Joyce Maynard Insisted On Her Own Technique
We sat down with author Joyce Maynard to find out why teaching Josh Brolin, who plays an escaped murderer, to bake a pie was so crucial to this movie's success. Her answer will inspire you.
Author Joyce Maynard is no virgin when it comes to Hollywood adapting her novels to film. Her book To Die For was turned into a hit movie starring Nicole Kidman and a young Joaquin Phoenix back in 1995, directed by Gus Van Sant.
We wanted to know what it's like to go from being completely in control of her artistic vision to being part of a collaborative process like filmmaking.
"Well," said Maynard, "I wasn't really even part of that collaborative process and that's OK. It's as it should be. I wrote the book and that was my moment to be in control. When a director takes over, it's his or her moment to create a separate vision. You have to let it go and I did. That said, I let it go into the hands of a really great director and that was true of To Die For as well."
Maynard describes Labor Day's lead character Adele, played soulfully by Kate Winslet, as "a person with some miles, some hard experiences and big losses behind her who still has hopes and dreams. This wasn't a role to be played by a 22-year-old ingenue, this was a real, grown-up love affair." Thank you for remembering the rest of us, Joyce.
Not only did Jason Reitman direct Labor Day, he also penned the screenplay. We asked Maynard what it was like to read it. "I made notes in couple of places, but basically, I recognize that it's a different form and it needs to be respected," she said, apparently at peace with the process.
So other than writing the book, what was Maynard's big contribution to the movie? "I taught Josh Brolin how to make a pie," she said gleefully, claiming the pie was very important to her. "That's my pie up on the screen that you saw."
It was paramount to Maynard that the pie look like one made by a convict on the run — which she claims happens to be exactly what her own pies look like.
"I didn't want it to be this perfect-looking thing. These people have not had perfect-looking lives. My pie is messy and so is life, but it tastes pretty good."
So how did Brolin show off his new skill as master baker? He made a pie every single day of the two-month shoot. That's a lot of pies!
We couldn't resist asking the author, who's known for having a romance with the famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger when she was just 18: If her life was a pie, what kind of pie would it be?
The chatty author laughed. "Well, it's not about the filling. And it's not about the recipe. You can't learn life from the recipe." So true.
There were some differences between the book and movie, she said, but they were mostly omissions.
"The character of Eleanor, the kind of devious 13-year-old girl who teaches this innocent and naive 13-year-old boy, Henry (Gattlin Griffith), about sex and incest and Bonnie and Clyde — she was a bigger character in the novel."
Another omission was Frank's grandmother, who doesn't exist in the movie. But Maynard claims the spirit of the novel remained very true in the film.
"Among other things, it's very much a book about coming of age. There are two people who are discovering sexuality at very different stages of life — Henry and Adele. It's part of what's uncomfortable for Henry. He's just coming into his own tender, vulnerable sexuality when his mother is having this passionate, romantic but also sexual relationship under the same roof as him," she said.
We asked Maynard if she's ever considered writing a screenplay, and she said, "Yes! It's a goal of mine. I'm only 60, so I need to keep trying new things."
Joyce, we can't wait to see your forthcoming screenplay up on the big screen!
Labor Day opens Jan. 31.
Photos courtesy Paramount Pictures