About The Production
"The only thing that ever made me less loony was writing," says
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based writer Susanna Kaysen, author of two books, Asa,
As I Knew Him and Far Afield, and her memoir, Girl, Interrupted.
It was in the late '80s-some 20 years after her time in "the
bin"-when Kaysen began revisiting the most formative time in her young
life. The memories of her almost two-year stay at McLean Psychiatric Hospital, a
private and exclusive institution near Cambridge, resurfaced while writing her
second book. She began composing vignettes of her time at the hospital, writing
short scenes about a time in her life she had not discussed for two decades.
In 1993, 25 years after Kaysen's release from the hospital,
was published and became an instant best-seller. It spent time on nearly every
best-seller list, including 11 weeks on the venerable New York Times list. It
was an eloquent, startling and surprisingly humorous book which deeply impacted
readers (many of them teenage girls and young women) and critics nationwide. The
critics likened it to several powerful, now-classic self-portraits of madness,
including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden
and The Bell Jar (whose author, Sylvia Plath, was also an alumna of McLean).
Director James Mangold likens Kaysen's story to what "Dorothy Gale
encounters in her 'parallel universe'" in The Wizard of Oz. "The book
is filled with amazing characters and amazing philosophies and observations on
life," says the director.
The book also caught the eye and captured the heart of Columbia
Pictures-based producer Douglas Wick, who used money from his discretionary fund
at Columbia to option the book even though he couldn't get a studio to buy it.
"The book was brimming with humanity. It was a minimalist style that had
huge bursts of sadness and humor. Its characters were raw and struggling and set
against a world that had lost its way. It was immediately clear that these vivid
and dimensional characters would attract a remarkable ensemble of young
actresses," says Wick. "The book struck me as accessible and
insightful about our passage from adolescence to adulthood-a roller coaster ride
of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ups and downs as we try to find the
balance between expressing ourselves and suppressing ourselves.
"Susanna's book is so eloquent about the tradeoffs of making a normal
life," continues Wick. "And the normal life in question is the
tumultuous 1960s. This makes the question 'who is crazy or not crazy'
Producer Wick, however, was not the only fan of the book in Hollywood.
Actress Winona Ryder had read and fallen in love with the book, too.
"I was blown away by it," says Ryder, "but also saddened a bit
that it hadn't been published when I was in my late teens. I could have used
Susanna's insights back then to get through my own struggles at 17 and 18 years
"To me the book is a timeless story about timeless characters and
timeless feelings," adds Ryder. "It is an incredibly honest,
courageous, sensitive and, most amazingly, wickedly funny account of what was a
terribly painful time in her life."
Part of her attraction to the book and subsequent interest in adapting it for
the screen, says Ryder, was becau
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