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Fri June 7, 2013
Author Interviews

Judy Blume Hits The Big Screen With 'Tiger Eyes' Adaptation

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 8:29 pm

Mention Judy Blume to almost any woman under a certain age and you're likely to get this reaction: Her face lights up, and she's transported back to her childhood self — curled up with a book she knows will speak directly to her anxieties about relationships, self-image and measuring up.

Now, Blume — the author of coming-of-age novels such as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Then Again, Maybe I Won't; and Blubber — will reach a new generation of girls in a new medium. Up until now, her widely beloved books haven't been made into feature films. But Blume's son Lawrence Blume, a director, worked with his mother to adapt her 1981 novel, Tiger Eyes, for the big screen.

Judy Blume joins NPR's Audie Cornish to talk about Tiger Eyes' heroine, Davey, who deals with a lot more than just boy trouble. Her dad is shot and killed while minding his Atlantic City convenience store, and the plot follows Davey and her family as they cope in the aftermath of his death.


Interview Highlights

On the hard part of making Tiger Eyes into a film

"My son Larry, you know, has always wanted to make this into a movie, since he was 18; and it's taken 30 years, I think. And I have passion to do it, too, because we were going to work on it together. ... It wasn't difficult to get it made. Someone came to us with a budget. It wasn't a large budget, but it was enough to make this film, and that was not the difficult part. The difficult part was finding a distributor who saw something in it and believed in it."

On who the movie is for

"It's funny because the distributors said, 'Well, we don't know how to market this. Do we market it to teenage girls? That's one way of marketing it. Or do we market it to your nostalgia readers? And we can't do both.' And I said, 'But that's the only way to do it,' because I couldn't pick one audience over the other."

On explaining the Judy Blume "brand" to film executives

"Larry made a fabulous little video for them called 'Who is Judy Blume?' and it's so funny. I wish I could share it with everyone. But he sent it out to the distributors. It's so funny. It's people, you know, saying 'Who is Judy Blume?' and they tell their story about reading me, whether it's Whoopi Goldberg or Joan Rivers or Chelsea Handler, who owes me big time for the title of her book Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea? I mean, it's just a wonderful tape that I said to Larry, 'Save that and show it at my memorial service because it will make everyone laugh.' "

On echoes of her own life in the themes of Tiger Eyes

"When you're writing, you really don't know where your ideas are coming from. ... I was a girl who lost her beloved father suddenly. He wasn't shot and killed; he died of a heart attack. I was with him at the time. My mother lived 30 years after that and was never able to talk about that day. I learned very quickly that I couldn't say anything about it because it would just be so hard for her.

"My father was the parent who could talk to me — or wanted to talk to me, let's put it that way. You know, kids don't always make it easy. I mean a parent can say, 'I'm here for you if ever you want to talk about that,' but the child doesn't always take them up on it. "

On how writing her books affected her parenting

"Well, I wish I could tell you that it all made me a better parent. I think that all those kids who grew up on my books think that I must have been the world's greatest parent, and of course I wasn't. I was as imperfect as any parent. And you get older, and you look back, and you see the mistakes that you made; and there's nothing that you can do except sometimes say to your kid, 'I'm really sorry about that.' But you have to move on, and I think ... we have to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make, too — the mistakes that we make with our kids."

On how Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret would be different if it were set in 2013

"I live with techies. My husband is high-tech, my son is high-tech. I myself love to tweet. I don't know, you know? I would be writing a different book. So instead I've gone back to the '50s. I'm writing a novel now that takes place in the '50s. So I don't have to worry about any of that."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Say the name Judy Blume to almost any woman under a certain age, and you'll probably get this reaction: Her face lights up. She's transported back to her childhood self, curling up with books she knows will speak directly to her; to her anxiety about relationships - romantic ones, yes, but also with siblings and parents. For a new generation of girls, Blume has entered a new medium. Believe it or not, none of her books has been made into a feature film until now, with the release of "Tiger Eyes."

Just like in the 1981 novel, our heroine, Davey, deals with a lot more than just boy trouble. Her dad is shot and killed while minding his convenience store in Atlantic City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TIGER EYES")

WILLA HOLLAND: (as Davey Wexler) (Crying) I miss him. I miss him so much.

AMY JO JOHNSON: (as Gwen Wexler) (Whispering) I know. So do I.

HOLLAND: (as Davey Wexler) What are we going to do, Mom?

JOHNSON: (as Gwen Wexler) I'm going to figure that out.

CORNISH: The film follows Davey and her family as they figure it out. And as Judy Blume told us, the making of the movie version "Tiger Eyes" was a family affair. She adopted it with her son.

JUDY BLUME: My son Larry, you know, has always wanted to make this into a movie, since he was 18, and it's taken 30 years, I think. And I have passion to do it, too, because we were going to work on it together.

CORNISH: And I heard that it was actually difficult to get it made, though.

BLUME: It wasn't difficult to get it made. Someone came to us with a budget. It wasn't a large budget, but it was enough to make this film, and that was not the difficult part. The difficult part was finding a distributor who saw something in it and believed in it.

CORNISH: Because it doesn't quite fit the modern "Harry Potter," "Hunger Games," "Twilight" young adult world.

BLUME: Well, no, it doesn't. It doesn't, does it? Yeah. It's real life. But it's funny because the distributors said: Well, we don't know how to market this. Do we market it to teenage girls? That's one way of marketing it. Or do we market it to your nostalgic readers? And we can't do both. And I said but that's the only way to do it, because I couldn't pick one audience over the other.

CORNISH: And your son, Lawrence Blume, he said that what shocked me was that a big segment of the business knew who Judy Blume was but didn't understand who she was. And part of it is that the film business is run mostly by old white men, he says, and some young ones do who didn't grow up with her books.

BLUME: I think he would take that back now.

(LAUGHTER)

BLUME: I don't think he would take back the fact that I had all these wonderful fans out there that maybe the people in the suits didn't understand. Larry made a fabulous little video for them called "Who is Judy Blume?" And it's so funny. It's people, you know, saying: Who is Judy Blume? And they tell their story about reading me, whether it's Whoopi Goldberg or Joan Rivers or Chelsea Handler, who owes me big time for the title of her book "Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea?"

CORNISH: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

BLUME: I mean, it's just a wonderful tape that I said to Larry: Save that and show it at my memorial service because it will make everyone laugh.

CORNISH: Now, your son is the director, and it's interesting because the story "Tiger Eyes" actually mimics your lives in a way, right? At one point, you uprooted your family and went to New Mexico.

BLUME: We did. Although when I was writing the book, it had nothing to do with that, and it's so interesting to see the movie now and I feel so differently was I, you know, when you're writing, you really don't know where your ideas are coming from. I was a girl who lost her beloved father suddenly. He wasn't shot and killed; he died of a heart attack. I was with him at the time. My mother lived 30 years after that and was never able to talk about that day. I learned very quickly that I couldn't say anything about it because it would just be so hard for her.

My father was the parent who could talk to me or wanted to talk to me, let's put it that way. You know, kids don't always make it easy. I mean a parent can say: I'm here for you if ever you want to talk about that. But the child doesn't always take them up on it.

CORNISH: And your books do a good job of sort of showing both sides of that. Even though it's from the point of view of the kid, you get that there an unreliable narrator in a way. And you were writing these as a parent, right? I mean did this kind of affect the way you thought about your kids?

BLUME: Well, I wish I could tell you that it all made me a better parent. I think that all those kids who grew up on my books think that I must have been the world's greatest parent, and, of course, I wasn't. I was as imperfect as any parent. And you get older and you look back and you see the mistakes that you made, and there's nothing that you can do, except sometimes say to your kid I'm really sorry about that. But you have to move on. And I think, you know, we have to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make too, the mistakes that we make with our kids.

CORNISH: Well, Judy Blume, thank you so much for speaking with us.

BLUME: Thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: The movie based on Judy Blume's novel "Tiger Eyes" opens today in select theaters. It's also available on demand. Now, before we let Judy Blume go, I had to ask her. Can she just tell what kind of person someone is by which of her books they say is their absolute favorite? Not surprisingly, she had a story to share.

BLUME: The UPS guy who once came to my apartment and said: Oh, are you that Judy Blume? I love your books. I knew what he was going to say: "Fudge."

(LAUGHTER)

BLUME: I knew that he had grown up with "Fudge." But guys surprise me all the time, telling me that they read the, quote, "girl books."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: And while we're talking about books for young listeners, we want to remind you about our latest pick for NPR's Backseat Book Club. It's called "The One Only Ivan" by Katherine Applegate. It's the story of a gorilla living in a mall who tries to save a young elephant from a similar fate. We want questions for the author from young readers age 9 to 14. So you can send them to Backseat Book Club at npr.org or tweet your questions to NPRBackseat. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.