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Casting Call: Skinny and Cat

Colin Firth is still vaguely attached to the project as Bourke-White's short-term husband, Erskine Caldwell. Caldwell's writings on social issues, race, and the Depression's impact on the South made him a controversial figure at the time. His marriage to Bourke-White was his second of four, so we're curious as to how his character will be portrayed in the context of their short-lived union. We're hoping Firth sticks around, if not solely to test the chemistry between two of Britain's most seasoned and bodacious brunettes. If Firth isn't available, however, we hope the that producers fall back on Leonardo Di Caprio.

Photo by Bruce Weber,
Interview, June 1994


As Erskine Caldwell's longtime literary agent, Maxim Lieber was an important part of the author's life. Lieber was a prominent member of the literary world, representing a slew of famous writers including Saul Bellow, Langston Hughes, and Thomas Wolfe. Lieber was eventually discovered to be a Soviet spy during the McCarthy era, and fled to Mexico. To play the slippery figure with a lot of charisma, we'd like to nominate another big Brit, Clive Owen. He's good at charming and even better at mysterious.

Photo by Phil Knott.
Interview, December 2000.


Mega-powerful magazine publisher Henry Luce, the man who coined the term "the American Century," could make an appearance in the film. Luce changed Bourke-White's life when he offered her a job at Life in 1936 and subsequently chose one of her photos for its first cover.  Luce co-founded Time, Inc. at the tender age of 23. He was called "the most influential private citizen in America of his day," responsible for Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated. To play someone with incredible clout and a receding hairline, Mark Strong is a perfect match. His recent work in drama, including a turn in Le Carré's Soviet war thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and last year's Zero Dark Thirty, should come in handy.


As Caldwell was a man of many exes, it's likely that one will pop up and make things tricky for the lovebirds in Skinny and Cat. Though we don't know much about her, Caldwell had a wife, Helen, throughout the 1930s before marrying Bourke-White. Helen Caldwell managed a bookstore with her husband, and we're guessing the film will portray an ugly end to their marriage, as Caldwell's romance with Bourke-White blossomed. Amy Adams would provide nice contrast to the sharp, driven Bourke-White, and she certainly knows her way around on-screen discomfort.

Photo by Albert Watson, Interview, February 2008


Margaret Bourke-White was a gutsy New York-based photojournalist who became the unofficial documenter of the Depression. Described by Time as "indomitable," Bourke-White was the first female photographer for Life magazine, the first female war correspondent in WWII, and the first Western photographer to take pictures of the Soviet government in 1930 (she managed to snap a rare shot of Joseph Stalin sneaking a smile). Rachel Weisz seems like a solid choice—sure, she's British, but she's played spunky Americans before.

Photo by Max Vadukul,
Interview, September 2005



The film might shed light on Margaret Bourke-White's relationship with Dorothea Lange, made a household name through her famous portrait, known as "Migrant Mother," an iconic Dust Bowl image of Florence Owens Thompson. Lange and Bourke-White had a lot in common: roots in the New York City area, former Barnard students, and influential peers in social realist photography of the 1930s and '40s. To play the offbeat Lange, snapping shots in sneakers and wide-leg pants with the legs hiked up, we pick Carice Van Houten. She might like a break from playing the fiery-haired witchy woman Melisandre in Game of Thrones.