I learned to stop worrying about my 401K and love to bomb Iraq
Home Page, Spring 2003
demonstration in Union Square, New York, March 16, 2003.
Photo by Pat Arnow 2003
down to meet some Iraqi citizens in photos by Terry J. Allen.
writers of the books that led to the movies Adaptation
and About Schmidt liked the results just fine.
Louis Begley and Susan
Orlean told some 200 people crowded into my favorite
Works Used Books Café (*scroll down for more about
the bookstore), that they didn't mind that the movies barely
had a nodding acquaintance with their work. The Adaptation
screenwriters Alexander Payne and Jim
Taylor showed up for the discussion, too, and novelist
Jonathan Lethem moderated.
Orlean assumed Hollywood would make changes because her nonfiction
book about orchid collectors, The Orchid Thief, had
no narrative arc. Her agent warned her about the Adaptation
script. “'It's a little different from the book.
There are a lot of people in it—for instance, you're
in it.'” The early screenplay Orlean read was even more
extreme than the movie turned out. “I'm a professional
journalist. It had me sleeping with a subject. It had me killing
a park ranger. Never in a million years was it anything I
Kaufman, who she didn't know but who has since become a friend,
didn't spare himself as a subject. “He's masturbating
throughout the movie.”
allowed her real name to be used. “It was important
that real people were in it for the conceit of it to work,”
she said. But Meryl Streep didn't base the Orlean character
on the real Orlean. The two didn't meet before the movie came
Photos by Pat Arnow © 2003
Begley: People ask when will they make the real
Susan Orlean: When they make The
Louis Begley: Could be Schmidt will get
together with Susan Orlean.
movie pleased Orlean. “The fact that it was not a literal
adaptation did not bother me. There are a lot of verbatim
passages. The book is a character. I have no regrets. I'm
not disappointed. I'd rather someone do something passionate
than to do something verbatim.”
she's amused that she has become a celebrity. “People
who have never read anything I've written now know me as a
remained calm and fatalistic,” says Louis Begley after
he saw the script for About Schmidt. Now set in Nebraska
rather than New York, it featured a middle-class insurance
man rather than a high-powered anti-Semitic attorney.
was also lulled by his “sort of starstruck feeling about
Jack Nicholson,” who had committed to playing the lead.
“The notion that Jack Nicholson would be in it was so
he saw the finished film. “I thought it was absolutely
marvelous. I was looking at something that was not my novel—that
took themes of my novel, and I was quite pleased.”
Begley only minded the loss of Schmidt's young lover, Carrie.
Scriptwriter Jim Taylor (below left) says,
“We didn't want to give Schmidt the satisfaction (of
a young lover).”
film school, director and writer Alexander Payne
(right) had written a screenplay about a retiree in crisis.
Years later, he read the New York Times book review
of Begley's book and wanted to read it. “I love books
about retirees in crisis.”
moderator of the authors' discusion, Jonathan Lethem,
sold the rights to his extraordinary novel Motherless Brooklyn
at the behest of actor Edward Norton. "It's subject to
his every whim. He's as good a match as could be. I thought
that was a bargain I could make." Lethem won't have any
control over the script, nor does he want it. "I won't
do more than try to get an occasional expensive lunch."
life has changed. They lavished money on promotion for Adaptation.
She remembers how they apologized profusely when she had to
ride business class rather than first class on a trip to the
coast. “It's nothing like publishing. You're visiting
Shangri La—and then you return to New York.”
It reminded her of another experience. “If you've ever
taken Ecstasy once—or in my case twice—everything
is delicious, every car you ride in is wonderful…Is
it depressing to go back to your normal life?”
Works Bookstore Café is one of the most
wonderful places in New York—great atmosphere, great books,
good cause—the bookstore donates all of their profits
Works, a nonprofit organization that provides housing, health
care, job training, advocacy, and many other services for homeless
New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS. The bookstore is at 126
Crosby St., a half-block South of Houston and a block east of
housing, health care, job training, advocacy, and many other
services for homeless New Yorkers living with HIV a
2003 in Iraq
some civilians. Photos by my friend Terry J. Allen from her
Terry J. Allen © 2003
from Miriam Bein
—How many Lives per Gallon?
—Don't blame me, I voted with the majority
—Who would Jesus bomb?
—The last time we listened to a Bush, we wandered in
the desert for 40 years
|To Previous Archived Home Page (02.03)
To Next Archived Home Page (06.03)
to Archive Index