JD Salinger documentary being readied for spring film festival

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The Independent Culture

Author J.D. Salinger refused to release rights to produce a film version of his classic novel Catcher in the Rye, turning down directors from Frank Capra to Steven Spielberg, according to former Variety reporter, Mike Fleming. It is a wish that will likely be upheld by his estate, following the writer's death January 27. But this wish won't apply to an upcoming documentary.

Shane Salerno, a screenwriter currently writing Fantastic Voyage for James Cameron, has directed and produced Salinger, a two-hour documentary about the legacy of the reclusive author. Over five years, Salerno interviewed 150 sources, including those at The New Yorker who worked with Salinger when he wrote for the magazine, as well as authors Tom Wolfe, E.L. Doctorow, John Guare, and Gore Vidal.

Artists interviewed for this film, who were inspired by Salinger's work, include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Danny DeVito, and Martin Sheen. Salerno has also collaborated on a book with author David Shields to include the extensive material collected.

The filmmaker hopes to present the film at a spring film festival, such as Cannes. According to Fleming, a contributor for website Deadline Hollywood, who saw a screening of the film in December, it is "exhaustively researched and arrestingly powerful." The film answers questions about Salinger, revealing previously unseen footage and photos. It describes details such as his experiences in WWII in Normandy and reveals his love affair with Eugene O'Neill's daughter Oona who married Charlie Chaplin.

Salerno's portrait of the enigmatic, eccentric and mythic writer addresses his protectiveness of his writing and isolated lifestyle. He also speculates about the 45 years of Salinger's unpublished writing, supposedly locked in the vault. According to his daughter's 2000 memoir, Dream Catcher, there were 15 manuscripts. There is much anticipation for these books and speculation abounds as to whether they can be published now.

Based on Paul Alexander's Salinger: A Biography, which Salerno obtained rights to, originally for a feature film, his passion for the subject was motivated by the author's influence on his writing and an admiration for his rejection of fame. He financed the film himself.

There was a five-minute segment missing from the screening copy of the film "for security reasons," which led the reporter to wonder if it includes recent images of Salinger.