From mess to movie

Best­selling au­to­bi­og­ra­phy fi­nally hits the big screen

North Bay Nugget - - ENTERTAINMENT - BoB Thomp­son The Glass Cas­tle, bthomp­son@post­media.com

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.

THe CaNa­diaN Press HaNd­out

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.

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