Character Study: Sunsetter

Curtis LeBlanc’s new novel Sunsetter (ECW Press) asks who are the “good guys”, and who are the villains, when corruption is rife and opportunities are few? Incredible characters coupled with its bleak, former-industrial prairie town setting, we think it has everything it needs to be a great movie. Curtis dons our casting director’s cap to pick his actors (and directors!) of choice for a film version of Sunsetter.


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The Cast of Sunsetter, as picked by Curtis LeBlanc

Maya Hawke as Hannah Fields

Maya Hawke’s breakout role in Stranger Things as the quippy, thick-skinned ice cream slinger Robin Buckley shows exactly why she’s perfect for the lead role of Hannah Fields. Not only does she look the part as I imagined it while writing, but she’s shown she can express all the brooding sarcasm, bubbling rage and tender compassion that the character requires.

Tom Holland as Dallan Dermott

If you’ve seen the part in Avengers: Infinity War where Spiderman (played by Holland) says, “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good” before he disintegrates into dust — and if you read this book — then you’ll know why I’m picking him for this role.

Jeremy Allen White as Deputy Arnason

Deputy Arnason is STRESSED. Often he handles it (or fails to) in destructive ways. Jeremy Allen White portrays this character trait so well in The Bear, and though that series is set in an entirely different world from that of Sunsetter, I think White’s performance would transfer to the gritty darkness of the Sunsetter rodeo just perfectly.

Paul Mescal as Pretty Nick

I loved Paul Mescal in the miniseries adaptation of Normal People. He has all the rugged steadiness and quiet competency I imagine Nick having, and he is also very pretty. He’s perfect for the role of the carnival worker turned passionate love interest in Sunsetter.

Ashton Sanders as Brooks

I loved Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, so much so that I bet $20 online that it would win Best Picture and had a rollercoaster viewing experience when the award was erroneously first given to La La Land at the Oscars. Ashton Sanders plays teenage Chiron as he navigates that tender age, discovering who he wants to be in the world, and that’s exactly Brooks.

Along with…

Liev Schreiber as Sheriff Robert Durham

Durham has an imposing presence in the novel and not even the desperate and determined Deputy Arnason is willing to cross him. I can see Schreiber sitting at the Sheriff’s desk, chewing tobacco, clouded in smoke from his sawdust incense, and calmly laying out his sinister expectations for Arnason. He also made a great boss in Spotlight.

Kirk Fox as Del

Kirk Fox may be a touch old for the role, but he absolutely has the look. I recently watched the comedy series Jury Duty, which is brilliant, and he immediately clicked as a match for this character.

Pete Davidson as Thomas Fields

Hannah’s older brother is a little burnt out and a bit of a petulant manchild. Pete Davidson showed time and time again that he’s perfect for this kind of role in his time at Saturday Night Live.

Barry Keoghan as Martens

Martens is Arnason’s doofy sidekick, but he also knows what he has to do to survive in the glass house they’ve built themselves. Keoghan is capable of both the hilarious and the sly (see: The Killing of a Sacred Deer).

Alex R. Hibbert as Aaron

Hibbert, who played the young Chiron to Ashton Sanders’ adolescent portrayal in Moonlight, is the natural choice to take the role of Brooks’s younger brother.

Octavia Spencer as Bridget

Brooks’s mother is the kind of person who continues to nurture those around her, even in the throes of immense grief, and Octavia Spencer would make this short but complicated role her own.

Jacob Batalon as Moreno

Batalon reunites with Spiderman castmate Tom Holland and gets to show his cool side as Moreno, a local drug dealer who has left the game (hopefully) for good.

Anya Chalotra as Joanie

In The Witcher series, Chalotra’s character Yennefer plays lover, friend and vocal critic to Geralt of Rivia. Joanie acts much the same opposite her husband, Arnason, in the novel.

Frances McDormand as Marge

Arnason’s ailing mother is a smaller role for the powerhouse that is Frances McDormand, but her inclusion in the film is only natural considering my pick for directors.

Directed by The Coen Brothers

The Coen’s films are like thunderstorms gathering on the edge of the prairie, filled with deft and unexpected tonal shifts. They contain moments of uncomfortable comedy intertwined with awe inspiring violence. More than anything, they know how to bring a setting to life, situating their films in places on the fringes of North American society where seemingly anything can happen—and very few may ever hear about it. They’re very likely my favourite filmmakers working today and it would be a dream to have them bring Sunsetter to the screen.

The Poster

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Curtis LeBlanc was born and raised in St. Albert, Alberta. His work has been shortlisted for the Walrus Poetry Prize, received the Readers’ Choice Award in the ARC Poem of the Year Contest, an Honourable Mention in the Margaret Reid Poetry Contest and was twice shortlisted for CV2’s Young Buck Poetry Prize. His writing has appeared in a number of journals including the Malahat Review, CV2, Eighteen Bridges, Prairie Fire, EVENT, Geist and ARC. He is the author of Little Wild (Nightwood Editions, 2018) and the chapbook Good for Nothing (Anstruther Press, 2017). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and is co-founder and managing editor of Rahila’s Ghost Press. He currently resides in Vancouver, BC, with his wife.

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As always, we can’t stress enough how much we’d like to see these movies, but Character Study is just for fun. (We love you, WGA / SAG-AFTRA!)

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