Read the book about 10 times and then figure out how to tell the story so it works as a movie. The most difficult thing is the beginning, and trying to figure out how to tell the story differently.
How did you change the structure of the story from the novel?
For example, in the beginning of the novel, in the very first paragraph, you find out that Cate Blanchett's character [Sheba] is having an affair with the kid. My first decision was to withhold that information. I was building to that revelation for the first half hour where the book gets you from the off. So stuff like that is a big change of storytelling shape.
Can you give me another example?
Well yes. I wrote a big scene that isn't in the book -- when Sheba tells Barbara about how the affair started. She goes to have a drink with Barbara and there is this big long sequence and flash back.
In the book, there isn't one scene when you got into Sheba's story because it is told from Barbara's perspective. I had to find a way to give help the audience understand Cate Blanchett's character so I chose to do that by giving her a long flashback.
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Did you care what the author of the book, Zoe Heller, thought of your screenplay or were you like, "whatever"?
I did care what she thought about it. Of course I cared! We've become very good friends while I've been working on this. That's been one of the nicest things. She's, generally speaking, happy with the final and screenplay. And anything we disagreed on -- the disagreement (was) very amiable.
Overall she has been a very tolerant adaptee. She's been very well behaved, and has been nice to work with.
So does getting nominated for an Oscar mean a lot even in England?
Hell yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah! The phone doesn't stop ringing and people I haven't spoken to in 20 years have gotten in touch. You can go to any country and say you've been nominated for an Oscar and they would know what that means. They might not necessarily be impressed -- in some places they wouldn't be impressed at all (although I can't think where that would be) -- but I'm completely thrilled. It's a very big deal!
You are also nominated for a BAFTA. Does that mean as much to you as an Oscar?
I would not want to answer that question. The Oscar is the main thing that is prized in show business, but I wouldn't want to diminish the British Academy. I've never won a BAFTA. I'd be thrilled to win one.
I saw on IMDB you are working on "Alan Partridge: The Movie." That sounds awesome.
Steve Coogan and I have lunch every now and then and talk about it. It's an ongoing conversation -- it's officially unofficial.