Translating Gore Vidal: From Book to Film

| by Jay Parini |

I’m writing this from Rome, where I’ve been working on a film adaptation of my biography of Gore Vidal, called Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal. The film itself will be called, quite simply, Gore.

Not incidentally, I myself wrote the entry for Gale’s American Writers, published under the Charles Scribner’s Sons imprint, many years ago. I edit this series as well as the parallel series, British Writers: a labor of love for over two decades, as I enjoy the work of talking to critics, editing their articles, and brainstorming the next volumes in each series.

This film is based on my recent biography of Gore Vidal, the American writer and pundit, whom I met when I was living on the south coast of Italy over three decades ago. We became close friends, and my biography evolved over thirty years. In 2016, with a friend, the film director Michael Hoffman, I co-wrote a screenplay adaptation of my biography, focusing on just a tiny phase of Vidal’s life. We were lucky to interest Kevin Spacey in playing the role of Vidal, whom he had known in his last years: they actually met on the set of a film called Shrink, where Gore had a small role.

I’ve been involved with this film at every stage of its production, working with Hoffman and our friend, the producer Andy Paterson. (I worked with Hoffman a few years ago when he directed The Last Station, based on my novel about Tolstoy’s final year.) It’s been a thrilling ride, working with such first-rate people. Netflix is going to bring out the film in 2018, and—from what I can tell as we shoot the scenes day-by-day in Italy (where Vidal lived for forty years), it’s going well. I hope, of course, that it finds a wide audience, as good films about literary figures are, in my view, rare.

About the Author

Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College. The author of over 25 books, he has edited British Writers and American Writers for more than two decades.


(photo credit: Oliver Parini)

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