The last time one of Irving’s novels was made into a movie, the results were so unfortunate the author not only tried to take his name off the project but also had the book’s name removed as well (which is how ”A Prayer for Owen Meany” came to be called ”Simon Birch”).
This time, Irving didn’t take any chances. Along with writing the adaptation, he demanded director and cast approval. ”Nobody else could have done this screenplay,” says Irving. ”I’d already done all the homework — spent 18 months researching gynecological surgery in the 1930s and ’40s to write the novel. Who are you going to find to turn that into a script? A retired gynecologist?”
The 500-plus-page, WWII-era historical novel obviously had to be trimmed for the screen, but its basic orphan-out-in-the-world plotline survived Irving’s self-surgery. Maguire plays the parentless Homer Wells, Alexander is the orphanage’s Nurse Edna, and Caine puts on his first American accent to play Dr. Wilbur Larch. ”The hardest accent I’ve ever had to do,” confesses the actor. ”You have to concentrate like a laser beam. If you get one little word wrong, you sound completely phony.” A retired gynecologist couldn’t have said it better. BUZZ FACTOR: 6