About The Production
Nick Flynn began writing a memoir in 1997. It took him seven years before
it was ready to be published as Another Bulls-t Night in Suck City.
Paul Weitz began writing a screenplay adaptation of Nick's memoir in
2004. It took him seven years before it was ready to be filmed as Being
Both Weitz and Nick were compelled to tell Nick's story, as well as that of
another man - Jonathan Flynn, Nick's father.
Nick's memoir chronicles his life growing up in suburban Massachusetts in
the 1970s and his work at a Boston homeless shelter in the 1980s. He
reflects, "I hadn't grown up with my father; I didn't know him well. It had
been 18 years since I last saw him. Then he ended up a guest, a resident
in the shelter where I worked.
"Our lives intersected, and we got to know each other a little." While
facing down a painful family history in the form of his long-estranged
father, Nick also faced up to his own drug and alcohol addiction.
Weitz read the book upon its 2004 publication, and immediately felt that it
should be a movie. Corduroy Films' Michael Costigan introduced Nick to
Weitz, who lobbied the author for a chance to make the movie.
Nick was so encouraged by their first meeting that he soon gave his
blessing for the feature film adaptation. Nick reflects, "Paul really had a
cogent vision of the material from the beginning. Once we decided to
move forward and work together, he wrote a first draft of the script that
was quite spectacular."
Paul Weitz's work as writer and director had consistently gravitated to
family dynamics, most often exploring father/son relationships or their
equivalents. But Being Flynn would situate him in a new dramatic context,
requiring the articulation of a compelling point of view on an emotional
At the heart of Weitz's approach to writing the screenplay adaptation
was maintaining respect for Nick's life experiences while also exploring the
universal theme of family. The specifics would be of a child reconciling his
own path with his parents' lives, respective flaws and all. Over the course
of the 30 drafts Weitz wrote before filming began, elements of the story
would be augmented and characters would be written as amalgams of
true-life people. Through each draft, the mordantly amusing and powerful
moments that resonated with the book's readers were retained.
Nick notes, "With my years spent on the book, I know from experience
how so much of what you write doesn't end up in the final product.
"But there were people at various studios that would give ill-founded
advice on a beautiful draft that Paul had written, that would have made
it bad. Take one beat out of it, and you realize - or should have realized -
that you can't do that, because it makes another one happen. One line
hinges on another; Paul's script was like a poem in that way."
Producer Andrew Miano, partnered with brothers Paul and Chris Weitz in
Depth of Field, states that he "still has all the drafts, in case anyone doubts
that there were in fact 30. There was never one with a 'Hollywood
ending,' though some versions of the script were darker than others. This is
a story about real people going through real experiences. It's Nick's story,
but it's also Jonathan's; Paul was able to visualize the back-and-forth,
including when it came time to incorporate voiceover.
"We all fell in love with the book, and like many good projects it has been
a long road to getting it made. But when we find material that matters to
us, we stick with it."
Nick reflects, "We had hit it off right away, but my respect for Paul and his
process has only grown over the years of knowing him - and of his
struggling to get this movie made."
"Paul Weitz had reached out to Nick from the very beginning," comments
Nick's wife, actress Lili Taylor. "I loved watching them work together and
do research together. I admire Paul's tenacity and passion."
The conversations between Nick and Weitz about the movie never
stopped, even when the writer/director was otherwise engaged directing
three feature films - and getting a fourth released - over the seven years.
The duo's extensive rounds of research would take them to Boston several
times. They met with counselors on duty at the shelter where Nick had
worked and where his father had stayed. Nick remembers, "Paul and I
were there for dinner. We were there for the showers, for bedtime - which,
for most, is 9:00 PM. I still know many people who work there - and there
are still people there who were guests when I was working at the shelter."
There was also a ride-along for Nick and Paul, on the nightly "van scout"
encouraging people to come off the streets and into the shelter. Nick
reports, "Paul and I were both wearing very thin jackets in 5-degree
Boston weather. We had to be lent puffy coats from the van. We got out
around 2:00 AM and walked around, going to this one area where I had
remembered things taking place. By the time we came back to the van,
it was gone - the call had come in that someone was in trouble. Standing
out there waiting - hoping - for the van to come, we had it conveyed to
us what that would feel like.
"Paul wanted to absorb it all. Once we were back in the van, we were
told about what happened to a man who hadn't come in from the cold
the week before; he had been beaten to death by some young adults.
Paul made sure that story made it into the movie; that night, he became
starkly aware that the homeless - often seen as a threat - are so
vulnerable, whether because of the cold or because of danger from
On several occasions, Weitz accompanied Nick to meet with Jonathan
Flynn, who had maintained contact with his son and was living in
Massachusetts. Nick reveals, "The first time that Paul and I met with my
father, we sat in this tiny apartment for seven hours. There were books
everywhere, his writings everywhere, piles of things everywhere. I
introduced Paul to him, saying 'He's going to be making a movie of the
book that I wrote,' which my father had read.
"My father was somewhat impressed, but he doesn't get impressed too
much - except with himself."
Nick feels that the journeys back, especially the meetings with the elder
Flynn, made an indelible impression on Weitz, positively impacting the
script. Nick says, "There are several moments from our visits with my father
that ended up in the movie. Reading the book is one thing, but I'm not
sure that Paul would've gotten the intensity of my father - how he can say
things that line up with a higher truth, how he shows he's a tough guy by
wielding weapons - if they hadn't met, face to face. These things were
very familiar to me from my times with him, but for Paul I think they were
invaluable to his making the picture."
As the father/son relationship has evolved, "we've had many years of
knowing each other," Nick points out. "Since Paul has met my father
several times, he's witnessed many things between us. Knowing the
relationship that my father and I now have, he wanted to transfer some of
that energy into specific scenes."
After years of rewrites and polishes, Weitz would ultimately rework the
script to be closer to the first draft that he had initially showed Nick when
the process began. There had been, all concerned realized, a solid
foundation which should be reaffirmed.
After that epiphany, the response to the final draft of Being Flynn was
overwhelming. "The essence of what's in the book was in every draft, but
with this particular draft everything just clicked into place for both script
and cast," notes Miano.
Four-time Academy Award
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