Hello Mr. Norton,
I am writing to you today because you have expressed needing ideas and direction to the movie adaptation you want to make. As a fan of the novel Motherless Brooklyn and of yours, it would be my honor to pitch to you some ideas I have been working on. The movie I believe should focus on some important aspects that Lionel Essrog possess but we cannot forget that the right actor for the role can also make all the difference.
The aspect I feel needs to be most and truly looked at closely in order to make this movie a success is, what is compelling about Lionel and who would play his character. One of the most compelling traits about Lionel is how observant he can be. He shows this aspect many times throughout the book “Gerard nodded ever so lightly at the giant and the giant nodded back. That was all it took. The same team that had doomed Frank Minna was back in the saddle. I would be the sequel” (203). This small scene shows the awareness of Lionel and how he is able to pick up on the small details because he was observing everyone closely in the Zendo. Even with the slightest of nods he was able to put two and two together that Gerard was working with the giant and that they were probably the ones who killed Frank Minna. Showing his attention to non-verbal movements and his detail oriented personality will give the audience a better sense of who Lionel is but also help them understand how he is able to figure situations out and people. One of Lionel’s many aspects that stands out in the novel is his ability to never give up and keep trying even when told not to. His tenacity is something that drives this novel because without it he would not have kept searching for Minna’s killer after being warned not to verbally and physically. Lionel was warned by multiple people from Matricardi and Rockaforte to Gerard Minna himself not to go looking for Frank Minna’s killer. Matricardi and Rockaforte called him to meet with them in order to warn him saying things such as “Tony should have your help bringing that day close. You should stand behind him” which means they feel that Tony should be leading the group “Tony has replaced Frank in the world of the living” (175). It seems as if they are trying to get Lionel off the case without being aggressive with him. Later the day Lionel ends up being “kidnapped” by four men who we find out are students of Gerard and that he most likely sent in order to try and scare Lionel so he would stop snooping. Gerard also subtly tries to scare Lionel off the case in the conversation he has with him in the Zendo. He tells Lionel about the giant and says” In the giant you speak of they seem to have located a sort of primal entity- one whose true nature is killing. And sicced him as you say, on the men who they feel betrayed him” (233-234). In the way Gerard speaks these words to Lionel he is trying to let him know how dangerous the giant is and if sent after him, he will most likely die at his hands just like Frank did. The threat of this does not stop Lionel and he continues to search for the killer of Frank Minna. It may be important to show how witty Lionel is by some of the comments he makes so that the audience don not take him at face value. They will be able to see the different sides of Lionel and realize that his Tourette’s is not some that hampers him in any way. A scene that could be used for this and there are many, could be the one with him and the cop. The scene where the cop grabs Lionel and Lionel reacts by saying “wow” “This is unexpected. You’re like good cop and bad cop rolled into one” (114).
Lionel is someone who has Tourette’s syndrome and so he sometimes has verbal outburst which can cause surprise and confusion for those who do not know him. Lionel is able to use this condition to his advantage because people tend to believe he is not as smart as he actually is and so underestimate him. Julia actually mentions this aspect of him while they are in Maine. Apparently Frank had said to her about Lionel “He said the reason you were useful to him was because you were so crazy everyone thought you were stupid.” (pg. 300) These aspects of his character really help move the story because if he was tenacious or did not have Tourette’s the story would most likely not have unfolded the way it did. In reality If Lionel did not have Tourette’s he may have been next in line after Minna because of how good he is at analyzing people and situations. The next aspect that would be important to show in the movie is Lionel searching for his identity. Lionel throughout the novel wants to be like Frank Minna. Lionel doesn’t really know who he is but knows he wants to be like Frank and some of that can stem from the fact that Frank was the only Father figure he ever really had. The process that Lionel goes through in order to finally accept himself.
The best actor to play Lionel Essrog in a movie would be Edward Norton. In a way this choice would possibly not make sense because he is the one making the movie and maybe someone else should star in it. I personally find that he would be the best actor for this character because he has played a similar character in the past. In his early career Edward Norton played in the movie Primal Fear. His character was named Aaron who on the outside seemed innocent and even had a stuttering problem that made him endearing. At the end of the movie we see a side of the character that had not been expected. This reminds me of the scene in the novel when Lionel call Matricardi and Rockaforte and tells them where Gerard is hiding “ Gerard Minna lives on East Eighty-Fourth Street in a Zendo under another name.” (pg.285). this was not a move expected from Lionel and came as a bit of a surprise. The character of Lionel was not expected to seek out vengeance the way that he did by sending Gerard to his death the way he did with that phone call. This is part of the reason Edward Norton would be very good as Lionel because no one would see it coming from him and he has played in movies with sort of twists at the end of them. Yes I know Mr. Norton that you may feel it best for a different actor should play this role but in order for this movie to do great it needs someone who not only can play the role but also cares about the role and that would be you.
Many aspects were discussed throughout this essay but I feel that we can narrow it down to one or two that would fit best with for the movie. All of the mentioned aspects are ones that really brought Lionel to life and the mission that he was on for justice for Frank Minna. The need and the reasoning behind his actions will shine through and captivate the audience. So Mr. Norton if you are ready to start this project together then so am I am. Let’s bring Motherless Brooklyn and Lionel Essrog to life.