Getting Closer

With Jason Bateman joining Nicole Kidman on the project, Kevin Wilson’s bestselling novel, The Family Fang, is surely headed for the big screen

by Margaret Renkl

November 8, 2013 In 2011, when actress Nicole Kidman, who lives in Nashville, optioned Kevin Wilson’s debut novel, The Family Fang, for a feature film, the Sewanee author was dumbfounded. “It’s crazy,” he told Chapter 16’s Tina LoTufo at the time. “That’s the furthest thing from your mind when you’re writing a book. [But] maybe in the back of my head I was thinking if I could write a good-enough novel I would get to meet Nicole Kidman. And it would all be worth it.”

“I met Nicole not long after she bought the option,” Wilson recalled in an email to Chapter 16 this week. “She had very interesting and specific thoughts on adapting the movie, and I felt like she’d given the novel a lot of careful attention, which made me feel like the book was in good hands.”

Still, though The Family Fang—which focuses on a family of performance artists—is unusually cinematic for a literary novel, the film seemed more a dream to Wilson than an impending reality. Taking a book from print to film is a long, long, long process, with many deal-killing hurdles standing in the way: signing a director, lining up funding, getting A-list actors to commit, finding a distributor, etc.

This week, two more hurdles fell: Deadline Hollywood broke the news that Jason Bateman had signed on to the project—as both co-star and director: “Jason Bateman, who made an auspicious feature directorial debut with the Toronto festival smash Bad Words, next will direct Nicole Kidman in The Family Fang, the adaptation of the Kevin Wilson bestseller. Bateman will also star in the film. The script is by David Lindsay-Abaire, who adapted his Pulitzer Prize-winning play Rabbit Hole as a vehicle that got Kidman an Oscar nomination.”

Difficuluties remain, but the project is well underway now. For his part, Wilson is still shaking his head in disbelief: “I love Bateman’s work as an actor, and his directorial debut is getting such good buzz, so it made me happy to think that he might help turn the novel into a movie,” he said. “Mostly, to be honest, it feels so unreal that I don’t think about it much. It’s beyond me in a lot of ways. I hope it gets made and I’m excited to see Nicole in it, but I have to just focus on my own work and trust these people, who have been really kind and have made me feel comfortable about the possibility of a movie. I still know it might not happen, and I’m fine with that, but I hope it does.”

Either way, of course, Wilson still got to meet Nicole Kidman. “She’s beautiful and engaging and very smart, so it was a real thrill to meet her,” he says. “Mostly we talked about our kids.”

To read Maria Browning’s review of The Family Fang for Chapter 16, click here.

Published Friday, 8 November 2013