Members of the YPG celebrate a victory in Syria.
Hey Hollywood, I’ve got a pitch for you.
The movie opens in Syria. "Strangers" by The Kinks plays as a guy who looks like your barista mans a machine gun on the back of a tank. Cut to him smoking a cigarette while holding a grenade, and then reading The Collected Works of John Reed as armed soldiers rush past him.
The best part? It’s all true. New York Magazine published a story about this guy, Brace Belden, last week. He’s 27 and worked at a boxing gym in San Francisco before he went to Syria to fight ISIS.
Belden was an unlikely recruit. He had spent most of the previous decade working in flower shops in the Bay Area and had LIFE STINKS / I LIKE THE KINKS tattooed on his left bicep.
Here’s Belden, who goes by @PissPigGranddad on Twitter, after a soldier next to him stepped on a mine.
When you step on a mine but it doesn’t go off <<<<< pic.twitter.com/oUVBx0RtDa
— LENIN_LOVER69 (@PissPigGranddad) March 18, 2017
He’s fighting with the YPG (or People’s Protection Units), the military wing of a Kurdish political party trying to carve out a socialist state in northern Syria. They think of him as a "Mr. Bean" type, but I’m not sure how that’d play outside of the UK market.
The Kurds in his tabor had taken to calling Western volunteers by their nearest celebrity doppelgängers, which made Belden, who is Jewish, with floppy brown hair and black-rimmed glasses, glad that they hadn’t noticed any resemblance to Woody Allen — nor had they seen the Annie Hall parody, Annie Crawl, that Belden had posted online several months earlier, in which he played Allen’s character as if he were a dog. Instead, the Kurds called him “Mr. Bean.”
Maybe go with a younger, hunkier actor? A Jake Gyllenhaal type?
In March, Jake Gyllenhaal attached himself to a movie about leftists who had joined the YPG, which upset Belden out of a fear that the film would ignore his socialist principles for the sake of telling a war story about young men finding themselves. “I want to ruin it,” Belden said. (“I don’t even look like Jake Gyllenhal [sic],” he tweeted, with a picture of Jared Leto.)
You know what, I’ve got it. Put a fuzzy mustache and some black frames on Miles Teller and you’re good to go. Or maybe just see what Jessie Eisenberg is doing.
Image: Bold Films/REX/Shutterstock
Glasses + mustache = Marxist soldier.
He’s a Marxist. If that seems like too much, maybe just slap a Bernie sticker on his computer at the start of the movie. That’s the guy Larry David played on SNL. The kids will love it.
What’s that? Are there kookie sidekicks? You bet there are.
The Western volunteers who had been joining the YPG made for a motley crew: Many were former soldiers, but there had also been a 53-year-old British actor who had played a deckhand in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and a man who came to be known as Tim the Cannibal after he bit into the severed foot of a dead ISIS fighter and gnawed on a fellow YPG soldier who had been injured but turned out to still be alive.
Image: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock
"Stephen, baby, I have the perfect part for you. How do you feel about ISIS and cannibalism?"
But don’t worry, there’s romance too. Belden’s dating a woman named Jen Snyder, a political activist.
On their first proper date, Snyder says they sat by the Pacific Ocean as Belden told her “much more about the Spanish Civil War than I ever cared to know.” He was especially interested in the thousands of Americans and Europeans who went to Spain to fight as part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
She was "pretty fucking pissed" when she heard he wasn’t doing humanitarian work in Syria, but rather fighting ISIS. But they stayed together (swoon).
Lena Dunham would understand if you left to fight terrorists in the name of socialism.
I mean, this scene pretty much sells it as a date movie.
When he asked Snyder for something to remember her by, she gave him a cheap silver band he wears on his left ring finger (she wears one too). On one of his last nights in town, Belden went to karaoke with a few friends, including Snyder, to whom he dedicated a rendition of Kiss’s “Beth” …
Oh, and the real Belden already has the perfect quote for the trailer.
"A machine gun is like a woman. I don’t understand it, I’m afraid of it, and one day I’ll accidentally be killed by it."
Also, there are a lot of Kurds to cast, who are battling not only ISIS but also Turkey and the increasingly autocratic government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
We’re sure Hollywood will cast the appropriate people.
Danny Rand, still not Asian.
So, Hollywood movie studios, let’s do this. I eagerly await your call.