Before writing the screenplay for “Wild,” based on Cheryl Strayed‘s memoir about hiking the Pacific coast, Nick Hornby earned an Oscar nomination for his script for “An Education,” also based on a memoir, so he’s no stranger to adapting other works for the screen. But as the author of popular novels-turned-films like “About a Boy” and “High Fidelity,” he’s had just as much experience being adapted by other writers. When it comes to having your book turned into a major motion picture, as he explained in our recent video chat (watch it below), “In my experience, you just have to let go.”
He added, “Movies are ungovernable … All you can do is make a gut decision about the people who are going to be involved at the outset and hope that they look after your book.” However, when all is said and done, “It doesn’t really matter. If the movie turns out well, then it’s great for the book, but if a movie turns out badly, it disappears in a weekend and the book stays in the bookstore anyway, so I think writers can be too precious about the process of being adapted.”
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Hornby relishes the collaborative nature of screenwriting and “the feeling of a film becoming its own thing from the screenplay, that everybody adds their detail and layer on top of that until you get something else entirely,” though the logistical and financial challenges involved with getting a film from script to screen can be daunting: “It always feels like a long shot getting a movie made.”
“Wild” was a job Hornby personally pursued after reading Strayed’s memoir: “I bought [the book], devoured it, and as I was reading it, I was thinking, ‘Man, this would make a good movie.’ And so when I finished I tracked down the people who owned it … and I badgered them into giving me a shot.”
But after he landed the gig, the production was surprisingly smooth. “I’d never been involved in a movie that moved as fast as this one,” Hornby said. “13 months from no script to end of shoot is pretty quick.” The “intense” writing process included hours-long Skype sessions with director Jean-Marc Vallee, who was in Canada while Hornby was in England.
Will his hard work pay off with a second Oscar nomination? Watch our complete interview below, then use our drag-and-drop menu to predict Best Adapted Screenplay.