Connect with us

Rawson Marshall Thurber Unravels The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Rawson Marshall Thurber Unravels The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Articles - Directing

Just days before the January premiere of his adaptation of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Rawson Marshall Thurber shared with MM his journey from conception to exhibition. Now, in honor of its August 4, 2009 DVD and Blu-ray release from Phase 4 Films, MM revisits Thurber’s essay, originally published on January 18, 2008.

*********************************************************************************

In the summer of 1995 I was suspended from college. The incident amounted to a minor fracas, but it had major political ramifications, so they suspended me for two semesters. I went back home to California to think things over. My best friend was moving to Los Angeles and I decided to go with him to see what all the fuss was about. It was there, rudderless and contemplative, that it happened.

I was at the beach (which seemed like the thing to do in Los Angeles before I discovered that no one from Los Angeles actually ever goes to the beach) with another friend of mine who happened to be reading a book. Every few pages he would laugh or let out a low whistle in admiration. Finally, I asked him what the hell he was reading. He told me. I read it. And that’s when I knew.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was so beautifully written, so smartly considered, so funny, so overwhelmingly gosh-wow wonderful that I fell head over heels in love with it. I was smitten. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew that I wanted to make the movie of Michael Chabon’s novel before I even knew I wanted to make movies. That’s how much it meant to me.

Nearly 10 years later, my first film, Dodgeball, came out and did well at the box office. In fact, the weekend it opened, no other film did better at the turnstiles and I found myself, strangely, with a little bit of clout. Go figure. My agent called me with offers, sent me script after script after script—a couple of them were even pretty good. But I wasn’t interested. After finishing my first film, I knew fully how hard it was to make one—how much it required from you personally and how much you had to really love the story to be able to get up, day after day, night after night, to fight for it—to see it through to the end, to be its custodian, its guardian and its champion. There was really only one story I loved like that.

So I decided to do what I’d wanted to do from the very beginning. The guy who made Dodgeball was going to go make The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. I remember thinking to myself: ‘Fuck it. If I’m going to fail, I might as well fail doing something I love.’ (Which is really the only way to do it if you ask me.)

I wrote Michael Chabon a fan letter. I asked him if I could take him out to breakfast to discuss the possibility of adapting his first novel. Over the course of coffee and eggs, I would lay out my fairly radical plan, which was as much amputation and alteration as it was adaptation. Shortly thereafter, I received an e-mail from Michael saying, “Sounds great. Let’s do it.” I was stunned. I don’t think I ever imagined that he would say “Yes.” But he did and I spent the next 10 months writing my guts out.

The film is now finished and I’m very proud of it. My actors delivered such lovely, heartbreaking performances that I feel pretty well spoiled for any who follow. We’ve been accepted into Sundance and are going to unveil the film there. I can’t wait.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, starring Jon Foster, Sienna Miller, Peter Sarsgaard and Nick Nolte, premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Articles - Directing

  • Articles - Acting

    Editor’s Weekend Pick: Short Term 12

    By

    MovieMaker‘s pick of the films out in theaters this week is the award-winning, heart-pumping Short Term...

  • Articles - Acting

    Fictionalizing Truth: Lee Daniel’s The Butler & More

    By

    We’ve all seen those stately biopics (usually with Oscar aspirations), in which renowned actors portray real-life...

  • Articles

    MovieMaker Editor’s Pick: Prince Avalanche
    by MovieMaker Editors

    By

    MovieMaker’s Editor’s Weekend Pick is director-writer-producer David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche, starring Paul Rudd and Emile...

  • Articles

    Thor Freudenthal Sets Sail with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
    by Kyle Rupprecht

    By

    German-born moviemaker Thor Freudenthal started his career in visual effects and animation, working on such films...

  • Articles - Cinematography

    Best Of: The Most Bodacious Surfing Movies

    By

    Much like an ocean wave, the surfing movie subgenre has seen its share of peaks and...

  • Articles

    Tattoo Nation: Director Eric Schwartz (Part 2)

    By

    In Part One (of this interview, we talked to Colorado-based Tattoo Nation director Eric Schwartz about...

  • Articles - Directing

    Things I’ve Learned As a Moviemaker: Kevin Smith

    By

    Director, screenwriter, sometimes actor, and all-around major geek Kevin Smith has deep roots in independent moviemaking,...

  • Articles - Acting

    Perfectly Paranormal: Ghostbusting in Film

    By

    Where would the world be without the paranormal investigators of cinema? Overrun with evil spirits, demons...

  • Articles

    MovieMaker Editor’s Weekend Pick: Storm Surfers 3D
    by Rory Owen Delaney

    By

    Storm Surfers 3D delivers big wave-riding experience for moviegoers!  This week’s MovieMaker Editor’s Weekend Pick is...

  • Articles

    Laurence Anyways: MovieMaker’s Weekend Pick
    by Kelly Leow

    By

    In recognition of the Supreme Court’s landmark dismissal of California’s Proposition 8 and its striking down...

  • Articles - Directing

    Things I’ve Learned: Neil Jordan’s 12 Golden Rules of Moviemaking

    By

    In the last few years, Neil Jordan, whose career spans three decades, has written and directed...

  • Articles - Directing

    Re-Vamping: Ten Unique Takes on Vampire Mythology

    By

    In celebration of the release of “Byzantium” this Friday, we’ve come up with a selection of...

  • Articles - Directing

    Things I’ve Learned: Gus Van Sant’s Six Golden Rules of Moviemaking

    By

    Gus Van Sant is one of America’s most heralded, iconic independent auteurs.  Based in Portland, Oregon,...

  • Articles - Acting

    Sloppy Seconds: The Best (and Worst) Horror Remakes

    By

    Horror movie remakes are a dime a dozen these days, with retreads of such genre classics...

  • Latest

    Instagram

    Moviemaking

    Comments

    RSS MovieMaker RSS

    To Top