Photo Credit: Focus Features
The film One Day, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, opens nationwide in theaters on August 19 -- and you can connect with fans of the book right now in our Book Club message boards. In One Day, Emma (Hathaway) and Dexter (Sturgess) meet while celebrating their university graduation, and reunite every July 14th for the next twenty years. How did author and screenwriter David Nicholls translate his heartbreaking yet humorous bestseller to the screen? We sat down with him at the Soho Grand in Manhattan to find out.
How did you go about converting your novel into a movie?
When I wrote the book, there was no great rush for the film rights. It’s hard to age actors up and down -- and get that right on the screen. And how do you cram 20 years into 100 minutes?
What did you hate eliminating?
The hardest thing was the letters, which are important in their growing friendship. There’s no way to put a letter onto the screen without a great deal of voiceover.
Considering Dexter’s character, how did you handle the challenge of making someone lovable when he's not likeable?
When I wrote the first draft of this book, there were two notes. One was that Dexter was a terrible person. But the intention was always that it should be a redemption story about people growing up together, about how friendship improves people. To be redeemed you have to behave badly. My friends don’t always behave sympathetically. I know I don’t. So I saw no reason not to put that both on the page and on the screen. I was interested in just how selfish and foolish someone could be and still come out of it OK.
Still, what did you change to make Dexter more appealing?
In the book, Dexter, even at his worst, always has a voice in his head that says: Why am I doing this? This isn’t me. Why did I just say that? Emma has a voice that’s always saying: Why are you being so stern? Why are you being so judgmental?
And casting Sturgess and Hathaway goes a long way…
Jim in particular brings a charm and appeal that Dexter on the page sometimes lacks. He still says terrible things, but he’s so appealing that it sweetens the pill.
Do people ever get mad at you for the way things turn out?
Please don’t give it away. Some people had to stop reading the book at that point, and I had to urge them to go back to read the final chapters because what I wanted on the final page was quite uplifting and elating. The key word, if I did have a word on the wall when I was writing, was "bittersweet."
Was there an autobiographical aspect to the story?
Emma’s post-university experience is pretty close to mine. I would have felt like Emma; I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing in my 20s. I would have thought it was pretentious and presumptuous.
What is your favorite book?
To find out more about One Day, check out the iVillage Book Club Connection.