There’s something about Dennis Lehane’s books that seems to attract filmmakers, like bees to pulpy, Boston-based honey. And not just any filmmakers, but huge names like Eastwood, Scorsese, and, um, Affleck. With the release of the Shutter Island DVD and Blu-Ray we spoke with the author about adaptations, working with Marty, and why his novels are just so filmable.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve had a few films made out of your books by now. Do you tend to feel protective of the material, or are you comfortable letting the directors do what they want?
DENNIS LEHANE: I wouldn’t be fine with having them just do whatever they want, but I take extreme precaution to get involved only with people I respect in this business, on an artistic level. I’ve worked with people who, they get the material; they want to take a similar journey. We’ve had some minor differences in interpretation of a character here or there, but never anything major. We’re not talking about the Demi Moore The Scarlet Letter, which is the nadir of what could happen. I haven’t had anything even close to that. If they get the spirit of the material, I don’t care what they do for the most part with the tiny details. It doesn’t stress me out at all. Larry Fishburne in Mystic River was playing a guy who was written very much as a white character. The moment Clint said to me that he had Laurence Fishburne, I was like, “Yay!” It didn’t even give me pause. That to me is minor, it doesn’t matter. The major stuff is changing the ending, stuff like that. And that’s never happened to me.
How important is it for you for a filmmaker to match the mood or tone of your book?
The mood of Shutter Island, I think Marty did the cinematic equivalent of what I was doing with the book. There was a tongue-in-cheek quality to it, there was a sense of we’re never presenting you with real life. We’re presenting you with a love of a certain type of genre. I did it as books, in terms of Gothic fiction, while Marty was riffing on 1940’s Val Lewton movies. We were definitely showing very quickly in both book and movie that you were not entering a real world. In Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck changed the ages of the characters. They were older in the book. He wanted them to be the age they were in the first book of that series, which changes it a bit. But that’s totally cool with me. Fine, that’s your interpretation, as long as the spirit is maintain. Then in Mystic River there was a major thematic subtext about gentrification that had to get thrown out, and Clint told me about that right off the bat and that was fine. And that way the book remains the book and the movie is its own entity. Hopefully people will see the movie and might go, “Oh, I’ll go check out the book,” and when they check out the book, they get to go a little deeper. READ FULL STORY