Reading Sights: Envisioning Carter Beats the Devil as a Film

I know this is an unpopular perception among elite circles, but while I was reading a book, I was thinking of how its movie would look. I’m not discussing a book that already has a movie, but one that deserves a movie, Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold .

You may recognize this book as being part of How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson’s décor:

Carter the Great Poster in Background of “Disaster Averted”

Aside from that, this book has no had a Hollywood makeover, though allegedly Tom Cruise wants to produce and star in its adaptation.

Let’s explore the pros and cons to turning this book into a movie, and my suggestions for who should have their hand in it.


In the early 1900’s magician Charles Carter is accused of murdering President Warren Harding. While being pursued by the secret service, we uncover Carter’s past, from his childhood up to his rivalry with fellow magician Mysterioso to selling out vaudeville theaters. Carter naturally finds love and all that crap, and takes many twist and turns through his encounters with historical figures and confrontations with evil. Will Charles Carter truly beat the Devil?


• Let’s get this out of the way: “Hollywood isn’t doing anything original.”

• The magic trend in Hollywood has already finished. Though you can cite Harry Potter’s conclusion, I’m talking about The Prestige and the poor man’s Prestige, The Illusionist.

• It’s a very complicated book. The novel itself is a “historical mystery thriller.” It references a lesser-known president (Harding) and slips in some other historical figures as well (Houdini and Philo Farnsworth.)

• It’s complications don’t end there: the book is written in a series of vignettes, essentially: jumping forward and backward in time, and to different places and characters, however, we’ve seen this all before…take for instance any Quentin Tarantino or time-traveling movie ever, as well as the trend that Babel and other big ensemble movies create.

• There’s so much about Carter’s life and so many other important minor characters that fans of the book would be upset over what the cutting room produced.


• A very original story that has twists and turns. This is something that could be a crowd pleaser, Oscar-bait, or at least in the future, a cult hit.

• It’s family-friendly-ish. The book is not too violent, not too crass, and it’s got a lot of everything, from romance to action to historical tie-ins. It’s quite unique in bending genres.

• Glen David Gold gives this book some gorgeous settings. Early-1900s San Francisco would serve as a fantastic backdrop for the story, while interior descriptions, such as the Orpheum, could inspire some beautiful cinematography.

• Because I said so.


While trying to envision what actors could potentially portray these characters, I came across this post on Film School Rejects and thought they nailed the Adrian Brody as Charles Carter selection. However, I want to stay original, so I will applaud that selection while picking my own.

Director – when he’s done with Pacific Rim, I would love to see Guillermo Del Toro have a role in this somehow. If not Del Toro, then Tim Burton gets the nod, as long as he goes the route of Big Fish, and not Alice in Wonderland. Both, I can imagine would nail the setting as well as properly represent the magical world.

Picture Tim Burton at his most whimsical…


• Charles Carter – Robert Downey Jr. could be good for this, as long as he can counter his usual confidence-exuding self with Carter’s more conflicted, tragic side. Tom Cruise would really be a poor choice for this.

• Agent Jack Griffin – For Griffin, you’d need an older badass. No, not Liam Neeson, but maybe Bryan Cranston would work well here. He can definitely played the disrespected, disgruntled, and underestimated secret service agent.

• Annabelle Bernhardt and Phoebe Kyle – I lump these two together because they represent (SPOILER) two of Carters’ love interests. These are both tough girls who can defend themselves, but they are not terribly similar, based on the fact that Kyle is blind. I can see Hunger Games and Winter’s Bone star Jennifer Lawrence playing Annabelle perfectly (since Carter’s younger then), while Trainspotting and Boardwalk Empire star Kelly MacDonald would be a great choice for Phoebe.

• Mysterioso – We need someone tall and intimidating with this, someone preferably with a deep voice as well. Too bad James Bond villain “Jaws” isn’t around. Vinnie Jones probably wants to stay far away from this setting after the series The Cape (Six season and a movie!!!) but let’s give this role to Hugo Weaving who I believe would crush the showmanship of a magician while matching the evil behind Mysterioso ala his days in The Matrix.

• President Warren Harding – A huge posthumous role, but minor living role, I believe would be great for The Lord of The Rings and The Wicker Man star Christopher Lee. I think looks-wise (with some make-up), he would mold in the President quite well.

• Borax Smith – This character is both Carter’s mentor, and also a general bastard. I think Hot Fuzz and Gangs of New York star Jim Broadbent would be fantastic in this role, plus, I pretty much like seeing him in everything.

Read the book? Have your own thoughts? Share them! Maybe your ideas will make mine look awful…


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