SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK WRITER

 

MATTHEW QUICK FINDS A SILVER LINING IN HOLLYWOOD

By Gary Murray

 

Matthew Quick is a charming but intense man.  With an almost-shaved head and loose fitting shirt, he comes across more as a stoic bouncer who stands in front of a high end night club than a sensitive artist.  But, he is an author who has recently had his novel turned into a major motion picture. 

The story of Silver Linings Playbook is of a Pat (Bradley Cooper), a man who is having a very bad rough patch in his life.  As the film opens, he is in a mental health facility trying to get his head straight.  He is obsessed with winning back his wife.  Back at home, we see that there an estranged relationship between Pat and his father (Robert DeNiro), a man who is more than obsessed with Philadelphia Eagles Football.  Pat also meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) another woman in the neighborhood who has been having some mental issues.

Pat and Tiffany bond over running and eventually she convinces him to be her dance partner in the local ballroom dancing competition.   If he will help her compete in the floor exercise, she will help him contact his estranged wife.  The film becomes an awkward romance between the two damaged individuals.

Recently Matthew was in town to discuss his work and he release of this major motion picture.  Other than Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew has written the young adult novels Sorta like a Rock Star, Boy 21 and Forgive Me Leonard Peacock.  His writings have received an honorable mention from PEN/Hemmingway Awards.

This life-long Philadelphia Eagles fan was a bit nervous about the scene in the movie where the team is playing the Dallas Cowboys.  “I was very concerned about it, holding my breath about it,” he said about the screening in Dallas.  “When we got to that scene, people actually applauded.  I felt like I pulled off a magic trick.” 

“The metaphor of football is something that everyone can relate to,” he said about how the characters communicate.  “I’m an Eagles season ticket holder and that is the time I go home and I see my family.  I have something to talk to my father about.  The beauty of that is that metaphor transcends to cities, to see people cheering.”   

In the film, DeNiro’s character has many elaborate rituals to assure his team achieves victory.  “We definitely have game day rituals,” he said comparing himself to his characters. “My brother is more obsessive than I am.”  He does have to wear his Mike Quick jersey to every game.    

On the rivalry between Dallas and Philadelphia, he said, “It is our Super Bowl when we play the Cowboys, but for the Cowboys it is just another team.   It is that total inferiority thing. We have that Rocky Balboa mentality.  We are the underdogs all the time, the forgotten city.  It is such a great place.  There is a chip on the shoulder, but in a good way.  The values that I was taught, that solid work ethic that you are loyal to the people you grew up with.  The family comes together on Sunday.  I think that is very Philadelphia.”

Matthew Quick quit his job as a teacher then spent 3 ½ years in the basement working on his writing. “There were a lot of lonely moments,” he said of this time.  “I always say to young writers ‘You don’t pick writing fiction, writing fiction picks you.’  It is this thing I have to do.  It is in me to do it.  I don’t feel well if I’m not writing.  I feel as though the ideas are important.  I feel called to do it.”

He finished the thought by saying, “That being said, when you are writing in a basement for three years—it was like a bunker.  It was important to separate myself and to be alone.  My father was very concerned about this.  He’s a very pragmatic businessman and doesn’t understand the artistic temperament.  It was a hard road to go down, definitely a test.  I think that I passed that test but also I don’t take credit for it and at no point was ‘not writing’ an option. There was no plan B.”

Doing an MFA program in Vermont and writing short stories, Michael wasn’t truly idle those years.  He admits that there was a massive outpouring of words where he wrote four novels and fifty short stories.  It was a long rode before he fell upon the idea that would become Silver Linings Playbook.  He said, “When I started writing it, it was one of those great windows that don’t happen often.  I felt that I was on to something.  It was better work than I was doing in the last few years.  Not only was it better work, but it was saleable work.  It was marketable work.  It was work that would have a chance in LA or New York.”

After Matthew finished the novel and his MFA program, he asked his wife to give him two months to break through to literary success.  He met with much negativity from his fellow classmates and teachers.  “There is no way you can pull this off,” he was told.   But he believed in himself.   “I was sending out 10 to 15 letters a day to literary agents,” he said.  The book sold in Italy first, then LA and eventually New York.  “It was a rather quick transition from guy in the basement to being a selling author. Now people allow me to claim it as a profession.”

The book eventually caught interest in Hollywood.  It was finally adapted by David O. Russell, the man behind The Fighter and Three Kings.   It is rumored by many critics to be on the short list for Oscar consideration.  Matthew said of that idea, “I think that David deserves one for Adapted Screenplay.”

Matthew is very happy about how David O. Russell took his book and turned it into a screen work.  “I don’t think there is a false note in the film,” he said.  “I think they did an amazing job.   I thought Jennifer Lawrence was amazing and I thought Bradley did a great job.  I was pleased to see DeNiro in this role as well.  In the movie, DeNiro and Bradley flipped the relationship.  I think it was a smart move because DeNiro and Bradley have a relationship off set.  I couldn’t be happier about how it turned out.”

The experience of working in Hollywood, so far from his basement beginnings, has put a spark in Matthew Quick.  ”I do want to write screenplays.  It is something that I’m interested in.  I go to the movies at least once a week and I think I fell in love with film before I fell in love with literature.  My agents are very keen on saying ‘you are a brand now’ and they want me to keep on writing novels.  I want to break out of that.  It is a little intimidating to have David adapt this so well and try to follow it up.  I’d like to learn from David.  As I read screenplays I almost feel as if I am getting an education.  I have been very fortunate that I haven’t had those moments where I’m bitter about what people have done with my work.”

But he did wonder if he has the wherewithal to adapt his on works for the different medium that is film.  “Would I have been objective enough to make the decisions that David made?” he asked of himself.  “In the book, you are squarely in Pat’s head the whole time.  I think the book works largely because the audience knows a lot more than Pat does.  In the book, he suffers from brain trauma so he has some memory issues.  He is not getting everything that is going on in the book.  With Bradley Cooper you have a different take, he doesn’t have the brain trauma.  I think that was a smart move because you let Bradley Cooper do what Bradley Cooper does well.  I don’t know if I would have been as objective to do that.” 

Matthew admits that he would love to direct a film himself.  “I had these fantasies,” he said, “that David would take me under his wing as an apprentice.  I saw David working and he was so brilliant.  It was amazing to see David working with the actors giving different performances.  This is an art form that I don’t know as much about as I thought.  I sat back and observed.  I feel much more comfortable in the novel form.”

Silver Linings Playbook opens nationwide on November 21, 2012.  

 

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