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Still "Holden" Out for a 'Catcher in the Rye' Movie

The catcher in the rye_cover The announcement of reclusive author J.D. Salinger’s death yesterday morning provoked 2.36 seconds of surprise, followed immediately by this question: Now, can someone finally make the Catcher in the Rye movie adaptation?

Since the novel’s publication, success, and subsequent cult status, it has remained one of the most elusive novels in Hollywood; Billy Wilder, Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, and others have all been attached to ill-fated projects at some point. Salinger was famously opposed to any kind of adaptation of his most famous work (though, early on, the author reportedly considered playing the lead role himself, in a dramatic version that never made it off the ground) and, depending on the position of his estate, his death may free up the powers that be to finally get the ball rolling.

Fan backlash aside, the primary hurdle in bringing The Catcher in the Rye to the big screen would almost certainly be casting the lead, Holden Caulfield. My own introduction to the novel happened to coincide with the release of the film Donnie Darko, so -- because I tend to mentally cast the novels I read -- had initially imagined Jake Gyllenhaal in the role. But today, at the ripe old age of 29, he’s out. We could try boyish stars like Michael Cera or Shia LaBeouf, but perhaps they’re both too recognizable.

The character of anti-hero Holden Caulfield (troubled, phony-hating complainer that he is) is already exceedingly well-formed in the American consciousness. The novel was required reading in high school, after all. Attaching any big name would be self-defeating. My favorite casting choice at the moment would have to be Nicholas Hoult, who you might remember as Hugh Grant’s little buddy in About a Boy, and who can be seen a bit more grown up as Colin Firth’s most persistent student in the new film A Single Man. He’s young enough, he’s talented, and -- though familiar -- he doesn’t yet carry the box office baggage of a "star."

The L.A. Times argues today that a film adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye remains unlikely, but that director Wes Anderson would be the perfect fit for the novel's subject matter. Yet, in complete honesty, I would most like to see a Zak Snyder (Watchmen) helmed, The Catcher in the Rye-inspired film that could be called Holden Caulfield: Phony Slayer, in which a samurai sword-wielding Holden (played by Christopher Mintz-Platz) cuts a bloody swath through the mean streets of Manhattan on his quest to find the crime kingpin (played by Thomas Jane, maybe?) who killed his brother. And who is a phony, naturally.

-- Alice Wade

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