Friday, August 27, 2010


The Dream Cast

Ixchelkali's comment about awaiting the ME/CFS mini series back on the June 20th post got me thinking:  Who should play the key roles in the ME/CFS saga from the 1984 outbreak in Incline Village, Nevada, to the present?  What's the dream cast?

Sometimes the physical similarities to the actual person drew me to a particular actor.  The energy of other actors dovetailed with that of the real-life people they would portray.  Some of these actors are so versatile—Peter Sarsgaard, Edward Norton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Patricia Clarkson, Laura Linney, Sissy Spacek, James Cromwell, I could go on—that they're well suited to more than one role.  Zeligs that they are, Sean Penn, Tom Wilkinson and Chris Cooper could play any of the male roles.

As long as we're dreaming, the mini series would be written by Eric Roth and Michael Mann (The Insider) or Matthew Weiner (Mad Men) or Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs), produced by Tom Hanks and directed by any of the following: Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), Michael Mann (The Insider), Doug Liman (the Bourne films), Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Professional), Martin Scorsese (The Departed; Goodfellas), Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others), Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs), Christopher Nolan (Inception; The Dark Knight), or Roger Spottiswoode (And the Band Played On).

Besides being a science writer, I've served as a TV editor and film critic, so this assignment was especially fun and a break from the usual. After this news-heavy week, a casual Friday seemed long overdue. Please submit your casting suggestions as well.

Dr. Elaine DeFreitas (a former researcher at the Wistar Institute who discovered evidence of a retrovirus in ME/CFS patients in 1991)
Edie Falco
Illeana Douglas
Cher (if she were 20 years younger)

Dr. Paul Cheney (who, along with Dr. Daniel Peterson, reported an outbreak of ME/CFS in Incline Village, NV, to the CDC in 1984)
Edward Norton
Ralph Fiennes 

Dr. Daniel Peterson (co-founder of the Whittemore Peterson Institute and co-author of the Science paper linking XMRV to ME/CFS)
Colin Firth
Peter Krause
Campbell Scott
Peter Sarsgaard
Josh Brolin

Dr. David Bell (ME/CFS physician who reported an ME/CFS outbreak in Lyndonville, NY, to the CDC in 1985)
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Richard Dreyfuss

Dr. Stephen Straus (head of CFS research at the NIH until his death) 

Dr. William Reeves (chief of CFS research at the CDC for 20 years)
Jeremy Irons
Stanley Tucci

Hillary Johnson (author of Osler's Web)

Marc Iverson (founder of the CFIDS Association)
Matt Ross

Kim Kenney McCleary (CEO of the CFIDS Association)

Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease) 

Dr. Nancy Klimas (HIV and ME/CFS physician)
Dr. Anthony Komaroff (Harvard ME/CFS physician and co-author of the FDA/NIH/Harvard MLV paper)

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (who spearheaded the 1996 congressional investigation into the CDC misappropriation of CFS-allocated funds)
James Gandolfini

Dr. Simon Wessely (a well-known British psychiatrist who has long held that ME/CFS is a psychiatric illness)
Ben Kingsley

Dr. William Carter (inventor of the experimental HIV and ME/CFS drug, Ampligen)

Nancy Kaiser (Patient 00, the first person to take Ampligen for ME/CFS)
Judith Ivey

Dr. Kenny de Meirleir (Belgium ME/CFS scientist)

Dr. Lucinda Bateman (ME/CFS physician)
Allison Janney 

Dr. Myra McClure (retrovirologist on the first British XMRV study)
Tilda Swinton

Andrea Whittemore (ME/CFS patient and daughter of Annette Whittemore)
Amanda Seyfried
Keri Russell
Michelle Williams
Evan Rachel Wood
Sarah Polley
Deborah Ann Woll
Dakota Fanning
(the early years)
Sofia Vassilieva (the early years)

Annette Whittemore (co-founder of the Whittemore Peterson Institute and mother of Andrea Whittemore)
Vera Farmiga
Susan Sarandon

Dr. Judy Mikovits (retrovirologist and principal investigator of the first XMRV study in ME/CFS patients)
Frances McDormand

Dr. Leonard Jason (ME/CFS researcher)

Dr. Wanda Jones (deputy assistant secretary for Women's Health in HHS) 
Angela Lansbury (15 years ago)
Betty White (15 years ago)

William Switzer (principal investigator of the CDC XMRV study)
Dr. Eric Klein (Cleveland Clinic urological surgeon and coauthor of the first XMRV study linking XMRV to prostate cancer)
Tom Wilkinson  

Dr. Robert Silverman (Cleveland Clinic researcher and coauthor of the first paper linking XMRV to prostate cancer)

Dr. Ila Singh (XMRV researcher)

Dr. Randy Schekman (editor-in-chief, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
Ron Rifkin

Dr. Harvey Alter (NIH scientist and coauthor of the FDA/NIH/Harvard MLV study)

Dr. Shyh-Ching Lo (FDA scientist and coauthor of the FDA/NIH/Harvard MLV study)


  1. Nice fun break from all the drama of the last few days.

  2. Love it! Thanks for this bit of fun. Personally I might go for Michael Sheen to play Wessely (he played Wesley Snipes on 30 Rock, which is what made me think of him - I got extra joy out of Liz dumping him!) - your choice of actors for Wessely are all far too good looking and carry too much positive weight - if you get what I mean.

  3. This is fun!

    I would like to suggest:
    David Suchet (Poirot) to play Kenny De Meirleir.

  4. I think you need to expand your casting net. While I LOVE the idea, ME/CFS is NOT accurately represented by your choice of actors/actresses.

    I'm too brain dead at the moment to suggest additional options. I would ask that you broaden your horizons. I believe that the cast should truly represent the broad range of the people afflicted.

    Sorry, a number of the options offered would not even come close to a candidate to me.

  5. David, Think Mariah Carey in the film Precious:

  6. What a great bit of fun! I really like some of your casting choices. For example, I think Richard Dreyfus for Dr. David Bell is great, also I think Hillary Johnson would be wonderfully played by Renee Zellwegger, and Jeremy Irons would be perfect for Dr. William Reeves. If she is not busy playing the part of Hillary Johnson, I think Renee Zellwegger would be perfect as Dr. Judy Mikovits. This is so much fun! Thank you for thinking of it.

    Patricia Carter

  7. And I would like to nominate Emile Hirsch to play my part :-)

  8. MINDY! GREAT casting! obviously a lot of thought has gone into your suggestions. For Elaine De Freitas, i thought of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (remember her from Scarface? I could see her with all those curls flying, trying to get her point across about what she was seeing in her microscope, and others just couldn't see it!)
    I want Daniel Day lewis from my left foot to play me....HAH! I think Sir Ben Kingsley could do Willy Wonka Reeves. he could do that disdainful arrogant look so well that Reeves tried to portray any time one of us said something he disagreed with! If Ed Begley, Jr. could be aged, he could do Dr. Phil Lee, regarding his thoughts from our old ABC pieces with Dr. Nancy Snyderman asking Dr. Lee if this was a virus or retrovirus causing all this misery and Dr. Lee squirmed at first, but then agreed with Dr. Nancy, that it most porbably was a viral attack. How about Allison Janney for Dr. Nancy Klimas? Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Dr. David Bell...well done! we need someone as tough as nails for Dr. Mikovits. Think Gleen Close. When i went through this exercise once with Hillary Johnson, i suggested the "Brawny" man on the paper towels for Dr. Dan Peterson.
    Back in the day with his plaid shirts, and rosy cheeks and big mustache, Dr. Day looked every bit "the Brawny Man". Tom Cruise could be Tom Sheridan, the CAA lobbyist, Nice diversion MIndy. You have a vivid imagination and a keen eye, my dear. Quite a fun diversion for today.

  9. A title suggestion,...And the Band Played On...Again.

  10. I've always thought of Meryl Streep for Annette Whittemore, same grace, gentle-but-steely spine and dignity.

    I agree that your list of actors for Wessely are too distinguished and admirable for a dog like SW. Although Weasel is such a twisted and malevolent character, I'm sure many fine actors would be eager to play such a nasty, meaty role. Regardless, I was thinking of someone capable of a more diabolical performance, like Jack Nicholson! (Hopkins could be second choice)

    For Reeves, Jeremy Irons is also too dignified, too gifted and too intelligent. Need an actor with a slight bumbling quality about him. Perhaps Jeremy Irons for Strauss?

    You also need some patients here, and may I suggest that some of the cast may be able to play themselves. I nominate Erik Johnson to play himself. The camera loves him (see What About ME trailer online) and surely he can play his own inimitable role better than any actor. If not, then Viggo Mortensen might be good to play Erik (not Peterson, heavens!).

    I vote Jessica Lange for Dr. Mikovits, Richard Dreyfuss is perfect for Dr. Bell, Eddie Falco for Dr. DeFreitas is an inspired call, but neither Carey nor Huston for Klimas, please. Most important role in the film is Dr. Peterson, and most difficult actor to cast.

    I might add that in an industry where there are never enough serious, complex and important roles for women (especially women over, say, 25), this film would offer a bumper crop of outstanding women to portray.

  11. Oh, just got it!

    For Dr. Peterson: Daniel Day Lewis.

  12. More patients to cast: Joan Irvine, Pat Fero and her son Casey, Mary Schweitzer, early activists like Tom Hennessey, of course Sophia Mirza, Lynn Gilderdale and their mums.

    Real footage of Gilda Radner?

    Also a 'cameo' for Melvin Ramsey? (perhaps Ben Kingsley here)

  13. Or Liam Neeson for Dr. Peterson.

  14. Christopher Walken - Dr. Simon Wessely

  15. "Snow White" could play the meter reader, Chris Guthrie.

  16. i like Frances McDormand for Mikovits, i like Phillip Seymore Hoffman for Wessely cuz he plays a great bad guy, i am big on Gwenyth Paltrow for Andrea Whittemore because she has a fragile beauty.
    i am personally not a fan of Zellwegger, but like Christian Bale in anything! haha! ;)

  17. Speaking of Cher, I read recently that she has/had CFS. Of course she must portray herself to the press as being "over" it. Wouldn't it be interesting if she were XMRV/MLV positive. A high profile spokesperson wouldn't hurt our cause. Please don't take this to mean I wish it on her. I wouldn't wish this on anyone!

  18. You left out one of the most pivotal roles: Who is going to play Mindy Kitei?

  19. I think Yunga Vishneyda should play Mindy.

  20. Well, I like Glenn Close or Meryl Streep for Mikovits. Glenn even had similar hair style in "Fatal Attraction."

    Also, very important to get the look right. One of the guys you suggested for Peterson, I think, had the big eyebrows. You got to have those eyebrows and dark features for Komaroff.

    I also question Mariah Carey for Klimas. I actually think Cissy Spececk would be better for her.

    Now, for Peterson, I say Robert Redford. I really think Redford, who was key in "All the President's Men" can get what made Peterson tick. Redford was actually the one who had the concept behind "All the President's Men" because he thought the dogged devotion of those two reporters was key to the story. So he will understand Peterson. And, actually, I think they look a lot alike.

    Tina (no longer perky one)

  21. Definitely Jack Nicholson for Wessely.

  22. I LOVE Frances McDormand for Mikovits - the look is perfect and they both have a wicked sense of humor ("This is going to be fun." re the upcoming xmrv workshop.) I like Rene but she seems a little to cutsy for this while Glenn Close seems too serious.
    I like Amanda Seifried for Andrea but could see Gwyneth as well.
    I love the suggestion of Meryl Streep for Annette. I also thought Annette Benning would do a lovely job.
    And I love Robert Redford for Peterson though he might be a bit too old?
    As for the villains...

  23. Brilliant, weldone...
    here are some of mine:

    Dr Dan Peterson - Tom Selleck

    Dr Judy Mikovits - Bette Midler

    Andrea Whittemore - Keria Knightly

    Andrea Whittemore - Mary Steenburgen

  24. Tom Hanks would be perfect to play Dr Bill Collinge:
    The first "Psycho-neuro-reprogramming" mindbodyist to latch onto "CFS".... in a long line of many, many more to come.

  25. Lol yep, Christopher Walken for Wessley and Nicholson for Reeves. Dr Peterson is more difficult to cast due to his central role and distinct personality. I'm thinking Robert Redford (20 years ago). Liam Neeson would work with blond hair.

  26. There's a dignified, long-suffering quality to Dr. Peterson. His character also needs gravitas and compassion. Liam Neeson has all those qualities in abundance, and would excel in the outdoorsman qualities of Peterson too. Blond is not a problem, hair dye the easiest stage prop.

  27. Hmm, even after watching the Precious clip, still can't see Mariah Carey as Nancy Klimas. Not that I have a better suggestion at this point though.

    I was also thinking Tom Selleck for Dr. Peterson.

  28. Nancy Klimas seems to be getting more animated and happy with time, with a bit of quirkiness. Tina Fey, the Sarah Palin mimic, could play her role humorously.

    Dr. Bell could be played by someone like the Merlin the Magician actor. He's a wise old character with a lot of good will built up towards him.

    It's wonderful to see the big CFS docs in previous video clips. I laugh, because they all look like they are interns.

  29. People tell me I look like Richard Dreyfus and sound like Sean Connery...was hoping to play opposite Angelina Jolie.....

  30. wow, Eric Klein reads this site? awesome! keep up the good work Eric!

  31. Steve Martine has got to play Dr Bob Silverman

  32. I think Sigourney Weaver would be perfect for Annette Whittemore. Maybe Reese Witherspoon as Andrea? So many choices.

    Plenty of British actors whom could play the UK cast list (and we are good at doing villains), but would be interesting to hear whom could pull off Prof. Hooper’s Yorkshire accent (if his character is represented). As for Wessely, not many better than Ben Kingsley for playing devious characters.

    I think if the science wins through, you could definitely see an ensemble cast, and maybe one or two Oscars.


  33. Ed Begley could pull off Strauss pretty well. Laura Linney for Hilary Johnson.
    Mariah Carey as Dr. Klimas?? Are you high?!

    One important change. The only person who could possibly pull off playing Wessely would be Carrot Top. He'd have to dye the hair and shave the front part but I think it would work. I mean, Wessely basically IS the Carrot Top of the medical world. Right?

  34. what a great idea. enjoyed your playfulness! xoxoxooxox


Comments are welcome and moderated for appropriate content.