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From Script to Screen

Producer Laurence Mark, who optioned the rights to Stephen McCauley's book in 1987, has nurtured the development of THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION since then.

"Although the book was told from George's point of view, the idea of making a movie from Nina's perspective was intriguing," says Mark. "And Wendy Wasserstein was an ideal writer to find that female voice."

"Wendy has been one of my closest friends for some years," says Hytner. "And our four­year collaboration on this story has been the most fulfilling of my career."

THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION marks the first produced screenplay for Wasserstein, an acclaimed playwright who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her play "The Heidi Chronicles."

"Screen writing is very spare," says Wasserstein in comparing a novel to the more abbreviated techniques used in writing scripts and plays. But she also notes the film's cinematic challenge to "open" the action.

"In my plays, two women sit down on a chair and one says 'Boy, am I unhappy.' And the other one says, 'Yeah, I'm more unhappy than you.' And somebody else says 'Let me tell you about my mother.' And the other one says, 'Let me tell you about my mother.' And they could go on for two hours," laughs Wasserstein. "Whereas in a movie, that would be rather dull."

Wasserstein suggests that the collaboration with director Hytner brought the story to life. "The shape of this movie has to do with the collaboration between a director and a writer," she continues. "It's interesting that Nick and I both come from the theater, where there is always that kind of working atmosphere."

Wasserstein and Hytner worked to translate Stephen McCauley's novel into a screenplay. "I thought the book was wonderfully wry," Wasserstein recalls. "It had a sensibility that was very close to my own, so there was an immediate attachment.

"But it's very hard to adapt a novel," she continues. "What was fun was going to the bones of the story ­­ Nina and George and their friendship ­­ and then opening it out a bit, making it more cinematic."

And despite the industry's trend toward multiple movie scribes on a single project, Wasserstein remained the sole writer after ten years, the last four with Hytner, and more than a dozen drafts.

"A friend of mine jokes, 'Now that they're making this movie, you'll have nothing to do anymore'," she laughs. "It's sort of been my life's work!"

"In different ways, Wendy and I both had a close personal stake in this story," continues Hytner. "So, with the complete support of Stephen McCauley, we retained the emotional center of the novel, while at the same time developing the movie to reflect many of our own concerns. We have deliberately set out to make a free cinematic adaptation of the novel rather than a slavish retelling of it."

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