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Jane Champion to release novel

The director of ”The Piano” takes a new approach to releasing her film as a novel by supervising the efforts instead of writing the novel

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Call her a reluctant novelist. Last summer New Zealand writer-director Jane Campion was persuaded by an editor at Hyperion to attempt a novelization of her acclaimed latest film, The Piano. Two chapters later, she abandoned the effort. ”I was tired,” she recalls. ”It was too big a job.”

But American distributor Miramax, knowing the promotional impact of Laura Esquivel’s best-selling novel of Like Water for Chocolate. wasn’t going to let her off so easy. They asked Campion if they could use the chapters and her script as a basis for a novel that she would not have to write, only ”supervise.”

”I said, ‘That sounds easy,”’ laughs Campion, two days after winning an Oscar for The Piano‘s screenplay. ”I got quite greedy. I hadn’t received any income yet from the film. I thought, ‘Gee, that would be nice, an advance for not doing anything.’ All the big films do these tie-ins. There’s no reason why independent people can’t enjoy it as well.”

Campion selected Canadian novelist Kate Pullinger as coauthor because she liked her style. ”It’s a romantic novel, you know,” she says, ”though it’s a slightly more insightful and better romantic novel than you would normally get. We couldn’t expect to write literature in the manner we were doing it.”

The book reinstates material that was cut from the film, including the very first piano lesson, when Ada (Holly Hunter) and her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin), humiliate Baines (Harvey Keitel) by asking him to scrub his work-stained hands. And in the novel, the illiterate Baines asks schoolchildren to read Ada’s inscribed piano key for him, as Campion had always intended. The Piano is due out in late April, and Campion is concerned that readers understand that ”the book and the film are not the same thing. No one’s going to believe I made a film out of this material! We’re lucky it worked out. It could have been a bloody disaster. And I would have pulled the plug had I thought we were not offering the public something worthwhile.”