Tuesday, November 24, 2015

J.D. Salinger documentary coming in September

Long in the works, an extensively researched documentary feature about the famously reclusive author of "The Catcher in the Rye" has been acquired by the Weinstein Company. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Wolfe, E.L. Doctorow, Gore Vidal are among the talking heads.

J.D. Salinger documentary coming in September

A new J.D. Salinger documentary is coming out this fall.
A new J.D. Salinger documentary is coming out this fall.

People always think something's all true. “ – Holden Caulfied, The Catcher in the Rye

Filmmaker Shane Salerno has been working on a documentary about the famously reclusive, infinitely influential J.D. Salinger since at least 2008. He has interviewed more than 150 people who worked with, or knew, or felt a spiritual kinship with the author – from his days contributing short stories to the New Yorker way back when, from the days of The Catcher in the Rye (1951) and Franny and Zooey (1961) and his last published novella, Hapworth 16, 1924 (1965). Long ago, Salinger retreated to Cornish, New Hampshire, where he guarded his privacy with diligence, and where he died, of natural causes, in January, 2010. He was 91. The Catcher in the Rye has sold more than 65 million copies since it was first published.

This week The Weinstein Company announced that they had acquired Salerno’s doc, Salinger, and will release it in September. The press release promises interviews with “Salinger's friends, colleagues and members of his inner circle who have never spoken on the record before, as well as film footage, photographs and other material that has never been seen.  Additionally, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Danny DeVito, John Guare, Martin Sheen, David Milch, Robert Towne, Tom Wolfe, E.L. Doctorow, Gore Vidal and Pulitzer Prize winners A. Scott Berg and Elizabeth Frank talk about Salinger's influence on their lives, their work and the broader culture. The film is the first work to get beyond the Catcher in the Rye author’s meticulously built up wall:  his childhood, painstaking work methods, marriages, private world and the secrets he left behind after his death….”

According to Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming, who saw a rough cut of the documentary three years ago, Salinger, among other things, uncovers details of his WWII experiences in Normandy;  his love affair with Eugene O’Neill’s daughter, Oona, who went on to marry Charlie Chaplin, and Salinger's determination not to sell off the film rights to his books -- even when the people waving the checks included Steven Spielberg and Billy Wilder.

Fleming reported that Salerno’s documentary also reveals what jottings might be found in Salinger’s legendary secret vault, said to contain 45 years of unpublished writings.

Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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