How J.D. Salinger’s biopic is connected to New Jersey
"Imagine the book that you would want to read and then go write it." That's the advice J.D. Salinger received that would motivate him to write "Catcher In The Rye." It's the book that most of us had to read in high school, to me it's the book that John Lennon's assassin was reading when arrested, and now his story hits the big screen this weekend.
"Rebel in the Rye" is the story of J.D. Salinger who wrote "Catcher In The Rye" about his alter ego Holden Caulfield. The movie stars Nicholas Hoult as Salinger, Zoey Deutch as Oona O'Neil, and Jersey's own Kevin Spacey as Whit Brunett who not only teaches Salinger but drives him to write the book.
I spoke with producer Jason Shuman about how the film came to be and the Jersey connections in it. For starters, Salinger trained at Ft Monmouth.
It all started with a quaint, old-fashioned neighborhood bookstore, four years ago. Danny (writer-director Danny Strong) was walking down 3rd Ave in New York City when he saw a copy of J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski in the glass window. We all had loved The Catcher in the Rye in high school and over the years had read various other stories by Salinger, but knew very little about the author and were surprised (naïvely) that there was enough public information about him to fill a biography. He had been such an enigmatic figure, famous for being a ‘recluse,’ that Danny had always assumed the details of his life were shrouded in mystery.
We were stunned by his journey. There were so many fascinating anecdotes; his desire to be a writer and his quest for literary success, his relationship with Oona O’Neill, the creation of his alter ego Holden Caulfield, his journey to seclusion in Cornish, New Hampshire, but what surprised us the most was his horrific experiences in World War II. Salinger was involved in some of the darkest, most violent chapters of that most violent war. After learning that one of the seminal masterpieces of the 20th century had come from the mind of someone who lived through the worst experiences in human history, Danny urgently felt his story needed to be told to a mass audience and knew he wanted to be the one to tell it.
What made you want to produce it?
For me as the producer, what moved me the most about his journey was the theme of art being created from trauma. I truly believe his story could be inspiring to countless people; writers thinking they could never succeed or any artist—actor, dancer, painter, musician—facing the daunting self-doubt of deciding to commit one’s life to their art. Beyond the world of artists, I also feel Salinger’s journey could be deeply beneficial to anyone who has suffered trauma, whether in war, abuse, violence, or something as simple as a bad accident. The lessons Salinger had to learn to overcome his trauma could help millions of people suffering from the devastating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
This is a story of a writer, an artist, a veteran and a survivor. J.D. Salinger certainly wasn’t a perfect person (making him all the more fascinating subject matter for a film), but after surviving unspeakable horror, he would end up channeling his trauma into works of art that would move millions and millions of people for decades to come. It’s a story I find fascinating, inspiring, funny, sad and powerful. His tale is a unique American journey."\
"Rebel in the Rye" hits theaters this weekend.
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