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The Night Listener Comes To The Screen
Once published, Maupin's novel instantly drew fans around the world – among them film producer Jeff Sharp of Hart Sharp Entertainment. Already a fan of Tales of the City, Sharp was excited to read The Night Listener – and stunned to discover it was something completely different from what he expected. He was convinced the story, with all its human enigmas and sudden surprise twists, had all the elements to make for a smart, cinematic thriller. Furthermore, with today's headlines filled with real-life tales of a writer's deceptions and the messy lines between fact and fiction, the story seemed to be that rare mystery with the potential to provoke fear and thought simultaneously.

Says Sharp: "I found the novel to be a real page-turner, a rich and accomplished work, and the best combination of Armistead's talents yet. You fall in love with the characters, but they take you to a very dark place – and a place where I don't think Armistead has ever gone before. It's a love story intertwined with the thrill ride of a mystery. We saw it as a great opportunity to create a compelling, character-based thriller.” Adds producer Robert Kessel, succinctly: "It's a story you just can't get out of your head.”

The story also seemed to fit right in with their company's style. "The stories that are most difficult to translate to screen are the ones that always seem to inspire us the most,” notes Hart. "That's our calling and has been since BOYS DON'T CRY, which is similar to THE NIGHT LISTENER in its provocative nature, its darkness and its true-story overtones.”

Inspired by the knowledge that Maupin is an obsessive movie lover, Hart Sharp approached the author about adapting his novel for the screen. Maupin was more than thrilled. He saw it as a chance to revisit his work and do something entirely new with it. "I like the idea of adding fresh mysteries to the story, of underlining the themes in new ways and to keep people guessing even more,” says Maupin.

Before he dove in, however, Maupin made a bold decision: to collaborate on the screenplay with his ex, accomplished writer Terry Anderson. "My feeling was that because Terry had lived this story with me and had been the person who'd originally pointed out the deception, he should be a part of this process,” explains Maupin. "He's also a guy with a lot of great ideas.” But both men were prepared for an emotional ride. "Terry and I knew that we were in for something of a rocky road writing a screenplay based on the novel that had to do with our breakup,” admits Maupin. "Writing about two characters who are really us was a bit surreal, but of course that's the whole process of fiction – to draw from the emotional truth of your life.”

That elusive border between the real and the unreal is constantly breeched in THE NIGHT LISTENER, creating a mind-bending effect, even for the writers. Says Terry Anderson: "We were constantly dancing on the fine line of what was really happening and what wasn't.”

He continues: "The process of going from a real life story that was translated into a novel and taking it into another fictional form for film was a big challenge, especially because so much of the story is about what happens on the phone. Phone conversations don't often work that well on film so we had to look for a lot of devices to make it more visually exciting – taking you deeper into the characters' worlds and making it more dramatic and fun. At the same time, we faced the challenge of putting some distance between the real-life events that happened to us and the story on the screen.”

While Maupin and Anderson grappled with reality and illusion, the producers began to search for a director who could bring a fresh but skilled eye to this dark, mysterious territory. They found what they were looking for in rising newcomer Patrick Stettner, who came to the attention of Hollywood when he wrote and directed THE BUSINESS OF STRANG

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