Production is finally set to begin on a long-delayed TV version of Howard Zinn's landmark 1980 tome "A People's History of the United States."
The four-hour documentary miniseries -- titled "The People Speak" -- will include performances by Matt Damon, Marisa Tomei, Viggo Mortensen, Danny Glover, Josh Brolin, David Strathairn, Kerry Washington, Eddie Vedder and John Legend.
Zinn will host the longform project, which begins shooting next month in Boston. Project, to be exec produced by Zinn, Anthony Arnove and First Tuesday Media's Chris Moore, has not yet been sold to a network. Damon and Moore have been looking to adapt "A People's History of the United States" on television for nearly a decade.
Damon, who lived next door to Zinn as a child, and Ben Affleck included a reference to Zinn and "A People's History" in their Academy Award-winning "Good Will Hunting." Soon thereafter, the scribes and Moore (also a "Good Will Hunting" producer) sold a 10- to 12-hour miniseries to Fox based on the book.
The new adaptation will draw from both "A People's History," and sequel tome "Voices of A People's History of the United States," which Zinn wrote with Arnove. Miniseries will center on the actors and musicians as they read from the books or perform music related to their themes: the struggles of women, war, class and race. The longform will mix the performances with photos, interviews and archival footage.
Why? Why does, say, Matt Damon seemingly have his pick of prime material, while Cusack's films tend to play out on the edges? "What [Damon] has that John doesn't have is a sweetness and a warmth," the exec said. "Cusack, I think his anger comes through on screen more, and his sarcasm. Damon is more sincere, and sincerity usually translates to likability."
Cusack actually can be a very warm actor, as in "Martian Child" and, ultimately, "Grace Is Gone." Even when he's playing a conniving bastard, you detect a caring heart; there's a reason test audiences objected to seeing his crooked double-crosser bumped off in the initial cut of "The Ice Harvest" (2005).
But his characters tend to be repressing turbulent emotions, and even in person he's guarded. While Clooney and Damon also project intelligence, they come across as open and engaging in person, down-to-earth and unafraid, and the press and public embrace them--people feel that they know them. Cusack, though unfailingly polite once you have his attention, is notoriously press-averse (as opposed to merely press-shy), and he has successfully kept the professional gossipers from delving into his romantic history or whatever else he might not want revealed.