After the break-up of her marriage, Kathy Nicolo goes into a downward spiral, and her house in San Francisco is sold at auction to Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani, an Iranian émigré who hopes the house will begin the revival of his family’s fortunes. Desperate to regain ownership of her beloved house, Kathy enlists the help of her new lover, Deputy Lester Burdon, a seemingly-stable man who soon goes wildly out of control. The battle of wills between Kathy and Colonel Behrani takes a tragic turn, as the deed to the house becomes the centerpiece in a deadly game of tug-of-war.
That is the storyline for the upcoming Dreamworks feature The House of Sand and Fog, adapted from the novel by Andre Dubus III, the son of “Killings” author Andre Dubus (the story the was the basis for In The Bedroom.
Why do you need to know about this filmr Because this will be one of Dreamworks’ best hopes to get another Best Picture Oscar come next year. Like American Beauty, this is the director’s (Vadim Perelman) first feature, features a guy named Lester and stars an Oscar winner (Ben Kingsley) in the lead role. Like Gladiator, the story works off issues of loyalty and betrayal. And like A Beautiful Mind, the lead actress is Jennifer Connelly.
Casting calls went out today for the following roles:
Lester Burdon: A tall man, Lester is a Field Training Officer with the Sheriff’s Department near San Francisco. Lester is trapped in a loveless marriage to Carol, a marriage he’s bored with after nine years. After meeting Kathy Nicolo, whom he helps evict from her home, Lester quickly grows infatuated with her, and tries to befriend her, showing compassion to her while knowing she’s down on her luck. Lester is slow to realize that former Colonel Behrani is a determined, hard-headed, intelligent survivor, and he soon finds himself in a losing battle of wills with a very stubborn opponent. In the end, Lester goes way too far, and succeeds in destroying his life, and at least three others.
Nadi Behrani: A beautiful Persian woman, 50 years old (but seen in flashbacks to 38), Nadi is the wife of former Colonel Behrani. The mother of their two children, Soraya and Esmail, Nadi fled the Iranian Revolution with her husband, who may have been affiliated with Savak. Having moved to America with $280,000, and with all of it almost gone, Nadi has built a new life in San Francisco with her husband, who toils as a day laborer to keep up the appearance of wealth. A dutiful wife who accepts her husband as the decision maker, Nadi has never really mastered English, and is much more comfortable in Farsi. Nadi moves to the house on 34 Bisgrove Street when Behrani purchases it as an investment property, and has no idea that the house has a former owner, Kathy Nicolo, who wants it back. Unable to understand Kathy’s tirades, but desperately afraid of deportation back to Iran (where her family would be executed), Nadi wants to keep a low profile, and is terrified when Lester begins to threaten and harass them. She never entirely seems to understand the increasingly volatile situation.
Esmail Behrani: 14 years old, a slim, handsome, extremely likeable Iranian-American boy who speaks flawless English and Farsi, he is the son of Colonel Behrani and Nadi. The focus of his parents’ hopes and dreams, Esmail still lives with them, as his older sister Soraya has moved out. His father is working like a dog to get a foothold that will enable him to pay for Esmail’s imminent college education, and Esmail is a sensitive, thoughtful, silent witness to the increasingly strained relationship between Behrani and the house’s former owner, Kathy Nicolo. Deeply loved by both his parents, Esmail is caught in the middle when Lester goes over the edge and takes the Behrani family hostage. A victim of Lester’s deranged extortion attempt, Esmail succeeds in stealing Lester’s gun, only to be shot to death by police a few moments later.
Connie Walsh: 40 to 50 years old, an attorney at a Legal Aid office, Connie is dressed expensively. Consulted by Kathy, who’s intent on getting back her house, Connie thinks that Kathy has a good case against the County, and succeeds in pressuring them into rescinding the sale. But Connie’s professional skill at manipulating others comes up against a stone wall when she tries to talk Behrani into taking back his $42,500 investment in the house. Think “do-gooding” wealthy professional, somewhat condescending, slightly hypocritical, who wants to “give back”
Carol Burdon: 30 to 35, Lester’s wife, she has no idea that their relationship is stale and strained, as far as Lester is concerned. A housewife with children, she realizes something is wrong after nine years of marriage when he doesn’t come home after work. Appalled that Lester is breaking their mutual contract, Carol turns on Lester, forcing him into a series of increasingly angry confrontations, using her daughter Bethany as a weapon, to show him that he is destroying their family. She becomes increasingly passive-aggressive.
Lieutenant Alvarez: A serious looking Latino man in his mid to late 40s, with the Internal Affairs Division of the Sheriff’s Department, Alvarez listens as Behrani lodges a formal complaint about Lester, and quickly deduces the identity of “Joe Gonzales.” After hearing Lester’s (duplicitous) side of the story, he gives Burdon a stern talking-to, warning him against further involvement with Behrani. Later, after Esmail is shot to death, he questions Lester more closely, getting the straight story, and makes it clear that Lester’s future involves a long stretch in prison.
Mom: Kathy’s mother, 50 to 60, Mom is concerned about her daughter’s welfare, but in a smothering, intrusive way. Living on the East Coast, she persistently refuses to remember it’s three hours earlier in Los Angeles, and calls Kathy at 6 AM. Planning a trip to Los Angeles, Mom has no idea that Kathy has broken up with her husband, and cheerfully talks about her upcoming visit, with no idea that she’s sending Kathy into a panic (Note: The Role may be VO only, though it is more likely the scenes with mom will be shot seeing the back of her head only.)
Frank Nicolo: Kathy’s brother, 35 to 40, he works in a tiny office in a car dealership in Boston. Knowing about his sister’s troubled past, Frank takes a call from his anguished sister, and tries to coax her to come home. Worried about her being dope-free, and worried about the Pontiac he gave her. Frank cares about his sister, but he’s a limited man with limited powers of empathy, who has to cut the call short because he has a customer (Note: More than likely, will only be seen by the back or side profile only.)
Carpenter: A decent working class guy, late 20s, hired by Behrani to build a widow’s walk outside the house, to give potential buyers a sea view. Confronted by Kathy, who insists they are mutilating her house, he tells her to talk to Behrani, and is appalled when she steps onto four rusty nails. Later he accepts a check from Behrani, and a $50 tip.
Taking place in San Francisco during 1991 with some flashbacks to Iran circa 1978, shooting begins in Los Angeles and San Francisco in October.
Those interested in being a part of this film should have their agent contact the casting directors.
Director: Vadim Perelman
Screenwriter: Vadim Perelman
Producer: Michael London
Executive Producers: Stewart Till, Nina Sadowsky
Casting Directors: Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood