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First Person: Writer Nick Flynn Saw Paul Dano and Julianne Moore Flash His Life Before Him in 'Being Flynn'

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire February 29, 2012 at 11:25AM

In a First Person piece for Indiewire, titled "Being Me," writer Nick Flynn opens up about what it was like seeing his life brought to screen in "Being Flynn," Paul Weitz's ("About a Boy") adaptation of his 2004 hit memoir, "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City."
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Director/screenwriter Paul Weitz and author Nick Flynn on set of "Being Flynn"
Focus Features Director/screenwriter Paul Weitz and author Nick Flynn on set of "Being Flynn"

In a First Person piece for Indiewire, titled "Being Me," writer Nick Flynn opens up about what it was like seeing his life brought to screen in "Being Flynn," Paul Weitz's ("About a Boy") adaptation of his 2004 hit memoir, "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City."

In the film, Paul Dano ("There Will Be Blood") portrays Nick in his younger years, as a writer seeking to define himself. Still coping with the loss of his mother (Julianne Moore) who took her own life, Flynn is thrown for a loop when his father, Jonathan Flynn (Robert De Niro), reenters his life after an 18-year abscence.

Paul Dano and Robert De Niro in "Being Flynn"
Focus Features Paul Dano and Robert De Niro in "Being Flynn"

Jonathan, like his son, is a writer, but one who never delivered on his promise and ended up serving time in prison for cashing forged checks. With Jonathan back in Nick's life, the two make an effort to reconcile their fractured bond.

Nick, whose most recent book is "The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands" (2011), currently serves as a professor in the creative writing program at the University of Houston, where he teaches each spring.


"Being Me" by Nick Flynn

The props guy, Ryan Webb, finds me the day before we are to shoot the crack scene. He has a glass stem in one hand, a Brillo pad in the other.

"Would this work?" Ryan asks.

I don’t want to touch it, I barely want to look at it, I really can’t remember what we used — it was one night a long time ago and the whole point was obliteration, to obliterate one more night.

"Sure," I said, "that’d work, whatever gets that shite in you, right?"

The rock itself is popped popcorn, broken into pieces, in a baggie, which Ryan also holds up to me. He even puts one in the end of the stem and holds it to his lips, flicking a lighter near the end.

In the editing, months later, Paul Weitz will break the crack scene up even more, to fracture it, which seems to mirror the way memory works, at least my memory.

Many days earlier, the special effects guy (Drew Jeritano) had set a smoke machine up before Julianne Moore (who is playing my mother). I’d asked Renee (the script supervisor), "What’s with the smoke machine?"

"It’s for when Paul Dano exhales his first hit," she said. "Julianne will emerge from the other side."

Like flying through a cloud, I think, the smoke will bring her back to him.

It was Ash Wednesday, which seemed significant, though I can’t say exactly why.

In the editing, months later, Paul Weitz will think to break the crack scene up even more, to fracture it, which seems to mirror the way memory works, at least my memory. Alongside Julianne emerging from the first hit, he will insert another flashback, a scene where my 12-year-old self (Liam Broggy) shares a bowl of ice cream with her.

Paul has the editor (Joan Sobel) drop this ice cream scene into the crack scene, so that the moment after Liam raises his spoon to his mouth and smiles at Julianne, Dano lifts the stem to his lips, allowing a weird, dark energy to be released, and perhaps some compassion.

This article is related to: Being Flynn, First Person






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