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'What Maisie Knew' Writer Waited 18 Years to Make Film Adaptation of Henry James

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 1, 2013 at 4:24PM

Film has the power to take you inside someone's head. And that's what under-appreciated aces Scott McGehee and David Siegel do with well-reviewed "What Maisie Knew," which opens Friday. They show what a sweet smart young girl feels (sharp-as-tack Onata Aprile) as she watches her selfish, narcissistic parents, a rock star (Julianne Moore) and an art dealer (Steve Coogan), break up.
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"It's time to accept what the function of movies is at this point," he says. "I never thought we would be seeing this. We get these shakeups, so I guess it's time to assess what we're doing. It's a challenge. When I came to Hollywood in the 80s it was still a factory. When I first came here I loved Paramount Studios, I was so excited to work there. Every actor had development deals, scripts were pounded out left and right. Just the other day I stopped outside of Paramount and was looking at the posters on the walls. Now it's a completely different world. There's nothing there for me anymore."

"You could rethink your career," he says. "You could try to do television. Or you can try to do your goddamm best work for the next 20 years and hope some producer is insane enough to want to realize a piece of poetry written from your heart. I'm being asked to go speak at colleges. I'm afraid to do it, I don't want to be discouraging or give these kids false expectations. Everyone is a little panicky. I do believe the minimization of talent will work itself out in new ways. Who knows what they will be? Story and the ability to invent character and drama and poetry and imagery, that's not going anywhere. Maybe in a different form, whether it's 3-D holograms: if you can create characters that people can relate to there will be, I assume, a market for that."

Next up:

Cartright is developing another film, "Jane, Jane Tall as a Crane," with Mr. Mud, the producers of "Juno." It's another project for children written from the point-of-view of a girl who loses her hand-clapping partner and is set up with a boy instead. It's based on poems that get handed down in school yards, which Cartright started writing down, natch. "It's the interior monologue of a first grade girl pondering life, death, good, evil," he says. "How can she eat animals when she loves her poodle so much?"

This time he's directing the movie in L.A.

This article is related to: What Maisie Knew, Scott McGehee, David Siegel, Julianne Moore


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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.