I'm starting off this post by saying that this may be the worst idea I've ever had but I had it and because I keep nothing to myself, I'm telling you guys. Of course, it begins with a story. So I went to see my padres in Penn. last weekend.
That's not the story.
The story is that on my way up, I passed a house that had a sign in the window that said "Keep the Christ in Christmas." I thought "So true." Okay, the next part is that last week, I watched all of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which I hadn't watched in its entirety in many, many years.
As I watched, I thought about that "Keep Christ is Christmas" sign because "Christmas" is all about the Charles Schulz-created Charlie Brown (above) trying to find the real meaning of Christmas. For some reason, that idea started to rile me up....
"Yeah, we need to remember Christmas is a beautiful religious holiday! It's one of the only Christian holidays that I actually like! I'm glad children are watching this! But you know what, adults are the worst! They're the ones buying the gifts and making the commercials and totally ruining Christmas!"
Then, I thought "Adults need to watch 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'!" And over time, that thought changed from adults need to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and became adults need to be in "A Charlie Brown Christmas"!
I wanna do a Live-Action Adult Version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas"!
Now, I must warn you that this is kind of a habit of mine. When I was 12, I had this dream of growing up, becoming a director, and doing a live-action version of the Archie Comics.
It was gonna be brooding though. I cast Eric Stoltz as Archie, which admittedly was a stroke of genius. Anyway, I loved the idea, but no movie producer wants to meet with a 12-year-old (unless you're sex-obsessed) so I shelved it for more youthful pursuits.
But all throughout the week, I couldn't stop thinking of actors and scenarios that I would set up if I directed a live-action "Charlie Brown Christmas" movie so that's why I'm presenting my casting choices below, and as you read ask yourself A) would you see this movie?
And B) am I descecrating a sacred institution by even mentioning this?
Okay, let me just set up my idea. I'm thinking forget the cartoon even existed but that the beloved Peanuts characters have all grown up together and moved on. Charlie is living in New York, with Snoopy (who would be played by an actual dog, no CGI stuff) and returns home to meet up with all his old friends.
Through circumstances out of his control, he gets snaked into directing a local community theatre's Nativity Story and learns the true meaning of Christmas in the process. Wonderful. I even cried a little when I watched last week. Now let's get to casting. I'm thinking everyone's early 30s, contempo... This isn't like teenagers wearing yellow and black striped shirts. This is a retelling of the story in real life with actors embodying the classic characters... Let's begin.
Charlie Brown (below left) as played by...
...Breckin Meyer (above right).
I was looking for the perfect actor who could combine self-deprecation with cuteness with emotional gravitas; I know, Charlie Brown is a heavy character. However, this "Clueless" alum is the perfect fit, although his head is not quite round enough but it'll do. Plus, Meyer's short. Charlie Brown seems short.
Lucy van Pelt (below left) as played by...
...Rachel McAdams (above right).
When I was watching the show earlier, I realized that Lucy really carries the entire thing. Without her, Charlie would never have worked in the play or gone to buy that janky Christmas tree. She really drove the story. I needed someone strong and likeable and I like McAdams.
Linus van Pelt (below left) as played by...
...Robert Pattison (above right).
This was a hard one to cast. I needed someone younger than McAdams who looked liked he could be her brother. Plus, he had to appear warm and intelligent as well as sensitive. He'll have to use an American accent, but this British "Twilight" star is a fine choice. Now about that blanket?
Sally Brown (below left) as played by...
...Hayden Panettiere (above right).
She just has to be young and blond, and a little annoying. This "Heroes" star will fit the bill. Luckily, Sally isn't in the show much.
Schroeder (below left) as played by...
...Aaron Staton (above right).
This "Mad Men" star is a favorite guy of mine and the first person I thought of who could play the deep, artsy, yet supportive piano man Schroeder, who btw is my favorite Peanuts character. I could totally see what Lucy saw in him. Such dedication to his craft! Such passion for the music!
Now for some of the more ancillary characters. I didn't bother to try to find actors for Shermy or Patty because I figure we can get some unknowns to fill those parts. Now here are a few more casting choices...
Violet Gray (below left) as played by...
...Ellen Page (above right).
Freida (below left) as played by...
...Zoe Saldana (above right).
I needed to find some kind of way to diversify this cast plus as Freida isn't related to anyone, I think it would be safe to change the character a little.
Pig Pen (below left) as played by...
...Seth Rogen (above right).
I imagine that Pig Pen grows up to be a distinguished young man, who can still get a little grimy from time to time. Plus, I love Seth Rogen!
I'm thinking that we update the fantastic soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio and we've got ourselves a movie that adults can enjoy while getting an extra dose of the meaning of Christmas. Now, what do you say?
Should I give up my obsession with making up story ideas or do you think that one of my ideas is actually gonna pay off one day? Should I not mention my Live-Action "Powerpuff Girls" Movie now? Yes, no?
I'll take that to mean no.
Also, who would you cast in a live action Peanuts movie?
One of my most enduring posts is the post I wrote 2 years ago casting actors in a fictional live-action retelling of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
It is by far my most discussed, viewed, commented, debated post I've ever written. What I think is so funny about that is that it is so simple. It's a post about making a live-action movie version of a simple children's story: something I thought someone would have done already. Alas, people far and wide search for "live action" and "charlie brown" and get this blog. First of all, hello to all of you, and second of all, since you're all here anyway, how about we think of some story ideas to go along with our 2 year old casting choices! I love all the enthusiasm people have for the topic, asking me whether I'm actually going to be making the film (answer: I would love to but I have no money) or if I'm in development (answer: I'm developing a headache right now, but that's about it.)
Clearly this is something that should happen. It's def what the people want to see. Before we jump right in to story ideas, I of course have to pay deep deference and respect to Charles M. Schulz and his estate who of course created these characters we're all fantasizing about and should ultimately make the call on a film project, his estate I mean. I would hope that they do greenlight someone to make a movie because I think given the right updates, story, and handling, it could be a future holiday classic for people of every age.
Until that happens, I thought we would take our casting choices from the past post and give them a story to work with so below is what I would do if I had the chance to write and direct "A Charlie Brown Christmas" as a feature film. I just watched the special again last night and I think my script could totally work. p.s. Snoopy (who thankfully has no lines) and Lucy literally have the chance to steal the movie. They're the best. Anyway, I totally welcome your ideas as you have given them to me with the earlier post!
My Outline for a Completely Fan Fictional Live-Action "A Charlie Brown Christmas" That I Think Should Happen Because It'd Be Wonderful But Is Totally Up to the Charles M. Schultz Estate Because They Like Own the Characters And Stuff But If They Decide to Do a Movie I Would Hope That They Call Me Because I Really Would Like to Do It Please
Charlie Brown (Breckin Meyer) is a New York City school teacher in his 30s who, due to his low teacher's salary, lives in a tiny fifth-floor walk-up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with his opinionated but lovable dog, Snoopy, a beagle.
Charlie tries to provide a good life for himself and Snoopy by doing odd jobs around his neighborhood, but often fails at these tasks and finds himself back where he started. Similarly, the students at the elementary school where he teaches often disobey him or question his ideas when he tries to help them learn important life lessons. One of his neighbors, an Ecuadorian woman named Rosa, often watches Snoopy for Charlie because she recognizes what a good person he is despite failing at most everything he does.
With Christmas approaching, Charlie begins to notice that he's not as happy as he remembers himself being when he was a child back in his old neighborhood. He bemoans this fact to both Rosa, and the principal at his school. Charlie finds it hard to connect with the spirit of the holiday, and detests the commercialization around him, especially after his students tell him that they are more excited about the toys they are going to get than celebrating the holiday itself. On one particularly doleful day, Charlie picks Snoopy up from Rosa's to find that Snoopy has decorated himself in garish red and green garland from Rosa's tree. When Charlie confronts her, Rosa says that Snoopy picked out the decorations himself, which makes Charlie feel like Snoopy -- his only other friend in the city -- isn't even on his side.
Read the rest after the jump!
The news only gets worse; later that day, Charlie receives a call from his mother telling him that his father, a barber whom Charlie loves dearly, is sick in the hospital and that she wants him to come home [NOTE: as with all Peanuts stuff, parents are not seen or heard] to see him.
Unfortunately, Charlie realizes that he doesn't have enough money for a plane ticket home and realizes this is going to be the worst Christmas ever. Snoopy, who has been gathering decorations from several neighbors homes, decides to stop decorating and focus on solving Charlie's problem. Out for a walk one day, Snoopy spots an actor filming a pet food commercial with several perfectly-groomed dogs on leashes pretending to fight over a treat. Escaping from Charlie, Snoopy runs into the commercial and impresses the director so much so that he's hired for the shoot in turn making enough money for Charlie to fly home for Christmas.
Once in his old hometown, Charlie immediately visits his father but leaves when the doctors tell him the older man needs his rest. With his day free, Charlie leaves to explore his former town amazed at how some homes have overdone decorations that he feels have little to do with the meaning of Christmas. The first person Charlie runs into is Violet Gray (Ellen Page) at her mailbox flipping through Christmas cards she's received. He sarcastically chides for never having sent a Christmas card to him for the years he's been away. Violet remains unfazed, remarking that if he'd sent any, she's send some to him.
Further dejected, Charlie visits his best friend Linus (Robert Pattison) and his sister, Lucy (Rachel McAdams) who has just begun taking courses to be a psychologist, which Linus reveals is only one in a long line of jobs she's undertaken. Charlie remarks to Linus that not only is he worried about his father, he has been conflicted with how he feels about Christmas this year and has been generally depressed. Linus invites his pal ice skating with all their old friends at the pond, and Charlie accepts hoping that seeing everyone again will cheer him up. At the pond, all of Charlie's old friends assume he's left to New York to become a successful businessman or athlete like he always wanted. When Charlie reveals that he is a lowly teacher, they are subtly disappointed.
When Charlie complains again about how this makes him feel, Linus remarks that he was feeling pretty good about the holiday up until Charlie arrived and he's amazed how quickly Charlie Brown can turn the beautiful season into something sad. "Lucy's right," Linus says. "Of all the Charlie Browns, you're the Charlie Browniest."
He recommends that Charlie talk to Lucy, whom he knows is eager to test out her burgeoning skills as a therapist. Back at the van Pelt home, Lucy is excited about having "a patient" and is eager to diagnose Charlie with numerous psychological ailments including the "fear of everything." When Charlie discounts this, he goes on to tell a story about how he was trying to teach his students in New York about the meaning of Christmas through a little play, but that he failed to get them to understand.
Lucy, paying little attention to Charlie in the first place, interrupts him, telling him that although she finds psychology interesting, her real desire is to be a famous actress. She was going to be the star in the town community theater Nativity Story production until the director dropped out because of her demanding attitude. Lucy, excited at the prospect of revitalizing the show, asks Charlie if he'd consider directing the play. Seeing a way to take his mind off of his father and his depression as well as finding something he could be good at, Charlie is immediately interested but is concerned because he couldn't even get his third graders to cooperate for a play. Lucy assures him that all his old friends are going to do the play and they'll surely listen to him.
The problem is that because the production broke down a week ago due to Lucy's insistence that she be cast in the newly created role of the "Queen of Christmas," the pair would have to go around town to gather people to help put the show on a few days before Christmas.
Charlie checks in with his father's doctors who say that he's stable and may be released in time to see the play giving Charlie even more reason to want to succeed at it. Charlie, Lucy, and Linus -- who has taken to wearing a "lucky" scarf everywhere he goes -- first visit Schroeder (Aaron Staton), the youngest ever dean of the Department of Music at the local college. Schroeder agrees to participate as long as Charlie talks Lucy out of her ideas of incorporating more "fun" music into the show.
The three then enlist Pig Pen (Seth Rogen), who nearly falls off the roof of his house at the surprise of seeing Charlie again. Charlie is stunned that Pig Pen is exactly the same as he remembers: surrounded by dust, dirt, and now snow. Pig Pen runs a nearby construction company assuring everyone that despite his appearance, his company does excellent work. After gathering a few more people, including Frieda (Zoe Saldana), Patty (Bryce Dallas Howard), and Shermy (Topher Grace), Charlie says he'll also go back home and get his little sister Sally (Hayden Panettiere) to help. However, Sally says that she would like to get paid to do the show. Even after Charlie reminds her that it would cheer their father up, Sally not only demands money to act in the show, she also is still awaiting gifts she expected from Charlie in Christmases past "or cash" if he can afford it. Only after Linus reminds her that she'll be acting with him does Sally agree to do the show.
With everyone in place, the group heads down to the community theater where the show was to take place for a rehearsal. It doesn't go well from the start. No one else seems to share Charlie's vision of a thoughtful Christmas play and instead they prefer to sing and dance modern Christmas carols. Even Schroeder admits that he enjoys playing happier music compared to the serious Beethoven he conducts for his college. Snoopy runs through the group jumping and dancing too. When Lucy suggests the idea of descending from the ceiling dressed as a female Santa Claus raining gifts down on the audience, Charlie talks her down to something simpler: a Christmas tree. She suggests a towering centerpiece that will really be attention grabbing like the Rockefeller Christmas tree accept artificial so they can use it every year. Reluctantly, Charlie and Linus leave to find a tree. As they walk to the tree stand, Charlie recounts how he hoped this will make him feel better but so far, it's not.
At the tree stand, as it is so late in the season, all the healthy real trees have been purchased leaving on artificial trees left to buy. When an attendant shows him a box that he can buy to put together a fake tree, Charlie is disheartened. Suddenly, he spots a bare, dying little real tree in the corner and is instantly cheered up. He tells a skeptical Linus that the tree needs him and once they clean it up, it'll be the perfect compliment to the show. When they bring it back to the theater, Lucy and the group are displeased with how droopy and sad the tree looks. At first they try to be nice about it, but after awhile the idea of having this tree on a busy, fully decorated stage begins to make them laugh. Charlie berates them asking them if all their decorations and music are what Christmas is really about. Linus, removing his scarf and speaking as if he's in front of 100 people, takes the stage and recounts the Biblical story of the holiday. Moved by Linus' words, Charlie decides to leave and take his tree with him.
Once home, Charlie tries to decorate the tree in his front yard, but seeing it alone, he decides not to even bother and heads inside. Unbeknownst to him, everyone from the theater has left and are making their way to Charlie's house, having felt bad that they laughed at him. Upon seeing the tree on the lawn, the group decides they should fix it up themselves to make Charlie feel better. Snoopy takes over and proceeds to grab decorations from nearby homes like he did in New York until the group has enough to completely transform the look of Charlie's tree. They then begin singing a more solemn Christmas carol as they decorate, which gets Charlie's attention and he comes outside. Moved by what his old friends have done, he begins to sing with them until neighbors also leave their homes to join the growing group singing in front of his house.
However, the moment is interrupted when the doctor calls Charlie to tell him that his father had to be rushed to surgery and that his mother, sister, and he should come to the hospital immediately. Charlie rushes off, leaving everyone from the play with a fully decorated tree in front of his house. Charlie and Sally arrive at the hospital in time for the doctor to tell them that they have completed the surgery and their father is expected to make a full recovery, but he won't be well enough to leave the hospital before Christmas Eve, which is when they were to put on the play. Sally calls Lucy back at Charlie's house and she tells Linus, Schroeder and the rest about Charlie's father.
They collectively make the decision to take Charlie's now decorated tree and the other trinkets from the theater to the hospital and put on the play there. Because the tree is completely finished, Pig Pen affixes it to the roof of his car and slowly drives to the hospital. The others follow suit, caravaning through the town singing carols to neighbors. Charlie is again amazed at everything his friends, whom he hasn't seen in quite some time, have done for him and breaks down realizing that he has been struggling to find the meaning of Christmas when it has been all around him the entire time. The group sets up Charlie's father's hospital room like a holiday village and act out a "proper," traditional Nativity play there.
A year later, Charlie has managed to take his Nativity Story production Off-Broadway where Lucy stars as the Christmas Queen, a kind of narrator that the New York City press finds to be a charming update to the original story. Charlie is happy that he not only succeeded at something, but that it is also emphasizing the history and meaning of Christmas. On opening night, all his friends from back home join him after the show for a celebration at a nearby restaurant where they tell stories about their childhood, listen to Schroeder play carols, and dance as snow falls outside.
Question Time: What ideas do you have for a live-action "Charlie Brown Christmas"? Did you like my treatment or would you change the original story even more? Maybe set it in a different place or time? Add some more characters? What about casting? Who would you love to see playing who? Maybe if we talk about it enough, they'll actually make a movie!