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Adaptation in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Adaptation

Nicolas Cage • Meryl Streep • Chris Cooper
DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze

Nicolas Cage, playing a scene with himself THE CONCEPT:
A fictionalized version about the problems Charlie Kaufman had adapting into a screenplay Susan Orleans novel The Orchid Thief, about a fanatical orchid breeder named John Laroche,.

U.S. RELEASE: December 6, Nationwide • Rated: R


If it had been a spec script of my own, I might have abandoned it at a certain point. In this case, though, I had been hired by others. They had expectations of me. So I had to adapt to being an adaptor.

NICOLAS CAGE (Charlie/Donald Kaufman):
Adaptation was an opportunity to do something totally brand new, to really transform myself. Im playing the writer of the movie in which Im appearing, and his brother. Though they are twins, Donald and Charlie are total opposites. Charlie hates himself. Hes morose, hypercritical and joyless. Donald feels pretty good about himself. Hes amusing, easygoing and optimistic.

Writer SUSAN ORLEAN on the first time she realized she was in the screenplay:
The very first page I saw Charlie Kaufman had the first line of dialogue, and I thought, Isnt that the name of the screenwriter? Then I just started flipping through it and I saw my name, Orlean, Orlean, Orlean. I thought, I dont want to be a character in a movie. I felt funny, here I am [in the movie] using drugs and having sex with my subjects. But I felt this was a very adventurous, exciting effort to do something really special, and I wanted to help that happen.

MERYL STREEP (Susan Orlean):
I met Susan at the first screening of the movie. I didnt want to meet her before; I didnt want to be diverted by the truth. I looked at Nic, and I met Charlie, and I thought, Okay, this is not a documentary! [At the screening] I recognized Susan right away, and I said, I apologize in advance. She was very forgiving about it!

CHRIS COOPER (John Laroche):
I usually play very contained characters. This was a precious opportunity because with Laroche, I could explode out there. Hes a very big character who considers himself one of the smartest, most incredible, people youve ever met. That was very interesting and challenging, because that kind of confidence is not something that comes easily to me.

MERYL STREEP on working with Chris Cooper:
He is one of my favorite actors in the world. Ive seen him in most everything hes done and I was thrilled that it was going to be him. Laroche is a very compelling character, and the way he played him was compelling.

NICOLAS CAGE on playing scenes with himself:
I would be playing a scene as Charlie opposite Donald, who was represented by a tennis ball. Or sometimes, Spike [Jonze] would be there in full make-up to look like me and Id act with him. I dont really understand how it was all done, but it was exhausting. Id never want to do it again.

In spirit this movie is a faithful adaptation. The book uses the crime as a way of looking at issues of passion and desire and how you figure out your life, so in that way its very faithful thats the irony, of course, that it is actually an extremely faithful adaptation of what the essence of the book was for me.

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Visit the official Adaptation site
Images above © Columbia Pictures
Feature © 2002 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #625, December 2002 cover

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