away every time. Similarly, Tom is proof of Twain’s theory that we are what we think we are. On page 49 , Twain describes the effect Tom’s new knowledge of being 1/32 black has on his demeanor, and Twain describes Tom as now “asserting… humility.” Tom is surprised when whites greet him on the street in a friendly way; how he expects whites to look upon him with “suspicion and… detection” even though Tom looks no different than he did the day before. No special clothing is needed, no dialect, no big red “N” embroidered on the front of a dress. The characters flawlessly act out the roles they believe have been assigned to them.

        • jfaraci says:

          I like where you are going with your point, but let’s say it could be easy for Roxy to go off and buy some “white” clothes and hire a dialect coach, don’t you think she could train herself to slowly become a part of white culture as well? I think that the characters are acting out the roles the way they do because this is they way they have been taught to act. (I think it connects to our class discussion on nature vs. nurture a while back.) But it’s fair to say that they can just as easily reteach themselves if they really wanted to.

          That leaves me with another question though, would they want to? We have seen that Tom and Chambers would not/could not accept their new identities, so I’m not sure.

          However, FD and HJ, for as much as they considered themselves intellectuals, they were still considered slaves and were raised to know their place as one, but they eventually immersed themselves into white culture and tried to never look back. So in summary, I think behavior is something that can be forgotten (with enough determination) too.

  3. jholmes says:

    In response to jfaraci, I think if there were to be a Puddn’head Wilson movie, for the sake of clarity and being true to the text, there would have to be a primarily white cast. I don’t think that a visual representation would make sense at all with Twain’s humorous and critical switches in the plot if there was not a vastly white cast. In respect to that, the switch of Tom and Chambers would become nonsensical visually if Tom (really Chambers) were born from a mother of more clearly black heritage. But I do think it is interesting to look into the different mental constructions of characters on the part of readers.

    On another note, I would definitely see this movie. I think that Robert Downey Jr would be excellent for Puddn’head and found the Harry Potter twins to be wonderfully funny. Roxy, I believe would be the tricky one. Some great searching would have to happen to peg her well.

  4. Richards says:

    And imagine the glee Linda Morris woudl experience with the Olsen twins portraying Tom and Chanbers!