Here's something I forgot to mention: Lehane's most recent
book "The Given Day", a
working class epic set in post-WW I Boston and points west that is a kind of local
noir version of Dos Passos's "USA," has recently come out in paperback and is also
in the process of being adapted for screen with Sam Raimi directing. Just so you're not surprised when this comes up later in the conversation.
PK: A couple of blocks away they're making a
movie at Fenway Park called "The Town," it seems to me that that never would've
been possible in all this renaissance of filmmaking in Boston had you not
written the book "Mystic River" and had Clint Eastwood not made a successful
movie out of it. Do you think that that's a fair statement?
DL: I think that between Clint Eastwood
making "Mystic River" and the way teamsters began to
treat film crews was at that exact moment, created the perfect storm. The good
perfect storm and that helped make movies in Boston
because originally, before "Mystic River"...I'm trying to think how long the desert lasted
before somebody would film a movie in Boston
before Clint filmed a movie in Boston.
PK: The problem started I guess with, or most
surfaced with "The Brinks Job," there was a heist in more ways than one.
DL: Oh yeah, and then it just continued and
then it got worse and worse and worse and worse and you know in the 90s I was
in the independent film scene in Boston, horrors, I can tell you-I can't tell
you-horror stories about that. I saw some really terrifying things, and it ran
everybody out of town. So when Clint came in and kind of worked a deal and said
you know if you stick me up don't stick me up too heavily, it worked, and it
brought a lot of good things to the city, so for whatever reason, that started.
And you know, there's the tax breaks and there's all these other wonderful
things that are going on with film communities, so I think "Mystic River"
certainly got the ball rolling, but it's weird for me to try, I never want to
come off taking credit for most of the things that go on with these movies
because they don't have much to do with me, you know, I sold you the book, good
PK: So you were into making movies in the
90s, you just said?
DL: Yeah, yeah. A little tiny film that was a
little too much like "Good Will Hunting."
PK: Was that a feature length film?
DL: Yeah, it was, it was. Ben and I had a
hilarious conversation about it where I just, I'm one of the only people in
America who's never seen "Good Will Hunting" and we, it was just two different
scripts out of this zeitgeist and we
filmed almost, pretty much in two months of each other and neither of us has
seen each other's film-each other scripts-and all of a sudden, I saw it again,
and I was in editing, and I started worrying about this movie, this Gus van
Sant movie, like oh shit, and I saw it
and then I thought we're dead.
PK: So does a copy exist?
DL: Oh yes, but I do not show it to people
PK: You don't think you're cut out to be a
director, or filmmaker?
DL: I discovered that I think I was adequate
at it, on one hand I had a good eye, on the other hand I wasn't terribly patient
with actors. I could fake it, inside I just wanted to kill them and I think
when you see Scorsese work with actors, when you see the way Ben works with
actors, you just see this generosity of spirit, which I just don't think I
have, I'd be too impatient.
PK: You're more the Otto Preminger type, I
DL: Yeah, well you hear it about a lot of the
Irish-Neil Jordan-they just don't want to sit around and chat, you know, like Ang
Lee. You know there's certain directors who are just, "What the fuck, hit your
marks." And unfortunately I think I'd be more like that and that doesn't make
me a good actors' director.
Plus it's an incredibly painstaking process and you're dependent on so
many people, and like when you're just sitting down writing a book...
DL: Oh yeah, or even when we worked on "The
Wire," we ran the show pretty much in every single aspect. TV, you're almost
the playwright, in a good TV show certainly, premium cable, so the writers, you
don't need to be the director, let that guy deal with the camera, you know,
we'll deal with the production. So it's something that, it was an itch I
scratched and then I went back to doing what I loved.
PK: So, you're happy to let other people do
the directing, like Sam Raimi is doing the adaptation of your new book.
DL: Yeah, although Sam's got a lot of irons
in the fire right now
PK: Yeah, I just looked at his IMDB thing and it had like twenty projects in development.
DL: Yeah, yeah, so where we'll get, I don't
know. I've talked to Sam a couple of times, he is advertised as one of the
nicest human beings I've ever met in Hollywood, but where we're going to go, I
mean, I don't even think they've hired a screenwriter yet.
PK: And there's nothing like a cast put
together or anything like that?
DL: Oh, God no. Literally is just in
negotiations with the screenwriter.
PK: When I see the movie of a book that I've
read that I liked I always have mixed feelings because it seems they've reimagined
the character and have taken the place of the character I've imagined. Do you
think that happens with your own characters?
DL: Completely, completely. I just feel like
it's an alternate universe and I feel very comfortable with the split, some
people don't, I just feel like that's-on the screen that's Sean Penn's Jimmy
Markum, that's not my Jimmy Markum, you know what I mean? There's two different
people and Sean Penn's interpretation is wonderful but it's a different entity,
you know, it's like the film is a giraffe and the book is the apple.
PK: He won an Oscar for it too, he must've
been doing something right.
DL: Oh, he was outstanding, I mean, but
again, there's just that part of you that goes, "Right, that's brilliant, it's
a great interpretation, but a different beast from the character of the book."
you never, when you write a book, have an image of an actor or another person?
DL: Every now and then I'll get something and
it tends to happen against my defenses because I always fend against that idea,
I just don't want to write to the movies, you know, let the movies be the movies,
let me just write books and I've had moments, I remember at the end of "Shutter
Island" and it just began to pop up very strongly near the end of that book
that I was seeing Russell Crowe as Teddy, who was much younger in those days,
then they would've thought of him.
PK: That's when you were writing it?
DL: Yeah, it was right at the tail end, for
whatever reason, the face came into my head and I remember when I was writing "Mystic River,"
Lili Taylor popped into my head as the
Annabeth [played in the film by Laura Linney] character, you know the actress?
PK: Yeah, right I know her, she's a great
DL: Yeah, and it's funny I told her boyfriend
that years later and he was like, "Oh, I don't even know if I should tell her,"
(laugh), know what I mean? But that was, for whatever reason, those are the
only times I can think of it happening.
PK: That book was that your most ambitious
book because it seems like you've gone from first person and then to third
person and now you've gone from a minimalist into an epic kind of format.
DL: Yeah, I just, the only way I know is to
keep sort of walking the path, whatever it is, I can't describe it, I know that
everybody wishes at some level, certainly in my business world that I'd be a
little more clear about where I go but I can only follow the stories, you know?
So right now I'm writing, what, eleven years to the sequel to
"Gone Baby Gone?"
PK: So you're going to continue with the two
characters? [Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, the detective team in "Gone
Baby Gone" and four other Lehane novels].
DL: Yeah, just when I was sure they were
dead, like literally I was putting the last nail on the coffin and it just
started talking to me: "Hey wait a minute, we got one more in us." So...and I'd
like to do a continuation of the world I was dealing with in "The Given Day,"
you know, after that. But, yeah, I don't know, I never set up to go from
minimalist to become epic.
PK: From Carver to Tolstoy.
DL: Yeah, no, no, no, not at all, (laugh).
But, it's definitely been an interesting path and I wouldn't trade it for the
world. But of course some fans would view, it's like the, the Woody Allen
movie, "Stardust Memories," tell funnier jokes.
PK: He never followed that advice,
DL: No, he didn't, although there's some
hilarious shit in "Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Next: words of wisdom - "Nobody cares."