Writer/director Lawrence Blume, son of best-selling author Judy Blume, recently spoke with “Breakthrough Entertainment” about his cinematic adaptation of his mother’s young adult novel “Tiger Eyes.”
In “Tiger Eyes,” which opened Friday, June 7 at movie theaters throughout the Valley, Willa Holland plays a girl who, after her father is killed in a hold-up, visits her relatives in New Mexico where she befriends a young man (Tatanka Means) who helps her find the strength to carry on and conquer her fears.
Q: This is Judy’s first novel to be adapted for the big screen. Why, in your opinion, has it taken so long for a cinematic adaptation of one of her works to come to fruition? Having sold more than 85 million books, it can’t be for lack of public interest.
A: Over the years, many producers have come and gone and screenplays were written and abandoned. It’s the Hollywood process. It’s hard to get things done. And [Judy] is very protective of her novels and didn’t want her fans to be upset if any cinematic adaptations were not done well. She is primarily a novelist, likes to work in her office behind a closed door and didn’t see the need to go running to Hollywood and try to get movies made. She was waiting for the right people to come along. I guess it was just a matter of timing.
Q: So then why was “Tiger Eyes” a good starting point? And what about that book piqued your interest both personally and professionally?
A: I read this novel when [Judy] first finished it. Of all her books, it kind of knocked my socks off partially because, in my mind, I was the character of Davey – a teenager who is torn from their roots in New Jersey and moved to the strange town of Los Alamos, New Mexico. That is what happened to me when my parents divorced. But, in the movie, Davey’s father is killed. It is a totally fictional novel but, thematically and emotionally, it really resonated with me. I was on my way to film school and said kind of jokingly, “I want to make that into a movie someday.” [Judy] and I have talked about it over the years and a couple of years ago some producers from London showed up with money in their pocket and asked, “Do you want to do it?” We both looked at each other and said, “Yes!”
Q: You mentioned that the story’s theme resonated with you. As a filmmaker, what was one theme – above all others – that you wanted to explore in this movie?
A: Thematically, I was working with the transition from childhood to adulthood. In this particular case, when Davey’s father is killed, her mother falls apart and can’t cope so she is sent to live in a place where she doesn’t know anybody. Suddenly, she has to make decisions for herself and figure out her own life. There is nobody there to tell her what to do or guide her through it. It happens to everybody at some point. Everybody eventually discovers that they are an individual with the power to affect their own lives and make it better or not. I was looking at that moment in time and using the drama of the story to try and explore those things.
Q: How closely did you work with your mother on this movie?
A: This was a complete family affair. We wrote the screenplay together, we produced it together, we cast it together and she sat next to me in a chair on the set every single day of production. We have a very close and intimate connection to each other and to the material. It was a great opportunity and a great joy because we don’t live in the same city. Plus, she is 75 years old. She has a ton of energy but she is not getting any younger so we thought, “Why not now?” It really brought us closer and it was a really emotional and wonderful journey that we took in New Mexico.
Q: And how did you two get along as collaborators?
A: We got along amazingly well. I would say that we get along better as collaborators than we would have if I went to visit her for 4 days and we started fighting over how to use a microwave oven or something. I have such tremendous respect for her as an artist, as a writer and as a storyteller. You don’t really have to say very much, though. After selling 85 million books, it’s pretty obvious that she’s good at it. I feel very close to the story and she allowed me an enormous amount of space to make it the way that I wanted to, trusting that the way I was putting it together would work out and fulfill her vision. It was my attempt to bring [Judy’s] work into a new medium with a certain amount of integrity and translate the intimacy that she has with her characters – who are usually speaking in first-person monologues – into dramatic action. Hopefully, her fans will believe that I did that while preserving the quality of the book and say, “There should be more Judy Blume adaptations!”
Q: So then, having said that, are you and/or Judy working on adapting any of her other novels? And, either way, which one would you want to see adapted next?
A: Personally, of the 28 books that she has published, I always felt closest to “Tiger Eyes.” But I have also felt close to “Summer Sisters,” which is also very much from my own experience. I have always wanted to adapt “Summer Sisters” and someday we will. I think that some of the rest of them could make for terrific movies and I have offered to help her in any way that I can to facilitate deals with Hollywood or connect her with good people. But if I was to make another one in a couple of years, aside from helping her in any way that she wants me to or not, I would probably focus on “Summer Sisters.”