Nick Hornby’s comments about female characters and archetypes are refreshing
When interviewing Oscar-nominated writer Nick Hornby, so many questions come to mind, but the most important is: Do actors always end up sleeping together, or is that just a myth?
Nick said, "Of course it's true. I think it's very hard for them not to."
Nick's newly released novel, Funny Girl, delves into the world of British television circa the 1960s, and follows Sophie Straw as she goes from country bumpkin to TV goddess. Sophie dreams of becoming the European version of Lucille Ball. She's funny, beautiful and brilliant, but life as a celebrity isn't as easy as she expected as she deals with rabid fans who can't seem to understand that her character's life is not her own.
As the author of several bestsellers turned to film (High Fidelity, About a Boy, Oscar-nominated screenplay An Education and 2014 adapted screenplay Wild), Nick is no stranger to being a celebrity and working with celebrities. His two favorites? Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon — but he hopes to someday work with Emma Stone.
Nick has met his share of famous folk, including his literary icon Anne Tyler, who he said was "magical" to meet. This isn't always so, as proven in Funny Girl when Sophie meets her favorite celeb, Lucy herself.
Nick said, "I think we don't actually have a fantasy about meeting somebody; we have a fantasy that that person will become our friend. All it will take is a handshake, and you'll end up going on holiday together."
Nick understands that seeking fame and fortune requires a deep drive. In Sophie's case, she hopes to impress her mother. Who's Nick trying to impress? "There's some 'f*** you' in there. Whoever it is, they must have really pissed me off, because I keep going. It might be something to do with school. I think I'm trying to impress a teacher who wasn't very impressed with me at the age of 11. He's probably been dead for 20 years, and I'm still waiting to hear from him."
That said, Nick admitted, "If I ever got all the validation, all the steam might go out of me."
Funny Girl is written primarily from the perspective of Sophie, but this isn't the first time Nick has taken on a woman's point of view. Is that a challenge? He said it isn't about gender; it's about motivation. "If I'd written American Sniper, I would have found that to be very, very hard. I don't understand those guys, and being a guy doesn't help you understand. I’m not sure that gender is the most significant part of it."
That said, he certainly does have a pet peeve about fictional female characters. It ticks him off "when the woman isn't a woman at all but a function of the plot. Basically the woman has no character. She's constantly appalled by the guy, but she's still talking about guys all the time. There's just nothing there."
Despite my coaxing, he declined to say which book or film he referred to specifically.
Funny Girl is a book that spans a lifetime, from Sophie's first arrival on the celebrity scene to eventual old age and the realization that her career is over. The ending is somewhat melancholy, but Nick made it clear: career is only a small part of a person's life.
He said, "We've got two sides to our life, really: our work and our private life. It's very hard to be happy with one and without the other. This book is about both sides of Sophie's life. In the end, being happy with who we’re with probably makes us the happiest."