From mess to movie
Bestselling autobiography finally hits the big screen
Los angeLes — after revealing her family’s messy past in the bestselling The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls prepares for the reaction to the film version of her autobiography.
shot in Montreal, the movie features Brie Larson who plays Walls as a teen and adult trying to cope with life as part of a wandering poverty-stricken family led by maladjusted parents. Walls’ mother (naomi Watts) is an oddball artist who ignores her kids’ needs. the father (Woody harrelson) is an alcoholic and emotionally damaged by his own disturbing childhood.
at a Beverly hills hotel suite, the 57-year-old Walls talks about
which references her dad’s unfulfilled dream of constructing a stylish safe haven for his family.
Q: Are you relieved your memoir is finally hitting theatres?
a: It was optioned as a movie pretty much when the book was published 12 years ago. It went through a few studios and quite a few producers who didn’t know what to do with it. I was convinced it wasn’t going to get made.
Q: What was the problem?
a: they tried to turn it into a romantic comedy, but I didn’t want audiences laughing at my family.
Q: When did things become more positive?
a: about five years ago, producer gil netter got a hold of it, and he’s got a wacky family too, so he got it. and he hired a fabulous director (destin daniel Cretton) who understood that pain and hope and despair can exist in the same sphere.
Q: Was it all-systems go then?
a: yes, I trusted destin enough to say, “here is the mess of my family, so turn it into a movie.” Whenever he took any liberties with the book, he would check in with me. that being said, I was still a little nervous that things could go so wrong.
Q: When did you feel the movie was on course?
a: I was on the set in Montreal a couple of times. the first time I saw Woody harrelson in character as my father, I gasped and I was trembling and I was shaking, he looked so much like him. In one scene they improvised and Woody said something my father would have said. I couldn’t believe it and I started to feel safe.
Q: Did you work closely with Brie Larson?
a: oh yeah. Brie had asked me if I had any physical habits. she called them tells, which I think is a poker phrase. Meanwhile I’m saying, as I’m tucking my hair behind my ear, I don’t think I have anything like that. she did a bunch of other things in the movie that she picked up on.
Q: Do you agree the movie is a comedy-drama mixed bag?
a: the actors went to the dark places. and it helps that all of the actors have complicated pasts, too. and yes, I think the movie is engaging and sad and heartbreaking and joyful, just like life is. different people seem to get different things from it, and that’s like life.
Q: Is it true your mother didn’t want to show off her paintings in the movie?
a: I think she thought that people were going to make fun of her. then she called my sister and said, “Who is this naomi Watts?” and my sister said, “she’s very beautiful and very talented,” and all of the sudden my mom was on board.
Q: What is the message in the film?
a: My father (he died of a heart attack in 1994) was a damaged man, but the shock is he had so many good things. the demons got the best of him, but he gave us the tools to fight the demons. We broke the cycle.
Q: Do your fans often share dysfunctional family stories with you?
a: they do, but I consider it an incredible honour that people feel safe with me. I think so many of us have stories we think people won’t understand, but after writing the book people seem to trust me enough to open up. It’s one of the gifts of having told my story.
Author Jeannette Walls poses in this undated handout image. Walls is preparing for the reaction to her family’s messy past in the film version of her bestselling book The Glass Castle. The movie stars Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson.