Morley Swingle says it's appropriate that the star of the now defunct MTV stunt show called "Jackass" will likely be playing the Cape Girardeau deputy U.S. marshal in the movie version of "Killshot."
Because that's what the character is.
"That's what he was in the book," said Swingle, the Cape Girardeau County prosecutor who is a huge fan of "Killshot" author Elmore Leonard.
The Hollywood trade magazine Variety reported earlier this week that the Weinstein Co. is nearing a deal with Johnny Knoxville to play the role of deputy U.S. marshal Ferris Britton.
Knoxville most recently played Luke Duke in the film version of "The Dukes of Hazzard." But Knoxville is best known for his show on MTV, which was later made into a movie.
In the show and film, Knoxville and a group of friends performed ridiculous stunts, such as riding shopping carts down steep hills and taunting dangerous animals.
"Killshot" begins filming in Toronto on Oct. 5 and in December or January will be shot in Cape Girardeau, where a small part of the novel is set.
"Killshot" involves a couple played by Diane Lane and Thomas Jane who flee to Cape Girardeau as part of the witness protection program to escape gangsters who want to kill them. Once here -- at least in the novel -- an increasingly rude Agent Britton is assigned to protect them but in the end stalks Diane Lane's character, Carmen.
Swingle met Elmore Leonard when he came to Cape Girardeau in the late 1980s. After the book came out, the prosecutor teased some local U.S. marshals about the way they were portrayed in the book.
One of them was Deputy U.S. Marshal Curt Casteel, who was here at the time and still works as an agent.
"I'm familiar with the character in the book," Casteel said. "But we recognize it's a fictional character used as a plot device. We take no offense."
In fact, when the book came out Casteel said he received an autographed copy from Leonard apologizing for making a U.S. marshal so boorish.
When Leonard was here, Casteel said, he wanted to talk about the Witness Security Program. But Casteel said he couldn't because the workings of the program are obviously secret.
Gregg Sutter is a research assistant for Elmore Leonard who came to Cape Girardeau before Leonard to scout out his book. He said Agent Britton is not representative of the way Leonard feels about the U.S. Marshal's Service.
"To Elmore, the U.S. Marshal is the ubiquitous U.S. lawman of old," Sutter said. "He represents the unbridled lawman. In this case, frankly, he needed this character to fortify the story. It added to the cat-and-mouse aspect of the story."
The character also isn't meant to reflect poorly on Cape Girardeau, Sutter said. Leonard has an affection for Missouri and the Mississippi, he said.
Sutter said Knoxville probably will be signed to the picture, while Variety reported the deal is nearly done. The movie's executive producer, Quentin Tarantino, is a fan, producing Knoxville's new movie "Dirty Calhoun."
"Yeah, he's going to be in 'Killshot' as well," Tarantino was quoted saying in a trade magazine.
Knoxville himself has talked like it's already a done deal.
"I'm very excited to be onboard for the film," he said on an MTV Web site.
Variety also reported that Rosario Dawson has signed on to be in "Killshot." Dawson was in "Sin City" and will play the girlfriend of the gangster's dangerous sidekick. Dawson can next be seen in the film version of the Broadway hit "Rent."
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