This week’s best news, by far, was the announcement that Penny Dreadful showrunner John Logan will adapt Patti Smith’s bestselling, National Book Award-winning memoir Just Kids for a Showtime miniseries. Practically the moment it was reported, Twitter, Facebook, music geeks in bars across the country, and the Flavorwire staff started speculating on who might be cast as Smith, her soul mate Robert Mapplethorpe, her paramour Sam Shepard, and all the other boldface names that fill the book’s pages. Here’s our fantasy cast, along with Photoshop-enabled visual aids.
Kristen Stewart as Patti Smith
Why: The most important quality for anyone portraying Smith to capture is her air of confident androgyny. That makes Stewart, who played Joan Jett in The Runaways and Juliette Binoche’s post-gender obsession in Clouds of Sils Maria, the most qualified actress of her generation for the role.
From Just Kids: “At twenty years old, I boarded the bus. I wore my dungarees, black turtleneck, and the old gray raincoat I had bought in Camden. My small suitcase, yellow-and-red plaid, held some drawing pencils, a notebook, Illuminations, a few pieces of clothing, and pictures of my siblings.”
Ezra Miller as Robert Mapplethorpe
Why: While not quite a dead ringer for Mapplethorpe, Miller has his charisma and presence — and as an actor who identifies as queer and describes his sexuality in thoughtful, nuanced terms, he’s sure to have deep insight into the photographer’s identity both before and after coming out.
From Just Kids: “It was as if a small portal of future opened, and out stepped the boy from Brooklyn who had chosen the Persian necklace, like an answer to a teenage prayer. I immediately recognized his slightly bowlegged gait and his tousled curls. He was dressed in dungarees and a sheepskin vest. Around his neck hung strands of beaded necklaces, a hippie shepherd boy.”
Paul Dano as Sam Shepard
Why: Perhaps this is a surprising choice; Dano’s default vibe isn’t nearly as masculine as Shepard’s. But the physical resemblance is there, he’s the right age, and his recent performance as Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy suggests that Dano is perfectly capable of disappearing into roles that differ considerably from said default.
From Just Kids: “[Sam Shepard, aka Slim Shadow] said he was born in a trailer and spun quite a yarn for me. Slim was a good talker. It was possible his tales were even taller than mine. He had an infectious laugh and was rugged, smart, and intuitive. In my mind, he was the fellow with the cowboy mouth.”
Adrien Brody as Lenny Kaye
Why: Because the above isn’t just a photo of Lenny Kaye — it really is Brody’s face photoshopping onto Kaye’s. But beyond the resemblance, Brody seems like just the right conduit for the Patti Smith Group guitarist’s mix of intellectualism and punk irreverence.
From Just Kids: “Lenny started strumming the classic rock chords, E to D to A, and the marriage of the chords with this poem [‘Gloria’] excited me. Three chords merged with the power of the word. ‘Are those chords to a real song?'”
Joaquin Phoenix as Allen Ginsberg
Why: The Beat poet and counterculture icon has been all over the big screen in recent years, played by everyone from David Cross (I’m Not There) to James Franco (Howl) to Daniel Radcliffe (Kill Your Darlings). As this suggests, there’s no such thing as an obvious pick here, but Phoenix could be an inspired choice to represent the middle-aged Ginsberg in all his mischievous, neurotic glory.
From Just Kids:
We had never met but there was no mistaking the face of one of our great poets and activists. I looked into those intense dark eyes punctuated by his dark curly beard and just nodded… “Are you a girl?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said. “Is that a problem?” He just laughed. “I’m sorry. I took you for a very pretty boy.”
Cillian Murphy as Andy Warhol
Why: Like Ginsberg, Warhol is a midcentury icon who’s been fictionalized over and over on the big screen. Jared Harris played him in I Shot Andy Warhol the same year David Bowie played (an older version of) him in Basquiat; more recently, Guy Pearce did the honors for the execrable Factory Girl. Warhol was so quiet and inscrutable, and he has such a small role in Just Kids, that all this part really requires is a prominent set of cheekbones. But since we’re dream casting, we might as well go with a personal favorite — Murphy is a seriously talented actor who’s played a diverse set of characters over the years, and there’s a certain delicacy to his physical presence that’s reminiscent of Warhol’s.
From Just Kids: “I didn’t feel for Warhol the way Robert did. His work reflected a culture I wanted to avoid. I hated the soup and felt little for the can. I preferred an artist who transformed his time, not mirrored it.”