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THE GLASS CASTLE

About The Production
"That's the magic of storytelling - if one person is willing to be brave and tell their story, then that allows other people to be honest. I think there's incredible value in coming to terms with your story, and I hope that the telling of my story will encourage other people to revisit their own."

--Jeannette Walls

Every family has a story, but none quite like that of renowned celebrity gossip columnist Jeannette Walls - and yet Walls's acclaimed memoir, The Glass Castle, connected with millions of readers. In the book, Walls unveiled the deeply guarded secret she'd long kept of her childhood: a wildly gothic coming-of-age amid poverty, disaster, rebellion and estrangement from society. Yet perhaps most amazing about Walls's book, harrowing as it was, is its sense of deep family love, a love as vast and magical as her parents were strange and inexplicable. It allowed her to turn her youth into a grand adventure and an empowering journey towards redemption. Careening from hunger and crisis to starlit nights of enchantment, Walls found all the light and darkness of the world.

The book burst onto the literary scene and spent seven years on the bestseller list, captivating readers with its gripping story of a nomadic clan living by their parents' passionately held if reckless rules. At the heart of its allure was Walls's determination to survive, to get out and make her own life, but without letting go of the complicated affection she felt for two parents whose wildness was at once full of wonderment and a catastrophe. Walls's book was the opposite of a lurid tell-all. Instead it was a love story, one full of cracked hearts, broken promises and unseen need, yet also one that dug to the bottom of how sustaining and transcendent love can be, no matter who you are or where you are from.

The story already played like cinema: a fairy tale spanning a life lived in cars and shacks to the heights of New York publishing. It's something co-screenwriter and director Destin Daniel Cretton keyed into as soon as he read it. But Cretton, who broke out with the much-admired indie Short Term 12, also saw the story as relatable by anyone who has been both troubled and enlivened by their family.

"Destin, from the beginning, saw all the light, the happiness, the joy and the lessons, and he brought that," Jeannette says. "He hasn't whitewashed anything. He hasn't left out the bad things. They're all there. His script captured exactly what I tried to do with the book: to show the beauty and the ugliness, the bright and the dark of my childhood."

Cretton explains his affinity for the book: "This is such a personal story to Jeannette, when I read it, it felt incredibly personal to me, too. My upbringing was not as crazy as hers, but I related to her exploration of love and its many facets and the way that families can have both beautiful times, and difficult, scary times. It felt real and relatable and so cathartic. It's one of those stories that makes you feel more connected and not so alone in the world."

He and co-screenwriter Andrew Lanham also saw it as a story of a highly successful, seemingly settled woman, the adult Jeannette, who must return to the muck and mire of her family history in order to reconcile her future. "We focused in on the idea of a young woman who is filing through her memories, trying to make sense of her life so far, and to finally make peace with the past and her parents. Ultimately, it is the story of a woman learning to love and accept herself," says Cretton.

Cretton found Walls's ability to openly wonder about her parents' truly extreme behavior, yet still have overwhelming compassion for them, especially powerful, and something he had to underline the entire production. "Every page of Jeannette's book shows another side of these incredibly complicated characters and their relationships to each other. One moment you're falling in love with a character, but then they do something to make you hate them, and then you turn the page and love them again. It's all so deeply human."

For Walls, Cretton had hit upon the one idea she felt had to come out of any screenplay adaptation: that her family, disorderly and difficult as it might be, reflects as much as any our universal human urge to hold tight to our loved ones no matter how much it tests us. Since publishing her book, she has found that many more people than she even imagined took that to heart.

"One the many blessings of having told my story in the book is that people not only get it, they sometimes get it even more than I do," says Walls. "There are so many people out there with stories that, while not identical to mine, share something essential in common. In telling this story of both great hardships and great abundance, I not only reconnected with this childhood that I tried to pretend did not exist for a long time; I also connected with other people."

Another person Walls's story hit home with is Oscar winner Brie Larson (Best Actress, Room, 2015), who portrays her as a young woman in The Glass Castle. Says Larson: "This is a story about family, about how you become the person you are and about accepting the fact that people don't always love you in the way you need but you can forgive them. It's very rare to be able to watch someone like Jeannette move from childhood into adulthood, seeing all the missed connections and moments that were misunderstood, and then to see her have the chance to regain some of what was lost. I really wanted to do right by her and her story."

As time has passed, Walls feels even more strongly that the raw beauty of love can be found in nearly ever family, and every family has a story to tell. "Some people have accused me of being overly optimistic, but that's how we survive our tough times, looking for the joy, because otherwise it might kill you," she concludes. "That is why we tell stories. If we can share with one another the lessons of our survival - how on earth did you get through that? - then everyone feels they can get through it, too. If people leave the theaters thinking about their own family, I'll be ecstatic."

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