For many years I’ve told other people’s stories in movies and mini-series. Some were complete fiction, others were composite characters and still others have been icons: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley to name two. Finally I felt the need to tell my story, and, as anyone will see by watching this movie, my story begins with The Catcher in the Rye.
In 1968 when I was an out-of-sorts sophomore at an all-boys boarding school we were assigned to read The Catcher in the Rye. We had already read Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and works by Faulkner and Hemingway, but Holden Caulfield was something altogether different. With his ‘goddam this’, ‘for chrissake that’ and ‘all that crap’ he swore right there in a book we were supposed to read. He pointed out to us every phony that crossed his path. He made up all sorts of crap right on the spot and lied to adults. Nobody I had ever read up to that time had been so honest.
Even before finishing the book I began thinking I was Holden Caulfield. Like Holden I didn’t get along with practically any of my peers at this school which seemed to value athletics over all things.. And I wasn’t all that chummy with most of the faculty either. My passion was theater, and I grew convinced I was the right person to be Holden Caulfield on stage and in the movies. For my senior project I adapted The Catcher in the Rye as a stage play to put on at school and was sure that off-Broadway would find out about it, then Broadway and then Hollywood. I was naïve; I admit it – to put it as Holden might have.
I was not the only one who was so caught up by The Catcher in the Rye and Holden. In any sizeable group of people — boomers especially – mention the book or Holden, and eyes light up. Everyone has a story to tell about their reactions to the book. There are people whose lives were forever changed by this novel. Some have gone on to write books books. Others have written magazine articles. A few have been driven to kill. I was inspired to make this movie. And the movie is about a boy who was driven first to become Holden Caulfield and then to find his creator, JD Salinger.
PHOTOS FROM THE 1969 HIGH SCHOOL PLAY BASED ON THE CATCHER IN THE RYE