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Indiewire's Michael Tully has posted an open letter to director Sam Mendes begging him not to follow through on his plans to shoot an adaptation of Richard Yates's classic postwar novel Revolutionary Road this summer, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in their first movie together since Titanic. "What are you thinking?" writes Tully. "Do you realize how ridiculous and wrong this concept is? Do you realize that it isn't just arrogant and idiotic, that it is an outright sin?"
I love Revolutionary Road as much as the next guy, but I can't get too worked up about someone making a movie out of it, and Mendes—whose American Beauty recalled Yates's book in both tone and content—will probably have as good a feel for it as any other major Hollywood director. So what if he turns it into a handsome piece of Oscar bait? He'll probably sell more copies of the book than have sold in the last 46 years, and more people will realize what they've been missing. One thing every writer wants, and one thing Yates sorely deserves, is more readers.
I am, however, unnerved by the idea of Leonardo DiCaprio playing Frank Wheeler, the rebel without a spine whose plans to escape his meaningless corporate job and stifling Connecticut suburb end in tragedy. The one element of Yates's writing least likely to make the transition to the screen is his grim sense of humor, and though my respect for DiCaprio is much increased after The Departed and Blood Diamond, he's no comic actor. (Some wag on Indiewire, posing as Mendes, claimed to be considering Colin Farrell as an alternative, a hair-raising prospect to say the least.) Back in the early 60s, when the novel was first optioned, one name being kicked around for the lead role was Jack Lemmon, who would have been perfect. If Mendes had any brains, he'd have gone after Steve Carell.