My Salinger Year press conference: Working Girl, book adaptations and fangirling over Sigourney Weaver’s
An intended (and moderately successful) homage to literature and the importance of the written word, director Philippe Falardeau’s My Salinger Year was selected to open the 2020 Berlinale, and it was a solid if undemanding choice. Based on a true story, the film depicts Joanna (Margaret Qualley) as she lands a job working as an assistant to high-powered literary agent Margaret (Sigourney Weaver). Her job largely entails protecting the agency’s pride and joy, JD Salinger, from having to read his own fan mail.
When the real Joanna Rakoff published a memoir of her time working for the literary agency that represented Salinger, the poster child for reclusiveness, the offers for film rights came thick and fast, with Rakoff admitting that she chose to grant the rights to Falardeau after he flew to Massachusetts to spend a day with her, explaining his vision for the film adaptation of her story (apparently he brought diagrams charting each character’s journey).
Falardeau spoke of his admiration for Rakoff’s memoir, saying, “You know what they say about the book – it’s always better than the film. In this case it’s true.” When the French Canadian Falardeau was told that his film felt like an authentic depiction of New York, he pointed out that it was shot entirely in Montreal.
Weaver’s performance as a driven professional brought comparisons with her depiction of Katharine Parker in 1988’s Working Girl, and she was asked if she drew on that character for My Salinger Year. “I didn’t think about Katharine… that was a long time ago. I felt that actually, Katharine might not be a very nice person, but I think that Margaret likes to live in this terrarium, this sort of literary terrarium, and she sort of has her arms around that. Outside of that, where that goes, she’s very, very confident, and that’s her world. I think it would be a mistake to put her in the film world. I think she’d find that very, you know – dirty. But no, I didn’t think of Katharine Parker. I don’t usually blend the two – I let them sprout, kind of grow.”
With the film’s depiction of how an artist’s interactions with their fans can be so controlled, Qualley mentioned her own fangirl moment early in production. “When I first met Sigourney, I held it together the whole time we were meeting and we [did] the script read-through – and then right before I left, I was like, okay, but Alien, and I love you, and I’m sorry, and I tried to hold myself together, and like, thanks, and now I’ll get out of your way, sorry, can I hug you one more time?”
Photo: © Berlinale
My Salinger Year does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch highlights from the My Salinger Year press conference here: