Behind the scenes of 'Girl, Interrupted'
Hollywood's actresses are abuzz about the film version of ''Girl, Interrupted.''
Flashback: it’s 1996, and the cool feature project on every star’s radar is Cop Land, indie director James Mangold’s gritty character study of a hearing-impaired, underdog New Jersey sheriff. With Hollywood high on the small-film bandwagon, every A-list actor in town tries to get a meeting with Mangold; in the end, heavyweights Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, and Harvey Keitel agree to take scale wages to enter the promised Land.
Cut two years ahead to Mangold mania, the distaff version. This time, the hottest project in town for young actresses is Girl, Interrupted, a searing adaptation of Susanna Kaysen’s critically acclaimed 1993 memoir, which tracks the author’s two-year stay in a mental institution for depression. With a slew of meaty roles, a high-concept One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-meets-Stand By Me hook, and of course, the Mangold cachet — he worked on the script and will direct — every starlet worth her Manolo Blahniks is dying to get the Girl.
Already signed to play Kaysen is Winona Ryder, who will also be making her producing debut. The role of Lisa, Kaysen’s best friend, has been offered to Angelina Jolie (Gia), and insiders say Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter) is also a lock for a role. Others who have expressed interest include Dawson’s Creeker Katie Holmes, Christina Ricci (The Opposite of Sex), Gretchen Mol (Rounders), Goldie Hawn’s daughter Kate Hudson (200 Cigarettes), Reese Witherspoon (Pleasantville), even Alanis Morissette, whose turn as God — yes, God — in Kevin Smith’s upcoming Dogma has put her on the casting radar.
The enthusiasm on the part of Hollywood’s better half is understandable. ”It’s unusual to find a script where all the supporting characters are dream roles,” says Alicia Witt (Urban Legend). ”And they’re all young women.” Adds Rose McGowan (Scream), who, like Witt, read for a part: ”It’s the only decent thing out there that doesn’t involve taking your clothes off.”
Ironically, Girl is a work that’s been floating in the Hollywood ether for years. Producer Douglas Wick (The Craft) first optioned the book back in 1993. Ryder, who immediately saw the project as a juicy acting vehicle, jumped on board as both star and producer. But after scripts by three writers all proved unsatisfactory, Girl slipped into limbo. That’s when Ryder personally approached Mangold, who’d just wrapped Cop Land. ”I was unsure about getting involved,” says Mangold. ”I thought everyone wanted a Lifetime movie — weepy girls in smocks, all retching and twitching.” Mangold, who has a reputation as an actor’s director, reworked the script to beef up the grittiness quotient. ”I said, ‘I want to make a monster movie,’ a movie about what it’s like to lose your boundaries in your world.”
There is one outstanding question about Girl: Granted, the film is appealing as an acting challenge, but how commercial will it be? By keeping the work faithful to the spirit of the book, Girl could be relentlessly downbeat. ”Everything out there now is a commercial, teen movie,” says Girl producer Cathy Konrad (Scream), who is also Mangold’s wife. ”The dramas are few and far between, the films Jim likes to make.” That’s fine, except Cop Land, for all its name value and hype, grossed only $44 million domestically and landed no Oscar nods. ”This is one of those movies that lives and dies on being good,” says Michael Costigan, senior VP of production at Columbia, Girl‘s studio. ”And considering the director and the cast we’re lining up, I think it’s going to be amazing.”