'Cider' scribe documents biz struggle

You can’t blame John Irving for feeling like he’s been through the cider press.

It’s taken him 13 years, four directors and a couple of producers to bring the Golden Globe-nominated and National Board of Review award-winning adaptation of his novel “The Cider House Rules” to the screen.

During that time, Irving had seen the project rise and disappear Brigadoonlike on the development horizon enough times to write, yep, another book.

In “My Movie Business: A Memoir” published by Random House, Irving traces his descent into development hell, the lingering purgatory of rewrites and, finally, his salvation, when Miramax and director Lasse Hallstrom (“My Life as a Dog”) rescued the project just in time for the award season.

“It’s been an education, but it was all worth it,” said an exhausted Irving, holding court at the pic’s recent Hollywood premiere.

Among the lessons learned: Don’t get too close to the characters; one of the main focuses in the first half of the book had to be excised from the film. And don’t be surprised if, in condensing a 600-page novel down to a two-hour film, your message becomes clearer.

“I think truncating the story eliminated some of the extraneous material and made the movie more pointed,” Irving said of the pic, which tells the World War II era story of an institutionalized orphan who learns how to deliver babies — and perform illicit abortions — from the compassionate doctor who directs the orphanage.

Life as a screenwriter wasn’t all bad for the author, who set the book in his native New England and was a frequent visitor to the set, with locations in Vermont, where Irving lives, and Northampton, Mass., where the writer was an English professor at Mount Holyoke College before his first bestseller, “The World According to Garp,” changed his life.

“I told Lasse I didn’t want to drive more than 45 minutes to the set,” Irving chuckled.

One more lesson learned: Finishing one project helps move another along. Irving’s second effort at adapting his own work, “The Son of the Circus,” begins filming in late February in Madras, India.

Or will that be Brigadoon?

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