Finding the Silver Linings – Part 1
By Lisa Minzey of The Reel Critic.com
Phoenix - When a High School English teacher decides to peruse his dream of becoming a novelist, never in his wildest dreams did he anticipate that he would be touring the country doing publicity for a Holiday release film for his first novel, “Silver Linings Playbook” starring A-List celebrities Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Nor did he expect to have a brilliant name such as David O. Russell behind the camera bringing his pages to life. A great story behind the story itself, Matthew Quick is a name you want to keep on your radar and your bookshelf stocked with his novels as he is not only a brilliant storyteller and writer, he’s an all-around great guy to back it up with.
PFF: Tell me about what your journey was like bringing “Silver Linings” into novel form.
MQ: When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to write. I thought to myself, “What is the easiest job I could have?” I looked at my English teacher and thought, “Wow. Summers off. Home by 3 pm everyday. Great.” In my naivety, I thought I’ll be an English teacher; I’ll have a ton of time to write. In college, I was a Secondary Education English Major and I fell in love with teaching – I didn’t expect that. I became very passionate about working with troubled teenagers and so when I woke up one day and I was suddenly in my 30’s, not writing anymore, I had this total panic attack. I was known in town as a very passionate teacher, a kind of go-to teacher for kids that were in trouble. I was doing important work but the best part of me was dying.
My wife and I decided, along with her encouragement; to quit our jobs, sell our house to make this huge transition. We traveled around to Peru, South Africa and hiked the Grand Canyon, finally ending up moving with my in-laws, which was a really difficult decision for me because I did not have the full support if my family and friends behind me. I come from a family of bankers; my friends I grew up with came from a blue collar neighborhood and now had great jobs, living lifestyles their parents never could afford. So when my friends were buying bigger houses, having kids, getting nicer cars and I’m in a basement writing a novel, people really didn’t understand. It was a very lonely time for me.
David (O. Russell – Director) talks about re-introducing Bradley Cooper; that you think you know Bradley, but here’s a new version of Bradley Cooper, and that’s why he cast him as Pat. The story of Pat is that he comes home from a mental institution; you think that you know the old me, but I’m gong to reinvent myself and everyone thinks he’s delusional. In the book he’s the same way. Pat comes home and says “I’m going to do these things, get my wife back and even though on some levels, he is delusional, he’s trying really hard to be a better version of himself.
I has spent all this time teaching high school English, telling kids “You should pursue the arts; it’s OK to be an artist”, I started to feel like such a hypocrite because I wasn’t following my bliss. When I left [teaching], I remember my principal, Dr. Joe Ruzico said, “you’ve been telling these kids to follow their dreams and now you’re doing it”. When he said that, it really hit me in the face because not only was it a great compliment, but I felt really responsible. What if I told all these kids “You can do it and I go out and fail?”.
It was a very difficult time, those 3 years of writing and when I started “Silver Linings”, I knew I really had something. That became scary as well because you think you want something, then when it really starts becoming real, movie deals come in, people are giving you money; that was a transition period that took a while for me to go from “guy in the basement” who everyone thinks is delusional, to guy that Hollywood people are giving money to. When you’re creating a movie, it really took me a while to wrap my mind around the whole process.
PFF: When you were going into the movie deal, did you work directly with the screenwriter or did they say “Hey we love the book, we’re going to adapt it and we want you to write it?”
MQ: I received a call from my agent at CAA. I was hosting a party in Vermont when I got a phone call. When you’re a fiction writer and you see a number pop up on your screen whose area code you don’t recognize, you get really excited because it’s either New York or L.A. Low and behold, it was L.A. and the guy says “Hi, I’m Rich Green, I’m your film agent at CAA.” I was like “I have a film agent?”. I didn’t even know I had a film agent, but my lit agent has a partnership with him. They started throwing out all these names at me like Anthony Minghella (The English Patient), Sydney Pollock (Tootsie), the Weinsteins, and David O. Russell. At first I thought, “Are these my buddies playing a trick on me?” Of course, it was real and the first question I asked was “Can I write the screenplay?” There was a long pause. Then, “I think David O. Russell will write the screenplay. (Laughs). I’m a huge fan of David’s work, and he’s a story telling hero of mine, so that was a silver lining moment in and of itself.
I’ve heard people say, some talk bad about the whole experience and it can be attributed to Ernest Hemmingway, but I’m not sure, “Doing a deal with Hollywood for a novelist is like doing a drug deal.” You go to a wall, throw your manuscript and they throw back a bag of money and you run away as fast as you can. That has not been my experience at all. The Weinstein Company has been very good to me, sending me out on publicity, being able to talk about the story. I wasn’t involved with the screenplay or casting; they didn’t bring me in until they started filming, out of a courtesy. Since then, I have developed a relationship with David. He called me before seeing the film in New York – it was very important to him that I like the film. In the press that I’ve done with David, in retrospect, I can see that it was a huge task for him to take something so personal to someone else. This is his first adaptation, making it into his film and that was something that he had to do; I understand why I wasn’t around in the beginning. He had t take something so authentically me and make it so authentically him; the fact that he was able to do that so when my family saw the finished print, they didn’t feel it was a betrayal at all, which is a hard feat to pull off.