Jeannette Walls is a larger-than-life personality, brimming with energy and a ready laugh that fills a room. That she is still laughing after the childhood she describes in her best-selling memoir, THE GLASS CASTLE is a testament to her innate toughness, and to her ability to appreciate the wonder with which her eccentric parents imbued her from an early age.
When I spoke with her on July 31, 2017 about Daniel Destin Cretton’s adaptation of that memoir starring Brie Larson, the first thing I wanted to ask her was about the difference between factual truth and emotional truth when translating a book to the screen.
We went on to talk about why she didn’t want to write the screenplay and why she did want Destin Daniel Cretton to do it; what book can do that movies can’t, and vice-versa; what Naomi Watts understood about Walls’ mother than made all the difference in her performance; and the gift of chaos.
We finished up with her musings on making choices; life lessons gleaned from facing her fears; and how her father’s designs for the glass castle that he never built found a life of their own.
Walls was a successful magazine writer living the very good life in New York City and to all outward appearance, living out her dreams. What no one with whom she worked knew was that she had grown up dirt poor in West Virginia, the daughter of parents who were fighting their own demons while raising their four children. The film flashes back and forth between Walls having reached the pinnacle of success, and her early life that included many moves, persistent lack of food, and setting herself on fire at age 5 when cooking her own lunch. Yet the film, like the book, embraces the complexity of Walls’ parents, finding the enormous gifts that their unconventional life gave her as Walls herself comes to terms with her past and coming clean about it. The film co-stars Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Ella Anderson, Chandler Head, Max Greenfield, Josh Caras, Sarah Snook, and Brigette Lundy-Paine. It was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton from a script by him and Andrew Lanham.