Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Charles Aidikoff Screening Room Shutters: End of an Era for LA Critics? Charles Aidikoff Screening Room Shutters: End of an Era for LA Critics? How HBO's 'Ballers' Fails Sports Fans How HBO's 'Ballers' Fails Sports Fans Michael Moore Reveals Stealth NSA Project 'Where to Invade Next' on Periscope Michael Moore Reveals Stealth NSA Project 'Where to Invade Next' on Periscope Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Top 10 Takeaways: Holdover 'Ant-Man' Tops Blah Week, Summer Slot for 'Southpaw' Pays Off Top 10 Takeaways: Holdover 'Ant-Man' Tops Blah Week, Summer Slot for 'Southpaw' Pays Off Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh Talk The Lovely Bones

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 14, 2009 at 11:06AM

The Lovely Bones presented a fascinating challenge for a movie adaptation of a book. But finally, the realities of commercial filmmaking may have been unmanageable in this case---much as they were with John Hillcoat's film version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. What works on the page and in our imagination, no matter how harsh, can be too much to handle on the screen.
0
Thompson on Hollywood

The Lovely Bones presented a fascinating challenge for a movie adaptation of a book. But finally, the realities of commercial filmmaking may have been unmanageable in this case---much as they were with John Hillcoat's film version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. What works on the page and in our imagination, no matter how harsh, can be too much to handle on the screen.

Peter Jackson and his producing, writing and life partner Fran Walsh talk about the narrative difficulties of adapting Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones into a film. I interviewed him by flip cam (on the jump) and her by phone. "No other medium can enter the imagination of a character like film," says Walsh, "but few films do that. The last thing I want to see at the movies is a version of my reality. I don't want to see art imitating life."

Clearly, going in, Jackson, Walsh and Philippa Boyens were trying to make the best movie they could from material they loved. Boyens first read the book, passed it to Walsh, who passed it to her husband, who wanted to make it. They eventually grabbed the film rights in 2006 after the BBC let them go (Lynn Ramsay was developing that film). Jackson wanted to develop the project as an independent without interference. They sold the finished script to DreamWorks.

Thompson on Hollywood

The three writers worked together in a room for about a year. "We had a vigorous argument among the three of us about what story to tell," says Walsh, "what was important, what we wanted to communicate, are you telling it in the best way possible? These questions don't get answered straight away. In many ways, it's been an ephemeral process of storytelling about an intangible subject. It could have been made in 100 different ways."

They could have chosen to keep the story on earth, for one thing, with Susie's voice as narrator. They tried many things that worked on paper but not on film. The Writer's Strike limited their options when it hit in the middle of filming. Some things were cut. Some things needed more time to play out. "We couldn't make a three-hour movie," says Walsh--after three long movies and King Kong, long was not an option.

Over time, the story became more and more about Susie (Saoirse Ronan) and her point-of-view, from her killer (Stanley Tucci) to the surreal dream landscape of "the in-between," which meant trimming sections with her parents and family. The filmmakers shot the relationship with Susie's mom (Rachel Weisz) and the local policeman (Michael Imperioli), but backed off when the affair seemed to be the reason for her leaving her husband (Mark Wahlberg) and her home. The book could explain things more clearly. "She left because of grief and despair," says Walsh. "It was very frustrating." There was barely time to register sister Lindsay's story, much less Mrs. Singh, the mother of Susie's love interest. "It was Susie's story. We had to spend time with her."

Commercial considerations were in there too, for a $70-million movie: "The higher the budget, the more encumbant you are to earn that money back," says Walsh, who says that in the end, the movie is a PG-13 story aimed at young girls, who also embraced the book. "It's not for 50-year-old men. It's no wonder they've taken the attitude they have. You try to do something that isn't completely derivative and they clobber you. What do you do?"

All along, Walsh and Jackson were also juggling other projects, such as District 9, which they produced. Jackson also collaborated with Steven Spielberg on Tin Tin and with Guillermo del Toro on The Hobbit.

In that case Del Toro joined the usual troica of writers in a room and slugged it out on two scripts. "He brings a tremendous earthy sense of humor," says Walsh. "The biggest issue is always length." She was surprised at how joyful she was to return to Middle Earth after being relieved to leave it at the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Casting began on The Hobbit in Wellywood this week.

Walsh looks forward to getting back into writing mode on the second Tin Tin, which Jackson will co-write and direct. Dambusters is on the horizon, too, a World War II "Brits Fight Back" actioner about 7th Squadron dam raids over Germany.


Here's Jackson, part one:


Find more videos like this on AnneCam

"You have to map it all out in the screenplay," says Jackson about the subconscious dream state, "the in-between."


Find more videos like this on AnneCam

Jackson talks about why he and partner Fran Walsh wanted to make a PG-13 movie that their teenage daughter could see. They show no rape. No murder. No dismembered body parts.


Find more videos like this on AnneCam

This article is related to: Directors, Genres, Stuck In Love, Video, Peter Jackson, Drama, Screenwriters


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.