Do you like apples? Do you like apples? Well, Kyle Patrick Alvarez convinced This American Life humorist David Sedaris to allow the 29-year-old filmmaker to adapt one of his essays. How you like them apples!
Hollywood had been knocking on Sedaris’s door for years, and he’d always turned suitors away. But Alvarez, whose promising first film, Easier with Practice, was based on a 2006 GQ article by another public-radio raconteur Davy Rothbart, took a more personal approach: he went to a Sedaris book signing. “I waited in line with everyone for him to sign my book after he read,” says Alvarez. “I tried not to be aggressive, but I gave him the a copy of my first film and said there were some things I’d like to talk to him about. I was incredibly anxious about it, but fortunately, he really liked the movie.”
They began exchanging emails, with Sedaris asking Alvarez why he specifically wanted “C.O.G.” — which stands for Child Of God — an essay from Naked, Sedaris’s best-selling 1997 collection. “It’s not like I went through every Sedaris story and tried to find the one to make into a movie,” says the 29-year-old, who also wrote the screenplay. “I liked this story. Had he not written it, and it was another writer, I would still have been incredibly interested and tried to make it into a film. There’s a coming-of-age aspect to it that I felt was really unique and particular.”
Apples, it must be said, do play a major role, as the exclusive Sundance poster reveals below. Glee‘s Jonathan Groff stars as an incredibly naive and condescending recent college grad who runs smack into the real world for the first time when he ventures West to work on an Oregon apple farm. “He starts out as this judgmental guy who thinks everyone’s going to be in awe of him, but then through the story learns how to appreciate people that he sees different than himself,” says Alvarez. “To me, the process of being humbled is very interesting.”
Click below for the exclusive C.O.G. poster and to learn about Alvarez’s greatest worry when the movie debuts next week.
Once Sedaris gave Alvarez the green light to make his film, he left the director to his work and never insisted on script or cast approval — an amazing gift but also the source of Alvarez’s greatest current anxiety. See, Sedaris has yet to see the film. And he won’t until the Sundance premiere on Jan. 20. “If it were me, and someone made a movie about my life, I’d probably want to watch in a dark room by myself,” says Alvarez. “But I think he wants to be surprised by it. I told him I was trying to do a fictional version of his nonfiction story. So my hope is that when he sits down there, he’ll be able to separate himself enough from it. While it would be crushing for me if he didn’t like it, I feel like I did right by him, by what I promised him and what he asked of me.”