Operation Varsity Blues: The Movie
Operation Varsity Blues, the nationwide investigation into college admissions cheating that has entangled actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, has piqued everyone’s attention this week. With court documents providing scandalous details worthy of the big screen — and a code name that comes with its own Hollywood ties — we at EW have fan-cast the inevitable Operation Varsity Blues: The Movie.
Felicity Huffman -- Laura Dern
In a plot worthy of Desperate Housewives, it was doubly ironic that Felicity Huffman was at the center of the scandal. Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 “to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her oldest daughter,” the indictment in the case states. She was arrested and charged by federal prosecutors with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and was freed on Tuesday after posting a $250,000 bond.
Huffman already has a worthy doppelganger in Laura Dern, who has aptly showcased her ability to portray a fraying mother under duress as the explosive Renata in Big Little Lies.
Lori Loughlin -- Marisa Tomei
Fuller House star Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 so their daughters, both budding social media influencers, would be classified as recruits to the University of Southern California’s crew team, which would aid them in getting accepted to the school (neither daughter rowed crew). Loughlin, a mainstay in Hallmark movies, has been dropped by the network in the wake of the scandal.
Who better to play Loughlin than Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei? Yes, they certainly bear a resemblance, but Tomei also rose through the world of television in the 1980s and, in her most recent role as Aunt May in Marvel’s Spider-Man movies, certainly has tested her chops with keeping an unruly teenager in line (although she doesn’t have much luck with Peter Parker).
William H. Macy -- Willem Dafoe or... William H. Macy
While Felicity Huffman was charged by federal prosecutors with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, her husband, Shameless star William H. Macy, was notably not named in the court documents. Did he know about the lengths his wife went to in order to get their two daughters into college? It’s a role that would require the gruff charms of Willem Dafoe, but … it’s also a role that Macy himself could nail.
Mossimo Giannulli -- Eric Bana/John Stamos
Lori Loughlin’s husband Mossimo Giannulli, the founder of the Mossimo clothing line, was indicted alongside his wife in paying $500,000 to classify their two daughters as USC crew team recruits, despite neither daughter rowing crew. Teamed with Marisa Tomei as Lori, Eric Bana seems like a good choice to play her husband.
BUT, there’s something deliciously savage in Loughlin’s own Fuller House onscreen husband John Stamos (Uncle Jesse!) playing this role — so he’s our top pick.
Olivia Jade Giannulli -- Sofia Carson/Kaia Gerber
With more than a million followers on Instagram and 2 million on YouTube, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli’s youngest daughter Olivia Jade was already a budding social media influencer who didn’t feel she had much need for school (except for “game days, partying”) when she got accepted at USC. Her parents are both charged in the scandal for allegedly paying $500,000 to classify both their daughters as recruits of the USC crew team — despite the fact that neither Olivia Jade nor her sister Isabella Rose rowed crew. The backlash has been swift — Sephora has cut ties with Olivia Jade already, and TMZ reports that she and her sister will not be returning to USC.
It’s a meaty role that calls for lots of pouting selfies and posting self-aware Insta videos, something that Disney Channel star Sofia Carson — who has 12 million followers of her own — could have a lot of fun with. It’s also a character that Cindy Crawford’s model daughter Kaia Gerber could dig into, given her own upbringing in a famous family and her 4 million-strong Instagram following.
Isabella Rose Giannulli -- Nicola Peltz/Emma Roberts
Loughlin and Giannulli’s older daughter, Isabella Rose, has a slightly smaller public profile compared to her influencer sister Olivia Jade (some 260,000 Instagram followers compared to her sister’s 1.4 million), but she’s also studying at USC, partly thanks to her parents allegedly spending $500,000 to designate her and her sister as recruits of the college’s crew team.
Without knowing anything about the dyamics of the two sisters, this could be a role for someone to bring some sass and drama to — Transformers star Nicola Peltz and American Horror Story‘s Emma Roberts have both proven that they can deliver some bite on screen.
Jane Buckingham -- Cate Blanchett
Is there anything more ironic than when an author of parenting books is arrested for cheating? Such is the case with Jane Buckingham, who penned The Modern Girl’s Guide to Motherhood, and was arrested for allegedly paying someone to take the ACT test on her son Jack’s behalf in order to get him into USC. At the same time, she allegedly administered a fake test to her son, so that when his unusually high ACT score came back, he believed he had earned it himself.
It’s a role that calls for perhaps a neurotic mother, recently divorced and fretting over her kids’ futures. Our pick? The Oscar-winning chameleon that is Cate Blanchett!
Jack Buckingham -- Ansel Elgort
Jack Buckingham issued a heart-felt apology to The Hollywood Reporter saying he was “upset that I was unknowingly involved with a large scheme” and that he hopes the college application changes to favor “an applicants’ character, intellect and other qualities over everything else.”
So who better to play him than Ansel Elgort, who could embody that innocent haplessness as his mother secretly pays someone to take the test on his behalf? Also, we’re here for the Blanchett-Elgort mother-son pairing.
Lilia Buckingham -- Sabrina Carpenter
Rounding out the Buckingham family is Lilia Buckingham, younger daughter of Jane Buckingham and an aspiring influencer with more than a million Instagram followers. Per court documents, Jane Buckingham was so pleased with the results of paying someone to take the test on her son’s behalf, that she was considering doing the same for Lilia.
Our pick for the precocious teen is Sabrina Carpenter, who would pair up well with Cate Blanchett and Ansel Elgort.
William 'Rick' Singer -- Scott Glenn/Paul Bettany
At the heart of this whole scandal is William “Rick” Singer, whose company allegedly helped wealthy parents find underhanded ways to achieve higher ACT and SAT scores for their kids and embellished applicants’ atheletic achievements to better their chances of college acceptance. Singer allegedly funneled the whole scheme through his charitable foundation, so the parents’ bribes could count as an IRS tax write-off. CNN reports that Singer was paid around $25 million by wealthy parents wanting to guarantee their kids’ college acceptance, and that he pleaded guilty to four charges that included racketeering conspiracy and money laundering, with a possible prison sentence of up to 65 years.
An obvious Singer doppelganger is Daredevil actor Scott Glenn, but there’s also room for a transformation here. If the movie was going to trace Singer’s rise over the years, it could be a meaty opportunity for an actor like Paul Bettany to showcase some dramatic on-screen scheming.
U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lessig -- Corey Stoll
Every good scandal needs a no-nonsense prosecutor sternly bringing down the strong arm of the law. In this case, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew E. Lessig, who held the press conference on the scandal this week, has an easy pick for his on-screen doppelganger — House of Cards star Corey Stoll.
Desperate, Influential, Wealthy Parents -- Steve Carell, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler
The Operation Varsity Blues court documents named 50 people involved in the scandal, many of whom are wealthy, influential parents in high-powered jobs who wanted to get their children into the best colleges. Who better to send up the rich, privileged parents than Hollywood’s comedic powers?
Steve Carell could play Silicon Valley investor William McGlashan, who allegedly paid Singer to Photoshop photos of his son playing lacrosse to make it look like he was a football kicker/punter.
Elizabeth Banks could play Donna Heinel, the USC senior athletic department administrator who allegedly receieved more than $1.3 million in bribes to get non-athletes into USC as athletic recruits.
Amy Poehler could play Marcia Abbott, who along with her husband Gregory Abbott, are alleged to have paid Singer $125,000 to boost their daughter’s exam scores. As reported by the New York Post, their son Malcolm came to his parents’ defense while smoking a blunt and touting his rap music (you can’t make this stuff up).
James Van Der Beek -- cameo
As the star of the movie that the investigation is named after, James Van Der Beek couldn’t help taking a shot at the Operation Varsity Blues scandal. “If only there was a succinct turn of phrase these kids could have used to inform their parents they were not desirous of their life path…” the actor tweeted.
Maybe we could see Van Der Beek as a prosecutor? Maybe he could be a narrator, preaching the virtues of honesty? Maybe he could play himself, tweeting his response?
The behind-the-senes team -- Sofia Coppola, the Coen Brothers, Adam McKay
Now that we’ve cast Operation Varsity Blues: The Movie, who best to helm the execution of the scandalous tale?
Sofia Coppola has a sharp eye in turning around tales of mischief and could bring a Bling Ring-style story to fruition, maybe centered on Lori Loughlin’s influencer daughters?
Or perhaps it’s for the Coen Brothers to dissect the tale of wealth, privilege, class, and power into an absurd comedy-of-errors centered on Singer (they could even recruit their old bud George Clooney for the role!).
But perhaps Operation Varsity Blues would benefit the best from the searing pen and eye of Vice‘s Adam McKay, who could weave the scathing commentary on the rich and powerful into the broader tale of American society today — and we could see Christian Bale once again transform into any number of players!