Rebel in the Rye is set to explore the birth of the reclusive writer’s best-known work
Tuesday 1 September 2015
Nicholas Hoult is to play JD Salinger in a new biopic which will tell the story of the creation of the reclusive author’s classic novel of teenage disaffection, Catcher in the Rye, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Rebel in the Rye will be based on Kenneth Slawenski’s biography JD Salinger: A Life, which explores the writer’s life prior to the publication in 1951 of his most famous work. Danny Strong, co-creator of the hit television show Empire, has adapted the screenplay from Slawenski’s book, and will also direct.
“The Catcher in the Rye is a classic coming of age story which continues to make a significant impression six generations later,” said Alex Walton of sales company Bloom, which will tout the film to potential buyers at the upcoming Toronto film festival. “The world has long been fascinated with JD Salinger, who the talented Nicholas Hoult will bring to life, in this enigmatic role.”
Slawenski’s biography largely focuses on Salinger’s life up to the publication of Catcher in the Rye in 1951 at the age of 32, after which the writer gradually withdrew from public life. Blurb about the book on the website of publisher Penguin Random House reads:
Kenneth Slawenski explores Salinger’s privileged youth, long obscured by misrepresentation and rumour, revealing the brilliant, sarcastic, vulnerable son of a disapproving father and doting mother. Here too are accounts of Salinger’s first broken heart – after Eugene O’Neill’s daughter, Oona, left him – and the devastating World War II service that haunted him forever. JD Salinger features all the dazzle of this author’s early writing successes, his dramatic encounters with luminaries from Ernest Hemingway to Elia Kazan, his office intrigues with famous New Yorker editors and writers, and the stunning triumph of The Catcher in the Rye, which would both make him world-famous and hasten his retreat into the hills of New Hampshire.
Salinger, who died in 2010 at the age of 91, was famously protective of film rights to his greatest work, turning down offers from Billy Wilder, Harvey Weinstein, and Steven Spielberg during his lifetime. However, he was clear that Catcher in the Rye represented an autobiographical statement, telling a high school newspaper in 1953: “My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book ... [It] was a great relief telling people about it.”
Wokingham-born Hoult, 25, has been steadily building a career in the US, largely with strong supporting turns, since transferring to Hollywood following early success in the British television series Skins and as a child actor in 2002’s About a Boy. His best known film roles include a turn as a zombie redeveloping human instincts in the horror-romance Warm Bodies, as furry blue mutant Beast in the X-Men films and as a brainwashed, shaven-headed desert warrior in this year’s critically-acclaimed sci-fi reboot Mad Max: Fury Road.
Rebel in the Rye is the second Salinger biopic to be announced in recent years. In 2013 the BBC reported that Hollywood super-producer Harvey Weinstein’s The Weinstein Company was set to work with film-maker and author Shane Salerno, who wrote the New York Times bestselling biography Salinger and its accompanying documentary, on a new movie. However that project appears to have since become caught up in development hell.