Casting call: Picking stars for Dixon trial movie


he real-life drama of Mayor Sheila Dixon's criminal trial is still unfolding, but it's not too early to start thinking about the inevitable.

Who will star in the movie version of this gripping tale?


I haven't come up with a title just yet - "The Defendant Wore Pashminas"? - but with all the courtroom a stage these past two weeks, I've started getting some casting ideas for the men and women who are its players.

With multiple lawyers on each side, this movie could be a boon for actors and actresses who look good in suits. For lead defense attorney Arnold M. Weiner, the vibe I get, not so much because of physical resemblance as their loose-limbed affability is Alan Alda or John Lithgow. He's too old at this point, but there's a bit of Dann Florek, currently in "Law & Order: SVU," in defense lawyer Dale P. Kelberman.


For their chief antagonist, State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh, I'm thinking one of those silver-haired actors who tend to portray lawyers, politicians and other authoritative figures, such as Ronny Cox or John Slattery, now in "Mad Men."

For Shelly S. Glenn, who gave the prosecution's closing argument which veered, at one point, into her own 50- and 100-mile bike races, I'm thinking Sigourney Weaver in her Ripley days for her tall, take-charge presence. For her colleague, Tamara M. Gustave, I'd go with the similarly petite Jada Pinkett Smith.

Another of Dixon's lawyers, Barry Gogel, nominated his own screen double, and it's spot-on: Matthew Broderick.

The ruddy-faced Judge Dennis M. Sweeney could be played by a warmer Brian Dennehy, although another reporter tells me he picks up a whiff of David Letterman, maybe in his voice and occasional flash of sardonic humor. And like Letterman, there's a lingering bit of a chipper Midwestern sensibility - Sweeney will sometimes respond to a request with an "All-righty."

I see Maya Rudolph playing one of the jurors. The judge's clerk is a total Amy Adams. And developer Patrick Turner, who seemed pained to be called to the stand to testify against his friend the mayor, is Jeff Bridges, with a beard.

A regular in the courtroom has been Janice Dixon, who works for a company to which Sis Sheila helped funnel some city contracts. All this became part of the wide-ranging investigation that resulted in the current indictments. Appropriately, I'm going with a local, and someone whose work in the current movie "Precious" is drawing Oscar talk. I'm talking about the normally comedic actress doing drama: Mo'Nique.

A juicy character in this movie is someone who never made an appearance in the courtroom but was a notable presence anyway - Ronald H. Lipscomb, the developer and one-time Dixon paramour. Prosecutors ultimately decided not to call him to the stand for what could have been some sizzling testimony. Still, there could be some flashback scenes, so I've decided to cast Forest Whitaker, whose round-faced geniality seems a good fit for the wheeler-dealer developer, although he'll have to grow a thicker 'stache.

And, finally, the star of the show. This, oddly enough, proved hardest to cast, perhaps because she's now become such a familiar face in the daily news cycles.


Initially, I'd settled on Angela Bassett, mainly because she's already so buff she wouldn't have to find her way to the gym to play the fit Dixon. Then I wandered over to Pam Grier, for her tough Jackie Brown character in the Quentin Tarantino movie of that name. Then, a brief stop with Queen Latifah, primarily because if you're already a queen it's a small leap to mayor. Alfre Woodard, for her wide eyes and no-nonsense demeanor?

But in the end, since we're in such sui generis territory here, I think in the role of Sheila Dixon, I'm going to have to go with Sheila Dixon. Given that she opted not to testify, it might be our only chance to get her version of these events.