Lakeshore Entertainment has officially cast Dakota Fanning in director Phillip Noyce’s forthcoming Philip Roth adaptation “American Pastoral.” She will join Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connelly and, for those familiar with the 1997 novel about Vietnam-era malaise in America’s upper middle class, will play the pivotal role of Merry Levov.
McGregor plays her father, Swede, a postcard-perfect patriarch whose life in New Jersey is shattered by his politically radical daughter’s sudden, violent act of terrorism. Intercut with fragments of Swede’s life are dispatches from Rothian alter ego Nathan Zuckerman, who encounters the grown-up Levov at a high school reunion in the mid-90s.
Like another high-minded literary property, Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections,” this adaptation has been in the trunk for over a decade. But it’s finally seeing the light. And Fanning is a smart casting choice. Earlier this year, she played a streetwise, scrappy eco-terrorist in Kelly Reichardt’s “Night Moves” — baby steps compared to Merry who, in the novel at 16, is addled by ideals and far more dangerous. The 20-year-old Fanning will, like the oddly cast McGregor and Connelly, have to play young.
Noyce is slated to begin filming “American Pastoral” in March 2015 in Pittsburgh. The script was penned by John Romano (wildly entertaining “Lincoln Lawyer”), and the film will be produced by Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi. Meanwhile, Phillip Noyce has “The Giver” coming out August 15.
Anyone who has read a Philip Roth novel knows that its true textures lie in the prose, not the plot, and that sentences as crushing as “Life is just a short period of time in which you are alive” don’t easily translate. Previous Roth adaptations, however sexy, have not been successful, from “The Human Stain” to “Elegy.” (“Goodbye Columbus” was possibly Hollywood’s best stab at a Roth movie.) Here’s hoping.