Stephen Daldry does not believe any books are “unadaptable,” and as proof, he tackled bigscreen versions of “The Hours” and “The Reader” before turning his attention to Jonathan Safran Foer’s intricate post-9/11 tale.
“People said those books were unadaptable as well — particularly ‘The Hours,’?” he says. “The great thing about Jonathan’s book is that it has an incredible emotional charge.”
To translate Foer’s 368-page tome to a different medium, Daldry kept novelist involved with screenwriter Eric Roth’s various drafts of the story, which follows Oskar Schell (played by newcomer Thomas Horn) as he struggles with the death of his father (Tom Hanks) in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
“I come from the theater, so I really enjoy keeping my writers as close as I possibly can, and both of them were involved right through to the final editing stages,” he says.
For this lover of literary adaptations, the greatest challenge came from finding the right child to portray Oskar — the clever, curious and grief-stricken heart of the film. Daldry auditioned experienced child actors and unknowns in London and the U.S. before settling on Horn, whose only experience on camera was his winning stint on the Kids Week edition of the gameshow “Jeopardy!”
“He came with a huge amount of intelligence and emotional life, which was untrained but intuitive,” the director says.
Daldry, a three-time Oscar nominee, knows his filming and post-production schedule has left “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” off some critics’ top-10 lists. But Daldry says he wasn’t willing to sacrifice any portion of the film, which took seven months to shoot, just to fit groups’ deadlines.
“I’m sorry that critics didn’t get to see it in time, but I literally finished the final mix at 6 a.m. this morning,” he said during a Dec. 1 interview with Variety. “You have to make a choice about whether you’re going to compromise the film to make deadlines or finish it the best way you know how.”
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