‘Bruce Springsteen was very nervous about his arrival’: Nick Hornby and Stephen Frears on Great Peace

Nick Hornby, writer

Nick Hornby Photo: Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

There was a version of High Fidelity in my head before I wrote Fever Pitch. It’s not a big idea book: the idea is to write about relationships from a person’s point of view. I remember telling my agent about it and seeing her eyes light up when I talked about record stores and relationships. I’ve spent a lot of time in museums but I’ve never worked in one, so I’m relying on people I’ve seen and conversations I’ve heard. The girls were great teachers.

The film rights were sold before the book came out in 1995. Then it went very quiet and I thought it was dead. In early 1999, I had a flat in Highbury Hill in London and there was a man near the station who ran a kiosk. He is an Arsenal fan, so we always chat. One morning, he handed me a note that said: “Call Stephen Frears.” It has a phone number on it. This is an unconventional approach and it’s pretty funny. Stephen said to me, “We are working on your book!” added that John Cusack and the two screenwriters – Steve Pink and DV DeVincentis – were in London and wanted to meet.

I really enjoyed what they were doing with the script. They made a Grosse Pointe Blank, which I really enjoyed. I was surprised at how close the movie was to my book – some of Cusack’s fourth wall came straight from my pages. He was brave enough to do that. They wanted to recreate the book! Barry’s character was easy to write, but who do you cast? I had never heard of Jack Black: his role changed the type of films he got. I am proud to have played a role in that.

I don’t care about the story being moved to Chicago. John, DV and Steve grew up there. They were 10 years younger, so the concept of music changed completely. The story felt like it was about them, fully and completely. As a writer, that’s the best you can hope for: that people are invested in it. The music the budget alone for High Fidelity was the same as the full budget for Fever Pitch. Any English, independent film cannot do that. We all made compilation tapes for each other to listen to. Stephen was out of his depth on the music, so it really came down to John and DV.

The film was not successful at first. It has gained its audience over the years and keeps coming. I took my son to see it right before locking and I was very pleased with how it was held.

Stephen Frears, director

Stephen Frears is a man on the moon.
Stephen Frears is a man on the moon. Photo: Arun Nevada/WireImage

I loved Fever Pitch and read High Fidelity quickly after, but I didn’t think you could make a movie out of it. No car chases. I got a call from John Cusack asking if I would direct the movie, and it would be set in Chicago. I thought: “Well, that’s a mistake, move the story.”

Then I read the text and realized it wasn’t. There is a part of Chicago called Evanston and John, DV and Steve grew up there together. They are writing about their lives. I worked with John on The Grifters in 1990; now, he has grown a lot as an actor. I want Nick to stay together, but I don’t remember how this message to him through the newspaper reporter came about.

The way of the fourth wall is my decision but it never felt like a big risk – the first draft has it as a voice and it feels easy to lose this way. The likes of Groucho Marx used to talk to the camera.

The guys suggested this new actor called Jack Black for the part of Barry. I met him and said: “Great, you will be happy.” Then I got a phone call a few months later telling me he didn’t want to do it again. I asked him what? He said: “No, you did not make me look. Doing therapy gives me confidence.” He is balanced and talented. Spirits are so high, everyone wants to do it.

I rejected all the songs, but I said I would be the judge and they had to get the songs first and pass me. John, DV and Steve argued with him 24 hours a day, non-stop. John currently has endless phone calls with Bruce Springsteen to get him on board for a cameo. God knows what they say. Bruce seems like a nice guy, but he’s very worried. It must have made him wind up.

The theater bosses in the big room let us go ahead with the movie, but I remember them asking: “Can’t Rob and Laura get married at the end?” “No,” I said. “Absolutely.”

#Bruce #Springsteen #nervous #arrival #Nick #Hornby #Stephen #Frears #Great #Peace

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