As fans of “The Squid and the Whale” probably know, its writer-director based the film on his own experience growing up with divorced parents in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn in the 1980s. Regarding any universal themes that the film might evoke, Baumbach came upon those totally by accident. “I feel like I was writing from a much smaller perspective,” he says.
And don’t even ask him if Laura Linney is the squid and Jeff Daniels is the whale or vice versa. He doesn’t know. “I don’t think in metaphor,” says Baumbach. “When I’m writing well, it comes out of conversation and character.”
The Baumbachs share many similarities with the Berkmans in the film. The custody agreement between Daniels and Linney’s characters, for instance, is the same one his parents had.
But other stuff he made up. “I always feel like I have to say that my brother did not masturbate in public and drink alcohol,” Baumbach says of Frank, played by Owen Kline. “I wouldn’t have written that if it were true.”