Clint Eastwood; Meryl Streep; Annie Corley; Victor Slezak; Jim Haynie;
Sarah Kathryn Schmitt; Christopher Kroon; Phyllis Lyons; Debra Monk.
Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg were the ones who had optioned the book. They actually had a couple of screenplays done before I even came on the scene, and they had put it together here at Warner Bros. When the head of Warner Bros. called me and asked if I'd like to do it, I really wasn't familiar with the project, but I knew the book was a big hit. It turned out that producer Lili Zanuck had given me the book about a week before that because she saw me in it. I had just finished reading it when they called. So I said I was interested, but it needs this and it needs that. Then they gave me the screenplays to read—three or four of them, as I recall. They were all off in different directions, with some of them changing the story line completely.
Spielberg and I rewrote it. He was back East in the Hamptons for the summer, and I was up in northern California in Mount Shasta, so we wrote it and sent it back and forth by fax machine. I'd fax them to him, and he would make some changes and dictate some pages of other scenes and send them back. We did this for about a week, and finally we put the screenplay together. Then Richard LaGravenese, who had done the script that we had been working from, asked if he could take one more pass through it. He did, and that's how it wound up.
I never felt there was a problem in trying to match the film up to the book, because I didn't really want to match up to the book. I thought the book was interesting—it was a very good story, and the guy had written a very successful book. There was nobody dying in it of any terminal illness or any of the usual soap-opera things. And I liked the way the romance came about. But the way the book was constructed was from the man's point of view. I thought it was more or less the woman's story, and we sort approached it that way. It was a question of just trimming stuff down from the book that I thought was somewhat hammy and might not translate to the screen very well.
We just let her tell her story as opposed to the book, which starts out in Washington. Then you travel with him in a pickup truck across the country, with cases of beer in the back and all that sort of thing. He finally comes across this farm and the farmers wife. That didn't seem like it would work for a movie, you know. We wanted to just keep it simple with her story.
There were a couple of other people associated with the film before me. They were looking for a European actress. But I thought that Meryl Streep was at the right stage in life to be playing that role. I thought that she might like it when she saw the screenplay, so I called her up. I had met her socially a few times, but didn't know her very well. I got her phone number from a friend of mine, and I called her up and told her I wasn't too nuts about the book. I asked her to read the screenplay and see what she thought. She called me back the next day and said she thought the screenplay was superior and would like to do it. So, we shook hands over the phone, and I told her she'd be hearing from me.
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