Schamus, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and producer of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Brokeback Mountain,” is set to make his feature-length directorial debut with his adaptation of Philip Roth’s “Indignation.”
Per the press release: “Set in 1951, INDIGNATION is the story of Marcus Messner, the idealistic son of a humble kosher butcher from Newark, New Jersey. Marcus leaves for Ohio to study at a small, conservative college, where he finds himself at odds with the administration, grapples with anti-Semitism and sexual repression, and pines after a troubled girl.”
Roth’s licentious novels have proven notoriously difficult to translate for the big screen, with directors from Robert Benton (“The Human Stain”) to Ernest Lehman (“Portnoy’s Complaint”) struggling to retain Roth’s erudite Jewish-American voice. Larry Peerce’s well-received “Goodbye, Columbus,” which taps Roth’s National Book Award-winning debut, veers away from the source material in tone and structure, and Barry Levinson’s erotic-comedy “The Humbling,” which screened at this year’s TIFF, has been garnering middling reviews, though Al Pacino has nabbed praise for his sly turn as an addled aging actor. Director Phillip Noyce is currently at work on an “American Pastoral” adaptation starring Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning.
Perhaps the best depiction of Roth’s style is a fictionalization of Roth himself: Alex Ross Perry’s “Listen Up Philip” has been heralded as an instant classic by critics, who praised its acerbic and unflinching portrayal of self-important writers, Jason Schwartzman’s brazen turn as one of these self-important writers, and its grainy 16mm photography. Jonathan Pryce plays a Roth-derived writer, past his prime, who’s notorious for his less-than-tranquil demeanor. Perry told moviegoers at this year’s New York Film Festival that he constantly tries to channel Roth in his films. Roth has long been a filmmaker favorite.
Schamus has worked extensively with Chinese filmmaker Ang Lee, and his writing credits include Lee’s Richard Yates-esque depiction of suburban purgatory “The Ice Storm,” adapted from Rick Moody’s acclaimed novel; “Hulk,” Lee’s polarizing incarnation of the iconic superhero; “Lust, Caution,” Lee’s Golden Lion-winning espionage thriller that was slapped with an NC-17 rating by the MPAA.
“Indignation” is produced by Schamus’s long-time Good Machine collaborator Anthony Bergman, whose recent films include Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” Amy Berg’s “Every Secret Thing,” John Carney’s “Begin Again,” and Nicole Holofcener’s “Enough Said.” Projects currently in post-production include Nima Nourizadeh’s “American Ultra” (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart), Courtney Hunt’s “The Whole Truth” (starring Keanu Reeves and Renee Zellweger), and Carney’s “Sing Street” (starring Jack Reynor and Aidan Gillen).
“Indignation” is set to begin shooting next summer.