Film based on U-M professor’s controversial graphic novel to premiere at Sundance Film Festival
Long before Lena Dunham brought her groundbreaking depiction of the sexual life of post-college women to HBO’s “Girls,” a University of Michigan professor shocked audiences with her novel, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.”
Based on her own teen diaries, the book by professor Phoebe Gloeckner of the U-M Stamps School of Art & Design tells the unflinching story of a young girl’s initiation into sex and drugs, beginning with an affair with her mother’s boyfriend.
The novel has been praised as “one of the bleakest and most brilliant books ever written about growing up female,” and was recently adapted into a full-length feature film, directed by Marielle Heller and starring Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgard.
The film will premiere Jan. 25 at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
Gloeckner is available to speak with journalists about the upcoming film adaption of her novel.
Q&A with Phoebe Gloeckner
Q: The book is based on your own diaries and life growing up in 1970s San Francisco. Were you hesitant about handing over the rights to your story for stage and now, film?
Gloeckner: Over the years, I’ve been approached by three different directors about turning the book into a film but I was never comfortable with the vision that they presented. Maybe it was because I had my own vision for a film version. Then, Marielle Heller approached me about creating a play. I thought that was so insane and couldn’t imagine it whatsoever, so I said yes. Over the last eight years, as she was researching and writing, we developed a strong relationship and I grew to trust her. So when she approached me about turning the play into a film, I said yes.
Q: Did Marielle Heller, the actors, or the production crew consult with you during the filming?
Gloeckner: Phoebe Gloeckner poses on set with Bel Powly (Minnie), Alexander Skarsgard (Monroe), and her daughters, Audrey and Persephone. Image courtesy Phoebe Gloeckner
Phoebe Gloeckner poses on set with Bel Powly (Minnie), Alexander Skarsgard (Monroe), and her daughters, Audrey and Persephone. Image courtesy Phoebe Gloeckner
I’ve spent a lot of time with Marielle, and I’ve answered questions and dug up old photos and drawings and read script drafts. Ultimately, it was weird for me to be involved. The material is so personal. I had to defer to Marielle and allow her to follow her own creative vision and create her own piece. I don’t think the movie could possibly be as dark and, well, explicit as the book. It’s a film, so it has to get an R rating.
I was on the set quite a bit. It was an amazing experience. Alexander Skarsgard did ask me quite a few questions about Monroe, the character he plays. Among other things, he wanted to know what became of him.
Q: The novel has long been considered a masterpiece within the genre of graphic novels. Are there any aspects of your drawings or graphics being incorporated into the film?
Gloeckner: Marielle created animations based on my drawings for the movie. There’s one animation based on a comic I drew when I was 15. In the book, the comics are part of the narrative, but in the movie, I think they play a different role, illustrating Minnie’s mind as an artist. Another difference, by the way, is that instead of writing, Minnie records the diary out loud. This just worked much better for film.
Q: Will you attend the Sundance premiere?
Gloeckner: Yes, I will be there. I actually haven’t seen the whole film yet, just noncontiguous scenes. I’m really nervous but I think Marielle is even more nervous for me to see the film. It’s really emotional. This part of my life was traumatic, and there are probably parts of it I still haven’t processed. But ultimately, I feel lucky—how many people get to see actors act out their life stories?
Gloeckner teaches graphic storytelling, illustration and electronic book arts at U-M’s Stamps School. In 2008, she was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship to continue work on an ongoing project centering on the life of the family of a murdered teenager living in Ciudad Juárez, several hundred feet from the U.S.-Mexico border. She is currently working on an electronic, hybrid “multi-touch” novel based on her research in Juárez.
Story via University of Michigan News Department.