A Letter From Ms. Elinor Lipman

Mister D: Believe me when I say, Ms. Lipman LOVED Bette’s performance!

Elinor Lipman
I seem to be in the minority of authors who love their adaptations
5:15 PM PDT, May 7, 2008

Some worried readers of my novel, Then She Found Me, have written me in advance of the film’s release, nervous and sometimes high-handed over Hollywood’s apparent departure from my book. Below is the answer I keep handy to convey as politely as possible, Honey, if I don’t mind the changes, why should you?

Dear Worrywarts,

With respect to your fears that the movie version of Then She Found Me is unfaithful to my novel, I hope you will find the following reassuring:

1. I love the movie. Adore it. Have seen it five times. It’s smart, wry, and very touching. The book is the book and the movie is its own entity. This I internalized early on when a wise friend told me, “Think of it as a movie based on characters suggested by the novel.” I do.

2. This project has taken 19 years from option to the big screen. I never thought I’d see this day, let alone experience the thrill of rattling off this cast: Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Colin Firth and Matthew Broderick. And please appreciate the author-booster factor: Audience members reported to me that when Hunt, who directed the movie, introduced it at the Miami Film Festival (I wasn’t there, so this was not pandering ) she said she was inspired by my novel and hoped people would discover my work, and so forth in book-loving fashion. What actor does that?

3. She, Alice Arlen and Vic Levin tried more faithful adaptations of the book. No takers.

4. I would mind the changes if I thought the team were dumbing down or commercializing the story. Au contraire. Helen Hunt devoted 10 years of her life to getting this film made. She has said, in terms of that long road to green-lighting, “It was every version of no I’ve ever imagined.”

The first time she wrote me, she said this:

“All I’ve hoped for is that you feel April and Bernice [the book’s main characters] are alive and well, and that the theme and heart of the novel is there, through all of the changes I ended up making. I love Dwight [character who didn’t make it into the final draft]. I imagine him sitting patiently for his turn to come to the screen. After years, I finally realized I had to find a magic sentence, a north star/theme for the movie that I felt deeply about and write toward that. Once I did, it became clear and I was able to start the work of putting aside a character that I LOVE, and trying to find the ones that help tell the story as I was beginning to imagine it on the screen.”

As James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce) said, when someone asked him, “How do you feel about what Hollywood did to your novels?” He pointed to his bookshelf and said, “Hollywood didn’t do anything to my novels. They’re all right here.”

I appreciate your loyalty to my characters, but now I hope you will put my sentences aside to see how a true book lover brought my characters back to life.


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