Category Archives: Barnhardt, Wilton

Lights, Camera, Novel: Coming Attractions

Starting now and for the next few years, you can expect to see adaptations of three recent North Carolina novels. Here’s the scoop:

SerenaRon Rash’s Serena has been simmering on the Hollywood back-burner since early 2010. At first the film was scheduled to star Angelina Jolie as the titular character and Darren Aronofsky to direct. However the project never materialized. Two years later, director Susanne Bier took over the project with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper cast in the leading roles. Lawrence and Cooper also starred in the popular film, Silver Linings Playbook, which earned Lawrence an Oscar for Best Actress in 2013.

Filming occurred in 2012, but the release of the film adaptation has been delayed. Current reports claim the film will be released at some point this year. Like Cold Mountain, Serena was filmed abroad in the Czech Republic despite the novel’s Appalachian setting. IMDb has an official photo of Cooper and Lawrence from production.

Lookaway, LookawayAt the beginning of 2014, Wilton Barnhardt’s Lookaway Lookaway was optioned for a series by HBO. The novel was cherry-picked by HBO “president-turned-producer” Sue Naegle and comedy producer David Miner (who worked on 30 Rock, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Parks & Recreation). Barnhardt, born in Winston-Salem, is a creative writing professor at NC State. Lookaway, Lookaway is his fourth novel.

Barnhardt will be involved in the production process as a co-executive producer, not a writer. If HBO selects the pilot, then the project will be greenlit for more episodes. NC State’s Alumni Association blog quotes Barnhardt as saying the pilot will be filmed in North Carolina:

“It’s quite likely that it will be filmed here [in  North Carolina]. This is meant to be a series about New South as it really is. I don’t believe the New South has been adequately portrayed on television. It’s always the cartoon south—competitive catty women or an update of “The Beverly Hillbillies” or “The Dukes of Hazzard.” It might be entertaining but it’s not how we live.”

The novel was set in Charlotte. Barnhardt believes that if all goes according to plan, production may occur in 2015.

Finally, Jason Mott’s The Returned premiered this past Sunday on ABC under a new title. Mott’s novel about deceased people mysteriously returning to life was developed for television by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B.  But there’s already a French television show on the air called The Returned based on a 2004 French film called They Came Back about a small town and the inexplicable return of dead town members. To avoid confusion, the adaptation of Mott’s novel was renamed Resurrection.

Below is a promotional trailer for the show from ABC’s website:

Of the three adaptations, Resurrection is the only one available to watch at present. Resurrection stars Omar Epps, Kurtwood Smith, and Frances Fisher. Mott’s novel was set in the fictional town of Arcadia, North Carolina. The TV series tweaked the location to the fictional town of Arcadia, Missouri. The show is filmed in Georgia. A Los Angeles Times critic asserts that the show teases out the “investigative” elements found in crime drama and subdues the eeriness found in Mott’s novel.

Check out blog posts on each of these three novels here. If you would like to read the novels that inspired these movie and TV adaptations, check each title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Sources consulted here: Serena (The Hollywood Reporter, IMDb, Indiewire), Lookaway, Lookaway (Deadline, Indy Week, Red & White for Life/NC State Alumni Association blog), The Returned (ABC, IGN, Los Angeles Times, Slate)

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Filed under Barnhardt, Wilton, Mott, Jason, Rash, Ron

Wilton Barnhardt. Lookaway, Lookaway. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013

**Guest review by Arleen Fields**

 At the beginning of our new century, shrewd Charlotte socialite Jerene Johnston is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family’s reputation and to secure her children’s future. Her radical daughter Annie, her gay son Josh, her preacher son Bo, and her insecure daughter Jerilyn don’t make this easy. The Johnston family proudly traces its lineage to Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, and Jerene’s husband Duke has abandoned all professional and political aspirations, preferring to reside in a world of nostalgia and Civil War reenactments.

Each chapter, focusing on one character’s story, is like a portrait hung in a gallery. In some of the paintings the character is front and center; in others the subject blends into the background as action takes over the foreground. The chapter about Bo provides insight into his character, but the scene of a melodramatic Christmas dinner is far more memorable.

Jerene’s children and husband are not her only worries. Her alcoholic brother Gaston makes his living writing popular Civil War novels, her sister Dillard has never recovered from a personal tragedy, and their mother Jeannette lives with the knowledge that she failed to protect her children. Add to the mix Josh’s best friend Dorrie, who’s African American and a lesbian, and Bo’s wife Kate who longs to return to the Peace Corps, and you have the perfect southern tragicomedy.

The title obviously refers to the song “Dixie” and there are other allusions as well. Characters are forced to look the other way when reality is inconvenient. Watching the events unfold is like driving by a gruesome car wreck or watching a reality TV show—we should mind our own business, but morbid curiosity prevents us from averting our gaze.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

For an interview with Wilton Barnhardt, see http://www.alumniblog.ncsu.edu/2013/07/23/wilton-barnhardt-im-nervous-about-being-in-any-camp/

A previous version of this review appears in North Carolina Libraries, vol. 71, no. 1 (2013)

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