In The Lounge

From page to screen: Watching your own book become a Hollywood film

When I finished writing This Is Where I Leave You,  I was thrilled with the result. I felt I had written my most engaging and personal novel to date. I was equally positive that no Hollywood studio would be interested in the film rights. The novel, which was a funny, sad, hopeful look at a funny, sad, hopeful family, would no doubt be seen by the studios as little more than four siblings sitting around the house venting their midlife angst; hardly a cinematic proposition. So I told my agents I was really proud of the book, but that I didn’t think it paid to shop it around for a film adaptation.

To my great surprise, we ended up selling the film rights to Warner Brothers, of all places. Home of Superman. And Batman. And Harry Potter. I was thrilled. And more than a little bit skeptical.

I developed this little mental chant – four words that would play in an endless loop in my brain for the next five years. It went like this: They’ll Never Make It. And all through the negotiations, and the talks with producers and executives, I would hear that whisper in my head, over and over again. They’ll Never Make It.

The argument behind those four words was not without merit. This Is Where I Leave You contained no superheroes, no wizards, no gun battles, or space ships. No extravagant visuals or significant set pieces of any kind. It was simply not the kind of movie that big studios generally made. And, not helping matters at all, I insisted on writing the screenplay. They agreed to that for a host of reasons, and all of them were because I was cheap. Really cheap.

And so began a five year odyssey, during which This Is Where I Leave You became a New York Times bestseller, and during which I wrote my next novel, One Last Thing Before I Go,  wrote a few other movies, created a television show (Banshee, now entering it’s third season), started another novel, and labored draft after draft of This Is Where I Leave You, the movie. And through all of that, I heard that little nagging voice in my head: They’ll Never Make It.

And then a funny thing happened.

They made it. With the incredible cast you see on the cover of this book. And a fantastic director. And the actual script I had written. And I didn’t have to add a single gunfight. Of course, I did make some changes – you simply can’t put everything from a novel onto the screen. But the movie is very true to the book, and the book is very true to me. And I hope you enjoy both.

This is Where I Leave You is out now in paperback and eBook

Watch the trailer for the film adaptation of This is Where I Leave You

Jonathan Tropper

Jonathan Tropper was born and raised in Riverdale, New York. He attended the creative writing program at New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science, where he received a Masters degree. He is the New York Times bestselling author of five previous novels: Plan B, The Book of Joe, Everything Changes, How to talk to a Widower, and This Is Where I Leave You. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. He is also a screenwriter and the cocreator and executive producer of the HBO/Cinemax television series Banshee, premiering in 2013. . He lives with his wife and children in Westchester, NY, and teaches writing at Manhattanville College.