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John Irving's memoir begins with his account of the distinguished career and medical writings of the novelist's grandfather Dr. Frederick C. Irving, a renowned obstetrician and gynecologist, and includes Mr. Irving's incisive history of abortion politics in the United States. But My Movie Business focuses primarily on the thirteen years John Irving spent adapting his novel The Cider House Rules for the screen--for four different directors.
Mr. Irving also writes about the failed effort to make his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, into a movie; about two of the films that were made from his novels (but not from his screenplays), The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire; about his slow progress at shepherding his screenplay of A Son of the Circus into production.
Not least, and in addition to its qualities as a memoir--anecdotal, comic, affectionate, and candid--My Movie Business is an insightful essay on the essential differences between writing a novel and writing a screenplay.
The photographs in My Movie Business were taken by Stephen Vaughan, the still photographer on the set of The Cider House Rules--a Miramax production directed by Lasse Hallström, with Michael Caine in the role of Dr. Larch. Concurrently with the November 1999 release of the film, Talk Miramax Books will publish John Irving's screenplay.
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John Irving's novels pose tantalizing challenges to filmmakers: at his best, Irving has proven both popular and ambitious, crafting rich, picaresque fiction that juggles Big Themes and antic comedy, braiding his central narratives with intriguing subplots and discursive back stories driven by vivid characters. Irving's accessibility teases the would-be director or producer with the prospect of commercial acceptance even as the scope and intricacy of his work raises crucial risks for the scriptwriter. With two early novels that made it to the screen, The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire, Irving's box office impact thus far evenly translates to hit and miss.
This slender memoir offers a perceptive, if hardly objective, critique of the inherent differences between novels and screenplays, with the writer sharing his own experiences creating both. Irving focuses principally on his crusade to bring The Cider House Rules to the screen, tracing its gestation through four successive directors; with Irving himself attached as scriptwriter, we see the novelist struggling to reconcile the demands of concision against his paternal instincts toward the original book. Written before the final cut of The Cider House Rules, My Movie Business often verges on self-justification. Irving's respect for the movie's ultimate caretaker, Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom, is evident, as is his hopeful enthusiasm for the project's casting (which includes Michael Caine, Tobey McGuire, Jane Alexander, and Charlize Theron). Yet Irving can't repress the wariness prompted by his earlier disappointments with both this and other novels.
Ultimately, such candor doesn't diminish the account's value as a post mortem of the creative process behind serious filmmaking, nor does it overpower the reliable grace of Irving's prose. Fans will also find My Movie Business revealing in its exploration of the inspiration behind The Cider House Rules and its eloquent stance against the antiabortion movement--Irving's own grandfather, a leading doctor, administrator, and Harvard professor of obstetrics and gynecology. But moviegoers, as well as those who haven't read Irving's original novel, should be forewarned that this memoir does reveal key plot elements of both. --Sam SutherlandFrom the Back Cover:
After two producers, four directors, thirteen years, and uncounted rewrites, the movie version of John Irving's acclaimed novel The Cider House Rules at last made it to the big screen, winning two Academy Awards (including one to John Irving for Best Adapted Screenplay). Here is the author's account of the novel-to-film process. Anecdotal, affectionate, and delightfully candid, My Movie Business dazzles with Irving's incomparable wit and style.
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