It took him nearly a decade but Shane Salerno finally scratched his itch to get to the heart of the most infamous literary recluse of them all, J.D. Salinger. Long before his documentary “Salinger,” had the backing of The Weinstein Company Salerno began his journey with an ambitious idea: make a biopic with Daniel Day-Lewis stepping into the famed author’s shoes.
Speaking with the Huffington Post, Salerno spoke about how he acquired the film rights to the Paul Alexander-written 1999 biography of the reclusive author (also called, simply, “Salinger”) with the intention to pitch it as a narrative film. We’ll let Salerno take it from here: “I thought Daniel Day-Lewis not only perfectly encapsulated Salinger, but when Daniel Day-Lewis is made up for events he can look strikingly like Salinger at certain angles.” We can see it. (Keep in mind that Salerno, best known as an in-demand Hollywood screenwriter, was involved in initial drafts of what would eventually become David Fincher‘s exhaustive historical epic “Zodiac.”)
But how did that version of “Salinger” morph into the ideration currently playing in limited release (with expansion each weekend)? Salerno explains because of nerves, he began “preparing the research in order to prepare for a meeting that I hoped would happen.” “Over the course of all this research I realized it’s a documentary,” Salerno told Metro.
While this proposed version is an interesting glimpse into what might have been (in our wildest imagination, the meeting between Day-Lewis and Salerno would have ended with Day-Lewis professing his love for Salerno’s “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem” script), we’re pretty satisfied with the version that wound up coming to fruition (you can read our Telluride review here). “Salinger” is open in limited release right now and expanding every weekend for a little while, so you can see for yourself if Salerno made the right choice about switching to the documentary format.
On a related note, Daniel Day-Lewis was also in the running to play Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs,” at least according to a new book by Derek Jacobi. The English actor noted that he too was in the running to play the infamous cannibal, which won Sir Anthony Hopkins the Academy Award, saying that the producers were keen on hiring an English actor. We suspect that this was because they wanted to give the character an air of rarified grace, and being British certainly helps with that. Of course, it is fascinating to think about what Jacobi or Day-Lewis would have brought to the role, although it’s hard to think of anyone capturing the character in that screenplay with quite as much relish.