November 29, 2021 - By Roua Alkhalaf
Marco and Erica recently met American Novelist and Memoirist Joanna Rakoff whose life memoir My Salinger Year was made into a major film starring Sigourney Weaver and Margaret Qualley.
As the hosts, founders and producers of Britalians TV, Marco and Erica will be attracted to the story of American novelist and memoirist Joanna Rakoff. Why? Haven’t you seen the movie My Salinger Year? Where do you think this remarkable story was inspired by? Do you know the challenges faced by this film and its producers to be shown in this way? How did Joanna move from being a writer of her life memoir into the producer of her movie?
So let’s go on a journey behind the scenes of My Salinger Year, stretching back more than 10 years.
Joanna Fighting Fate to make a Movie out of her Memoir
To unveil the curtain of My Salinger Year, which is originally a Memoir by Joanna Rakoff, Marco and Erica wonder, was Joanna behind the idea of turning her book into a movie? Or the story fascinated someone else who wanted to show it in the form of a film? “We’ll give you money and make a movie out of your book. We know you don’t want that, but you have to!” Yes, that’s what they told Joanna to make a movie out of her book. So Joanna had received many offers for that. The proposal circulated in the film industry when it was sold, and many people started betting on it.
Therefore, Joanna sold the book eventually to a team of people, including a screenwriter, Natalie Portman’s best friend, who chose Natalie to play Joanna’s role, which would have been a great idea, but all of this was back in 2011! So what happened? While Joanna was still writing the book, the screenwriter was already working on the Screenplay, and she hadn’t read Joanna’s book yet. So she turned it on to the producers, and they said, “No, that’s horrible!” and they fired her! Next, Natalie got pregnant, so everyone started waving Goodbye to the idea of My Salinger Year becoming a movie.
The Real Birth of My Salinger Year as a Movie
When everyone thought the sun had set on the project and it would fail, Joanna finished the book and published it. The book became a best seller and got distributed all over the world. Then what happened? As Joanna explained, when selling a book to make a movie, authors only sell the “option” of making a movie, but not all of the book’s rights until the day producers start shooting. So months after the book came out, Joanna’s agent told her, “I don’t think these people are going to make a movie out of the book. Let’s resell it to someone else!” So she started the auction of her book.
Ultimately, Joanna went with Oscar-nominated director Philippe Falardeau a year ago. Philippe was the best choice for Joanna. He visited her in Boston, showed a sincere interest in her book, and assured her involvement at every step of the way while working on the film.
So whoever sees the originality and spontaneity in My Salinger Year is actually seeing the real-life of Joanna Rakoff. Here Joanna moved from being a writer of her life memoir into the producer of a movie inspired by her true story. She has worked with Philippe on the Screenplay, selecting and coordinating costumes with fashion designers. It was all in 2015 when Joanna and Philippe began working on the script for several years. Finally, after they finished the script, they chose actress Margaret Qualley to play Joanna.
Margaret Qualley cast as Joanna Rakoff in My Salinger Year
Marco and Erica wonder, what made Joanna choose Margaret Qualley to play the role of Joanna in the movie? Surprisingly, despite Joanna’s admiration for Margaret and her acting, the idea for Margaret playing Joanna came originally from Joanna’s husband. They were simply watching the TV series The Leftovers as it was Margret’s first big role, and Joanna’s husband was like, “Why don’t you have her to play you?”
Joanna’s husband’s suggestion impressed her, and she passed it on immediately to the director. The casting director was already a fan of her, and Margret herself had already read the novel and really wanted to play Joanna. Meanwhile, the director hadn’t seen any of her works and doubted whether she was famous enough. However, the casting director and Joanna started encouraging the director to watch one of her works to see her impressive acting skill and suitability to play Joanna’s role. Finally, the choice was made.
Who is Joanna apart from Books and Films?
Sure we are now grateful that the directors got late in making a film of Joanna’s Memoir. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have seen such creativity and originality in My Salinger Year. Along with many of Joanna’s exciting stories, from being a writer of her life memoir into the producer of a movie about her, there is more you can discover about Joanna by watching this candid conversation she had with Marco and Erica. Full episode is now streaming on Britalians TV.