Q&A with 'Silver Linings Playbook' author Matthew Quick
The Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick has had quite a turnaround from just a few short years ago, when he was writing The Silver Linings Playbook in his in-laws basement. He was unemployed, had sold his house, quit a tenured teaching position and was unsure what the next step of his life would be. “It was a dark time in my life, classic struggling artist on my last dollar,” Quick explained on the phone with EW. Now, the author — who estimates he’s seen the film version of his first book seven times – is taking on Hollywood. He’s been to various SLP screenings, joined the cast at a taping of Katie, and is likely attending the Oscars himself Feb. 24. And he’s only just getting started in movies. His upcoming book, The Good Luck of Right Now, was just optioned by DreamWorks, and he’ll be an executive producer on the project.
Read on for an edited chat with Quick and get his thoughts on Bradley Cooper, mental illness and the changes between the book and film.
EW: How involved were you in the process of turning The Silver Linings Playbook into a movie (which has an adapted screenplay by director David O. Russell)?
MATTHEW QUICK: I wasn’t involved at all. We did a movie deal before I did a deal for the book….and then DOR [David O. Russell] got involved. I didn’t really have much contact with David initially through the writing process and the casting. I met him on the movie set for the first time. He was very nervous when the film was done. He arranged a screening for me. It was very evident to me [he was nervous], because he called me the night before [and] we talked for an hour. He seemed very nervous about my reaction and it was at that time that I realized even Oscar-nominated directors in Hollywood have all the same types of emotions that all storytellers have. …And so when I embraced the film it was a happy day and DOR and I became pretty close after that, through the promoting and everything else.
[In the book, the character of Tiffany is much older than Lawrence; the characterization of Pat’s father is different, and the ending – while thematically the same – has a few more speed bumps.] Did David talk to you about changes before you saw the movie?
He did. I think he was really nervous that I was going to completely freak out, for lack of a better term. But for me, I think the thing that helped was I’ve always been pretty grounded about [staying] professional. The book is my story. It’s how I wanted to tell the story. David’s version is his version, and he told a slightly different tale inspired by my work and I think he did a really good job with his adaptation. David’s limitation as a filmmaker is he has to cast all the characters with real people. So when he cast Jennifer Lawrence, who is a lot younger than Bradley Cooper, [as well as a lot younger than] Tiffany in the book, he had to do a little rewriting. There’s that scene where Bradley asks, “How old are you?” and she says, ‘Old enough to be widowed and not end up in a mental institution,’ or something like that. You can clearly see that David is addressing those things through the casting. That being said, I think Jennifer Lawrence did an amazing job and ironically, her depiction of Tiffany is pretty close to what I was thinking writing the book.
In addition to Lawrence’s performance, I was really struck by how Bradley Cooper spoke in the film, and how similar it felt to the novel. Many character traits – like unique speech patterns — definitely came across.
Yeah, I think [the fact] that Bradley is from the Philly area, as am I, I think that helped as well. He understands. I know he did a lot of research into mental health and DOR did too, but Bradley also understands the Philly mentality and the relationship to the Philadelphia Eagles, which, for most people in Philly, is pretty manic.
Was that part autobiographical?
Absolutely. I’m a huge fan. I live in Massachusetts now and I drive 10 hours round trip to go to every home game. I’m pretty obsessed. It’s one of the few rituals that I have in my life. I’m a huge football fan, and a huge sports fan, but going to the Eagles games is more than about sport. It’s one of the few times I see my best friend from high school, who goes to every game. It’s the only thing I do together with my brother and sister. Before my grandfather died last year, I would call him every Sunday night. He’s a banker, he doesn’t know anything about story or what I do but what did we talk about? We talked about the Eagles. That’s the thing we had in common, that was the language that we used to tell each other that we loved each other. Growing up in a blue-collar neighborhood, the Dads weren’t warm and fuzzy…. They didn’t give you hugs. They took you to the Eagles game. That was how your dad told you that he loved you. So Eagles was –it’s very important to me.
NEXT: Quick discusses his favorite scenes and mental health issues.
What was your favorite scene from the movie?
That’s hard…um…the one I saw them film was when Julia Stiles was in the window and Bradley is running and he meets John Ortiz for the first time. I watched them do that scene like a million times over four hours. But it was really awesome because it was the first time I was on a movie set. And a lot of those lines are directly from the book. I’m seeing the actors directly saying the lines that I wrote, so that was a real moment for me. So for personal reasons, that scene sticks out. DOR, every time I’m with him he’s always saying to me, ‘Tell everyone all the lines that are yours. The ones I took straight from the book.’
He took a fair amount of your dialogue.
Absolutely. Yeah, it’s funny because some people are hardcore SLP book fans and some are DOR fans and to me I see them as complementary. I think they are both part of a larger conversation. I think David was incredibly respectful of the source material and I’ve embraced this film. I’ve very grateful not just for my career but that people are talking about mental health issues, which are very important to me and they are definitely important to DOR.
Was a larger discussion about mental health some of the original inspiration for writing the novel?
Yeah, again, I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood. We didn’t talk about depression. Nobody even said that word, especially in the ‘80s. And in retrospect, I was definitely dealing with depression in high school, in college, and even when I was teaching. But I was so afraid to talk about that. And then when I hit 30, to use the phrase that Bradley uses in movie, which is DOR’s line and not mine, I felt like I was ‘white-knuckling’ it. I wasn’t doing the things I wanted to do. I wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle. I wasn’t talking about my emotions and I just sort of exploded onto the page.
People always say to me, ‘It’s so brave that you quit your teaching position. You risked everything for art.’ And I say, ‘It wasn’t brave. It was a last-ditch effort to save myself.’ I would not be in a good place right now if I hadn’t given myself over to art and writing. When I write, I try to take all the chaos in my mind and create order on the page…. By putting this book out into the world, it has linked me up with people like DOR, who talks openly about the struggle his son has had. In the mental health community, so many people have written me now saying, ‘How did you know? This is my life.’ …They see a film with famous actors, promoting it on talk shows and DOR talking openly about this stuff and Bradley and everybody else. I think it’s really healthy for everyone, the entire nation. People are hungry to have these conversations. I wasn’t aware how hungry when I was writing alone in a basement…but I’m glad I wrote the book.
Silver Linings Playbook