For a movie about urban planning, a new documentary about Jane Jacobs packs plenty of unexpected star power: Actors Marisa Tomei and Vincent D’Onofrio provide the voices for Jacobs and her longtime adversary Robert Moses.
A Page Six item notes that at least one Hollywood actor may not enjoy the film. Kevin Bacon will likely not be pleased with the way his father, urban designer Edmund Bacon, is portrayed, director Matt Tyrnauer tells Page Six. “Ed Bacon was the Robert Moses of Philly. He was one of Jane Jacobs’ targets as a misguided city planning czar.”
Bacon isn’t even the only famous actor who will be taking an interest in Citizen Jane: Battle for the City when it opens this weekend. Edward Norton’s grandfather James Rouse is also portrayed in the documentary, as an urban planner working alongside Jacobs to help bring her visions to life. (Read our interview with Tyrnauer for more about the film.)
The story of Jacobs and Moses has long been fodder for dramatization, including an opera that debuted last year and an Oliver Stone-directed HBO drama based on the Moses biography The Power Broker (which is still in development limbo).
But with so many actual Hollywood connections—who would, naturally, play their own relatives—we got thinking: What would a celebrity-studded Jane Jacobs biopic look like? (Overwhelmingly white, for one: In recent years Jacobs has been criticized for not engaging enough with the civil rights leaders who were working toward many of the same goals at the time.) Here are our recommendations, straight from the Curbed casting desk. We welcome your ideas, additions, and suggestions.
Jane Jacobs played by Martha Plimpton
The pioneering journalist and tireless activist rallies against dramatic changes impacting her neighborhood and, in turn, transforms the way that cities are designed.
Robert Moses played by Jeffrey Tambor
New York City’s domineering city planning czar attempts to reshape the city with controversial infrastructural projects until he is thwarted by Jacobs’s words and actions.
Edmund Bacon played by Kevin Bacon
Jacobs’s first major writing assignment takes her to Philadelphia, where she sharply criticizes Bacon, the city’s planner, and his urban renewal vision for the city. It inspires her to look more closely at similar efforts impacting New York City. (Bacon’s real-life progeny is none other than Kevin Bacon: conveniently, an actor who looks a heck of a lot like him.)
William Kirk played by John Goodman
An East Harlem minister takes Jacobs on a tour to show how “redevelopment” has fractured his neighborhood, obliterated its public spaces, and made crime worse. This tour changes the way she sees cities.
William “Holly” Whyte played by Benedict Cumberbatch
Public space advocate Whyte, who becomes a lifelong mentor, taps Jacobs to write a piece for Fortune criticizing New York City’s redevelopment movement. The resulting article, “Downtown Is for People,” puts her in direct, public opposition to Moses.
Aline Saarinen played by Sarah Paulson
The New York Times art critic—and wife of Eero Saarinen—becomes Jacobs’s ally. The women are united by their preservation work and because they are two of only a handful of women covering these issues in the city.
Shirley Hayes played by Marisa Tomei
Hayes leads the battle to permanently ban cars from Washington Square Park, which throws Jacobs and her coverage of the movement into the spotlight. It is considered the first real victory against the efforts of Moses.
Eleanor Roosevelt played by Holland Taylor
Among the big names who joins Jacobs’s quest to keep cars out of Lower Manhattan is the former first lady, who lived for a time on Washington Square Park.
Philip Johnson played by Ed Harris
Jacobs enlists some of the most influential architects of the time to speak out about how cities should be shaped, including unlikely personalities like the modernist icon Johnson.
James Rouse played by Edward Norton
With the success of her books, Jacobs’s now-celebrated ideas are brought to life by urban planners like Rouse, who works to design cities for people. (Rouse was Edward Norton’s IRL maternal grandfather.)
Richard Florida played by Channing Tatum
Jacobs moves to Toronto, where she continues her writing and activism. She is befriended by the young urbanist Richard Florida, who brings her ideas to the next generation.