Monday, June 10, 2013

Tiger Eyes, the movie

Judy Blume tells behind-the-scenes stories of making 'Tiger Eyes' into a movie

Judy Blume has been a best-selling author since the 1970s, but it wasn't until 2013 that a movie based on one of her novels was finally released. "Tiger Eyes," the movie based on Blume's 1981 book of the same title, tells a poignant coming-of-age story of high schooler Davey Wexler (played by Willa Holland), a sensitive teenager who is grieving over the sudden death of her father. Davey and her mother, Gwen Wexler (played by Amy Jo Johnson), and Davey's younger brother, Jason (played by Lucien Dale), move from New Jersey to New Mexico to start a new life.
Amy, what was your favorite part of filming “Tiger Eyes”?
Johnson: First of all, working with Judy Blume. Lawrence was amazing. It was awesome. This was my first time seeing [“Tiger Eyes”]. And also, I loved New Mexico, and I loved Santa Fe. It was such a treat to be there. It was a magical place.
Judy Blume: I have to tell a story. Amy Jo got to the set … and had never met any of us and had never met Willa, who played Davey. And there at the top of the mountain mesa canyon, way up high, 50-mile-an-hour winds blowing, the light is dying, it’s freezing and cold, and the rest of us are huddled around heaters. And they [Amy Jo Johnson and Willa Holland] had to play the last scene that you just saw them in, mother and daughter, coming together on a beautiful spring day, never having met.
Johnson: In, like, 15 minutes.
Judy Blume: Before the light was gone. Not only that, but that was the one day on the set when the money people were there. It was like, “Oh my God, if we don’t get this scene, we’re dead.” We only had three days to shoot all the scenes that happen in the canyon. And it was tough.
Considering all the books that you’ve written, why did you choose “Tiger Eyes” when you got a chance to make one of your books into a movie?
Judy Blume: There was never any question. Larry and I had talked for years about making “Tiger Eyes.” I think it’s the most cinematic of all of my books. I think the beautiful landscape of New Mexico was an important character in the story.
We lived there. I lived there when I wrote the book. I didn’t know until I saw it finished how much feelings came from the loss of my own father and learning that what he would want most foe me is to go on and to enjoy life to the fullest.
Lawrence Blume: Well, I had read the book when Judy had finished it. I was 18 and going off to college … And it sort of knocked my socks off. I didn’t really know this at the time, but I was just very moved by it. It felt like a reflection of my own life because we were living in New Jersey, and then abruptly went to live in Los Alamos, N.M.
So the story of losing your place, your friends, everything, and going a new place and having to start again, I guess it resonated with me. And I thought, “Oh, I’m going to catch it as a movie someday.” And 30 years later, here we are,
What was it like to adapt the “Tiger Eyes” book into a screenplay?
Judy Blume: When we were talking about doing it, Larry said, “I want it to be as intimate as a first-person book, as one of your first-person books.” I write all these inner monologues because that’s what I like to write. And how do you do that in a movie? And we are very thankful that we have Willa Holland and that expressive face to help tell the story and save pages and pages of inner monologue.
I still heard the gasps when Walter slapped Davey. I’ve probably seen the movie a hundred or 50 times … And let me not leave out my fabulous husband, George Cooper, who came in and saved us and became an executive producer, when we were all out in the canyons and people were yelling and screaming in the office, George did it in his quiet way, and he’s problem solver and solved the problems — we did it together.
Lawrence Blume: I try and think a little bit structurally. I tried to pull scenes and pages out of the book. Primarily, my objective was to be as faithful to the book as possible, because I was living in terror that all of Judy’s fans who love the book would say horrible, horrible things and hate me forever. So we tried to be as faithful as possible to try and turn a book into a movie. It’s obviously not the same medium. We tried to everything we could use from the book, every piece of dialogue, every scene. Some of the scenes are verbatim right out of the book.
Judy Blume: Which you know.
Lawrence Blume: And some things we had to invent or bridge. It was just a process of trying to be as faithful as possible.
Judy Blume: To the spirit. Not faithful to every page of the book, but to the spirit of the book and the emotionality of the characters. And let me tell you something: If I were writing this book today, there’s no way in the world I would get rid of Wolf three-quarters of the way into the book. I don’t know what I was thinking, because when I see it now, Wolf, their connection makes the story. Of course, [Davey] kept writing letters to him [in the book], but that’s not visual. So we knew from the start.
And when Larry says a little bit of structure, he’s a lot of structure. He knows structure and I don’t. And I write — well, I don’t know how I write — on instinct. Whatever happens happens. And you can’t do that as much in the movie with a lot of people and relationships and dialogue. And so we worked well together. We don’t work as mother and son. We work as Judy and Larry.
Amy Jo, how do you create a level of mother/daughter intimacy with someone you’ve just literally met?
Johnson: I don’t know. Maybe it’s from doing years and years of television, which is just so fast-paced. Watching [“Tiger Eyes”], I’m really happy … Maybe it worked because it happened so fast. I don’t know. It worked though.
Lawrence Blume: This is a little technical, so I won’t waste a lot of time on it, but that scene, I had this idea to use a crane so we could kind of come down and see the landscape, but then we couldn’t afford a crane. This was a really low-budget movie. So we built a ramp and got a Steadicam, which is a rig that the cameraman holds, and we would walk at the top of the ramp and would walk down as they did their scene. I had to do the whole thing in one take because the sun was going down.
And we only had light for two takes. And you wouldn’t think that in any movies like this that there are any effects shots, but there are actually 20 effects shots in this movie. And that one, we used computer technology to stabilize it. It was a mess ... because of the wind. And for digital technology to turn that into a smooth, beautiful shot, and let the actors shine was kind of incredible.
For more info: "Tiger Eyes" movie

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