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Movie Natters: May 5, 2009 Archive

Tom Robbins on writers and film

Posted at 5:12 PM on May 5, 2009 by Euan Kerr

When Tom Robbins was here recently our conversation turned to the subject of putting novels on the silver screen. What he said was quite surprising.

"I don't think most writers have a cinematic sense in that what they want to see is their story told in big pictures on the big screen. But that never works."

What was really surprising was Robbins insistence that moviemakers not stick too closely to the original book, particularly when it comes to his work.

"I want my books to be changed when adapted," he said. "To be successful they have to be changed."

The problem with is work he says is the language. Robbins says his literary style works well for the page, but not for the screen.

"It's very mannered and stylized," he said.

He recounted what happened when Gus Van Sant worked on the script for "Even Cowgirls get the Blues."

"(He) showed me at least seven drafts," Robbins said. However Robbins said Van Sant is a director who really loves language, and he wouldn't change what Robbins had written, even after Robbins offered to rewrite it for free.

Robbins was blunt about what he though about the result. "It was the fatal flaw in the film."

On reflection Robbins says part of the challenge for his work at least is his ability to be funny while also being very serious. He says that's hard to convey as a film.

"I probably would have shot it in Hong Kong with Chinese acrobats as the cowgirls. I think you need to step away but somehow keep the essence," he laughed.

You can hear our film conversation here: Listen

And get a sample of what Robbins was talking about with the Cowgirls here:

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